Natural History Illustration: A Week's Work March 14th 2014

Story posted: Friday, 14. March 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Natural science illustration isn't all botanical illustration and natural history illustration; and my work load this fortnight shows what I mean.

A job's come in from Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxon Wildlife trust; it involves illustrating a map of their nature reserve at Hartslock, and a large landscape illustration showing the countryside and all seven species of orchid found on the site.  It's pretty amazing; one of the species (the monkey orchid) is only found in two other places in the UK, and another species (the monkey-lady hybrid orchid) is found nowhere else in the country.

Preparing to do the rough of the map involves examining maps of the area, looking at arial photos, and including the information on species and paths given by the client.

Reference for illustrating a map of Hartslock nature reserve

Next, I draw up the boundries of the area, making sure pathways and access roads are all in exactly the right place (my handy projector is useful for this).

Initial work on Hartslock nature reserve map

Next up is to fill in the trees and scrub, the icons and the arrows, the paths and the boundries.

Rough of Hartslock nature reserve map by Lizzie Harper

After submitting the rough to the trust, various changes were inevitable, and welcomed (as it's so much easier to fix things at this stage!)  A bench, a gate, and two illustrations of keynote species (pasque flower and an orchid) accompanied tweaks to areas of undergrowth, size of arrows, and the route of paths.  At the time of writing I think, after three rounds of revisions, that we're pretty close to getting the go-ahead.

During this, I got an email asking for re-use of my oil-seed rape illustration in BBC Countryfile magazine.  Ever so easy to oblige, and this re-use of illustrations from my image library is the way I can add to my income as an illustrator (a job I love, but one that's notoriously badly paid).

Lizzie Harper pen and ink with wash illustration of oil seed rape

The second illustration for the Hartslock Reserve is of the slope where all these wonderful orchids grow.  I've assembled my ref., and worked up a couple of thumbnail sketches (see below) for the trust to discuss.  I just got the go-ahead on the 2nd option yesterday, with a few minor tweaks.  I'm rather excited, these landscapes are tons of work, but lovely to work on.  The early stages are mostly about fitting everything into one composition that works; getting movement across the page, and trying not to look clunky.

Lizzie Harper Hartslock rough

Lizzie Harper Hartslock rough 1

Another job this week has been for Rodale Publishing (who I've worked for often, and always happily).  It's been a pretty tight deadline (most illustration jobs do tend to be), but they wanted three simplified garden plans for the forthcoming "The Organic Gardener Caleder".  They provide scans of the author's sketches (see below) which I then work up a rough from, once I've collated the ref. for all the different plant species needing illustrating.

Sketch of garden plan by Rodale author

Here are the three roughs, along with their revised versions.

Lizzie Harper rough of winter garden plan for Rodale

Winter Interest Garden rough

Lizzie Harper rough of summer salsa garden plan for Rodale

Summer salsa garden rough (spring onions were tidied up, the coriander bed was extended, more yellow bell peppers had to show, and the tomatoes were reduced to two plants which needed a supporting cage.  This required a complete re-draw.)

Lizzie Harper rough of herb planter garden plan for Rodale

Colourful Herbal Planter rough (the three red lettuces were revised into 6 red lettuces).

Rodale are great at getting quick feedback to me, so I go the go-ahead on these within 48 hrs of receiving the author's sketches.  Then it was just a matter of getting them "coloured in".  This was fine, except for the red lettuces at the front of the herb planter, which I has to do several tests for as I had no idea how to represent foliage which is both purple and green at the same time, in a simplified form.  Amazingly, I think they worked out and are my favourite part of the three illustrations.

Lizzie Harper for Rodale, Winter Garden Plan

Winter Interest garden

Lizzie Harper for Rodale, herb planter Garden Plan

Herb planter garden plan

The third of these turned out to be a bit of a nightmare, as the author realised that the tomato types I'd drawn weren't what she was after, and wanted a change to the leaves of the bell pepper.  Also, entirely my fault, it appeares that jalepeno peppers are green not red!  So a re-draw happened at unearthly times of the night.  Rodale were great about it, compensating me for my time etc.  So here, in a salsa-based "spot the difference", are the two finals of the salsa salad bed garden plan.

Lizzie Harper for Rodale, Summer salsa Garden Plan

Lizzie Harper for Rodale, Summer salsa Garden Plan

A magazine I've worked with before, Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine, just got in touch to ask to re-use my wild garlic illustration.  Another image library re-use; they had the illustration within 10 minutes of contacting me.  Image libraries are beautiful things for clients, too!

Lizzie Harper wild garlic illustration

So it's been a busy week; which keeps me happy as I look out of the studio window into the garden which, for the first time in ages, is golden with sunshine.

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