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Botanical Illustration step by step: Painting Heather

Story posted: 24. March 2017 by Lizzie Harper

One of the plants I completed a botanical illustration of recently is the Bell heather,  Erica cinerea; it'll be used on a leafelt on Heathland plants produced by the Field Studies Council, and is one of several British heather species (see my blog for more) on the chart. Although both leaves and flowers are small I thought it might be interesting to break it down into a step by step process.

First, I drew up the pencil rough onto Fabriano Artistico Hot press paper with a mechanical pencil (I like the Pentel P205 ).  For reference I used the plant itself, still growing in…

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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 172

Teaching Botanical Illustration at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens - Spring

Story posted: 10. March 2017 by Lizzie Harper

This week I had the good fortune to be asked to teach a course of botanical illustration for beginners, at the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens .

I was so impressed by the classroom preparation and friendly welcome from the staff – a spotless room, daylight lighting, neat desks with drawing boards and pots for water neatly laid out for the students, and a gorgeous view onto the lawns and borders and trees in the botanic garden.



The classroom at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens

Before the students arrived, Felicity (Head of Education at the Gardens and I…

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Category: Painting workshops    Comments: 0    Viewed: 146

Botanical Illustration: Comparing Three Heather Species

Story posted: 23. February 2017 by Lizzie Harper

Whilst undertaking botanical illustrations for The Field Studies Council , I was asked to illustrate three different species of heather for a leaflet on heathland plants.



Illustration of Common heather or Ling in prgress; you can see the plant, The Collins Flower Guide, Garrard and Streeter's The Wildflowers of the British Isles, Stella Ross-Craig's amazing line drawings, my Series 7 Winsor and Newton 000 paintbrushes, and a 10x magnifying glass.

Although there are eight species of heather or heath found in the UK and Northern Europe, the three I illustrated are…

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Category: News of current projects    Comments: 0    Viewed: 219

Beautiful Bryophytes: Botanical illustrations of moss

Story posted: 2. February 2017 by Lizzie Harper

I've been working on lots of botanical illustrations for the Field Studies Council recently, and a lot of the plants on the list of heathland species are bryophytes, beautiful mosses.

I'm lucky enough to have had an enourmous amount of help assembling species to work with (see my blog ) and have been working on the painted finals over the past few weeks.



Moss specimens in storage

Below is a gallery of some fo the moss illustrations I've completed so far for this job.  This blog is more of a "what I've been up to" posting than a mossy step by step , or…

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Category: News of current projects    Comments: 0    Viewed: 250

Starting out as an illustrator: Advice and resources

Story posted: 10. January 2017 by Lizzie Harper

As a practicing natural history and botanical illustrator, I sometimes get asked to give advice to those starting out as illustrators, or considering this as a career path.  This happened recently, when I went and spoke to a group of illustration students at Hereford College of Art and Design .

Here, in a nutshell, is what I spoke to them about.



Me at work

Setting up as an illustrator

Before you begin your career as an illustrator, there are some steps you should do to make life easier for yourself, and to make you look more professional.  First, get a…

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Category: Scientific Illustrator out and about    Comments: 0    Viewed: 3765

Natural History Illustration of a new Damselfly species

Story posted: 6. January 2017 by Lizzie Harper

One of the more exciting recent natural history illustration commissions I’ve had is to complete a Sciart watercolour of a newly discovered species of damselfly.

The insect in question is the Sarep sprite, Pseudoagrion sarepi .  As with all damselflies, it lives in and near fresh water  and was named after the SAREP expedition to Eastern Angola.  Although similar to a few other species it is indeed a distinct new species, one of 60 new Odonata discovered recently in Africa (for more on this amazing set of new species please read the report from Odonatologica ).

There was…

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Category: News of current projects    Comments: 0    Viewed: 176

Botanical Illustrations of Moss: Step by step Sphagnum tenellum

Story posted: 23. December 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I’ve been working on botanical illustrations recently for the Field Studies Council ; specifically on a big batch of Heathland plants.  Amongst these are several moss species.

The first step is to get your hands on the moss itself; drawing mosses is so unusual and new for me that unless I have a reliably identified specimen to work from, there’s no way I can even begin an illustration of the species.  I’ve been incredibly lucky in having the support of Ray Woods ( Radnorshire Wildlife Trust botany and mycology expert) and Jonathan Sleath ( British Bryological Society ), both…

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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 367

Botanical Illustration: Leaf painting workshop

Story posted: 9. December 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I recently taught a day-long session on how to do botanical illustrations of leaves, focusing on colour and form, at The Walled Garden in Treberfydd .  We set ourselves up in an airy glass house, and had ready access to the enormous variety of beautiful plants Alison grows and sells at the nursery.



Glass house and students at work

After some initial work on form, we had a look at mixing greens.

When I'm illustrating, I'll choose a leaf and try to mix a colour that almost exactly matches it, even painting a little of the mixed colour onto the leaf itself to see…

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Category: Illustration techniques    Comments: 0    Viewed: 502

Botanical Illustration: Step by step painting of leaves

Story posted: 18. November 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I recently taught a workshop of botanical illustration of leaves , and broke down the process of painting a leaf into incremental steps shown on a demonstration painting of a blackberry leaf.



Demonstration illustration showing different steps involved in painting a blackberry leaf, and a breakdown of the colours used to mix the greens that I used for each step.

I thought it might be worth deconstructing and explaining the processes in a blog.  The illustrations below are magnified, and so are a little out of focus; my apologies.

It also needs to be pointed out…

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Category: Botanical Illustration step by step, Illustration techniques    Comments: 0    Viewed: 1190

Botanical Illustration Live: Hawthorn at the Barnes Lecture

Story posted: 3. November 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I recently did botanical illustration live for an audience at the Metripole Hotel in Llandrindod.  The event was the annual Barnes lecture, organised as a fundraiser for Radnorshire Wildlife Trust (RWT), and was open to members and non-members.  The success of “ The Hedgerow Handbook ” and “ The Garden Forager ” has meant Adele Nozedar (the author) and I (the illustrator) have been invited to do several of these events; they’re always great fun, and we were honoured and delighted to be able to present 2016’s Barnes Lecture.



Hedgerow handbook Garden Forager by Adele…

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Category: Scientific Illustrator out and about    Comments: 0    Viewed: 474

Botanical Illustrations of Moss: Bryophyte reference and pencil roughs

Story posted: 21. October 2016 by Lizzie Harper

Sometimes a botanical illustration commission appears that calls for something totally new – in all my days of natural history illustration, I’d never been asked to do a whole lot of mosses before.

The closest I’ve been was illustrating two mosses for the FSC Churchyard Plants leaflet



Moss: Grimmia pulvinata and Tortula muralis

The commission came from the Field Studies Council’s publications department who I’ve worked with before (see my blogs on Churchyard plants and edible plants ).

When confronted with a list of 15 bryophyte species, the…

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Category: News of current projects    Comments: 0    Viewed: 892

Botanical Illustration: Composite flowers workshop

Story posted: 7. October 2016 by Lizzie Harper

When you teach botanical and natural history illustration, you need to focus on anatomy and structure of plants and animals as well as on watercolour painting and drawing techniques.

I recently got to teach an experienced botanical illustration group based in Hereford, and they decided to learn about Composite flowers.



Some of the dahlias available to draw at the Composite flower painting session

Composite flowers (formerly Asteraceae) are very common, and amazing.  Each flower head is actually an assemblage of lots of tiny flowers; some have ray florets…

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Category: Painting workshops    Comments: 0    Viewed: 520

Natural History Illustration: A Landscape view of a wildlife garden

Story posted: 23. September 2016 by Lizzie Harper

A recent natural history illustration job for the North Yorkshire Dales National Park involved painting two large landscapes for use on a desk at Malham Cove visitor centre .  The first landscape was of Malham Cove , the second was of birds commonly seen in the garden at the visitor centre.

As always, the first step is to get a pencil rough drawn up and sent off to the client for feedback.



Malham Visitor centre annotated pancil rough

I needed to add a few flowers to the turf, and then we were good to get going on the painting.

As with the Malham Cove…

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Category: News of current projects    Comments: 0    Viewed: 379

Natural History Illustration: Landscapes, a map, and an otter

Story posted: 9. September 2016 by Lizzie Harper

Recently my natural history illustrations and botanical illustrations have been used for an interpretation board for the Combe Mill visitor centre and nature reserve in Oxfordshire.

It was a pleasure to work with the excellent graphic and museum designer Linda Francis (who'se also a friend); this means I don't have to worry about laying out my illustrations, but can conentrate on doing the illustrations themselves.

There were a wide range of illustratioms required for this job, so I began by focussing on the straightforward natural history ones - namely a treecreeper …

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Category: News of current projects    Comments: 0    Viewed: 465

Botanical Illustration: What's in a name? part 2

Story posted: 26. August 2016 by Lizzie Harper

In the last blog I talked about how vital Latin names are to botanical illustrators, natural history and Sciart practitioners and enthusiasts.  We covered Kingdoms, Phylum, Class, Order and Family.  In this blog we’re looking at the two components of an organism’s Latin name – the genus and the species.

Now we get down to the Latin name as you’ll see it written, a genus name followed by a species name.  This is referred to as the scientific name of an organism.  It is written in italics with the genus capitalised, the species name not capitalised.  You may see Latin names…

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Category: Biological terminology    Comments: 0    Viewed: 798

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