News Stories

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: 138

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: 1964

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: 112

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: 268

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: 371

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: 1003

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: 383

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: 750

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: 417

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: 320

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: 389

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: 696

Botanical Illustration: What's in a name? part 1

Story posted: 12. August 2016 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustrators are asked to illustrate a wide variety of plants and animals, and it’s vital that you draw the correct organism!  With so many similar species out there, I can honestly say that I’d be lost if it weren’t for the use of Latin names to pinpoint the living thing you’re illustrating.

So how does this system of naming work?  First, it’s vital to remember that naming things is a very human trait.  We have invented this complicated and detailed format to be able to identify all living things, but it’s by no means a perfect solution.  Latin names are forever…

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Category: Biological terminology    Comments: 0    Viewed: 885

Natural History illustration: Primary school drawing workshop

Story posted: 29. July 2016 by Lizzie Harper

As well as being a natural history illustrator and botanical artist, I’m also a parent and sometimes get asked to go into our local Hay-on-Wye Primary School and draw with the children.  Recently I go to help year 1 (5 – 6year olds) draw “mini-beasts”.



I’ve got a whole lot of insect specimens that I’ve gathered over the years, including loads encased in Perspex.  These are brilliant for kids as they can examine them closely, but do no damage.



I’m happy for them to use other specimens too – there’s nothing like drawing from life to ignite a child’s…

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Category: Scientific Illustrator out and about    Comments: 0    Viewed: 494

Natural History Landscape Illustration: Malham Cove

Story posted: 8. July 2016 by Lizzie Harper

A natural history illustration job I've been working on recently is two large landscapes for the North Yorkshire Dales National Park. These are to go on a desk in their visitor centre in Malham .  Each landscape focuses on bird species found in two different habitats; one of the landscapes is a view from the desk, into their wildlife garden.  The other is a view of Malham Cove.

Although I am able to paint landscapes it's not something I ever feel confident or complacent about, and illustrating the dramatic cliffs at Malham were no exception.

The first step was to get a…

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Category: News of current projects    Comments: 0    Viewed: 529

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