Natural Science Illustration: A Week's Work January 24th 2014

Story posted: Saturday, 25. January 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Natural Science (or natural history) illustration is like all other jobs, you have good weeks and bad weeks.  Last week was a really happy one; I had  plenty to do (but not overwhelming amounts); I finished up a big project; and I got two smaller jobs completed.  Being able to feel productive and efficient always puts me in a good mood.

Monday and Tuesday I finished up the last of the bonsai tree diagrams for the DK/Penguin book being written by Peter Warren.  Here it's the whole tree being wired:

Lizzie Harper diagram of bonsai wiring

Below, it shows you how to start wiring the base of a trunk:

Lizzie Harper for DK Penguin Books, bonsai wiring

Revisions were required, which always makes me panic; but it turned out only one needed a complete re-draw, the redraw went fast and well, and I go paid for it.  I did spend quite a long time winding bits of blue wool around twigs in an effort to understand how different wire thicknesses behaved, but (besides making me feel mad) this was fine.

Lizzie Harper for DK Penguin Books, bonsai tree wiring

Wednesday I got going on more illustrations for The Cultivated Forager (written by Adele Nozedar and the follow up title to The Hedgerow Handbook).  My witch hazel specimen came from outside my son’s classroom window, and the children were so horrified to see me cutting a twig from the tree that I brought in the finished sketch to show them.  It was good to draw, and a treat to have a leafless specimen (although I dropped in the leaf shape for info.).  Mainly though, I was amazed by the stench of antiseptic it gave off.  I understand how it may well have medicinal qualities now.

Lizzie Harper sketchbook style illustration of witch hazel

Wednesday afternoon I had my keen 7 year old pupil over; she’s just finished a lovely painting of fairies and we moved onto butterflies; here she’s drawing up the patterns on a butterfly wing, taking inspiration from some of my beaten up specimens.  Watching children draw and paint is amazing; their lack of inhibition and the bravery of their lines is something I could definitely learn from.

Lizzie Harper teaching child to illustrate butterflies

Thursday was another sketch for “The Cultivated Forager”, love-lies-bleeding.  I was working from reference rather than the plant itself, which I never enjoy as you can’t rotate the specimens or dissect them out.  I also don’t much like the plant, and despite getting to play with dark crimsons and bits of pink, I was relieved when it was done. To see the illustrations completed thus far for "The Cultivated Forager" book, have a look at my Pinterest board.

Lizzie Harper sketchbook botanical illustration of Love lies Bleeding

Friday I had a rush request for a slender St. John’s Wort for Pinecone Design (for the National Trust).  The main stipulation was that it needed to be the same shape that the designer had been working from, another species all together.  Tricky, but luckily the structure of the St. Johns wort is such that you can play about with placement of buds and leaves, so it worked out ok.

Botanical illustration of Slender st johns wort by Lizzie Harper

Late on Friday I started a white-tailed bumble bee for Anglezarke Dixon Associates which is to be used for some interpretation on flight.  They’ve also used my pipistrelle bat and peacock butterfly, which they purchased for re-use from my online image library.

Lizzie Harper natural science illustration of bumble bee

So it was a good week.  I got to listen to BBC Radio 6 a lot (which always makes me happy).  I got plenty done.  I got to send out three invoices!  And I also sorted out two “ancient Egyptian” costumes for my children’s school play.  Next week is bumble bees and hops, I think.  Bring it on.

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