Scientific Illustator Out and About: Ross's Festival of the Hedgehog Workshop - May 23rd 2014

Story posted: Friday, 23. May 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustration includes demonstrations of botanical illustration skills, and a fair amount of teaching too.

I was recently asked to be "artist in residence" and to lead a drop-in workshop at Ross-on-Wye's central library.  This was to mark Ross's Celebration of the Hedgehog (the symbol of the town).  I planned to draw in situ, and to encourage any visitors to draw from an assortment of speciemens I'd assembled.

Many of these are my own; I collect skulls and now have enough to ask visitors to match the animal to their skull; interestingly, all the adults mixed up the stoat and rabbit skulls, whilst every child got the whole selection of eleven animals correct.  Testimony to children's powers of observation, perhaps?

Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator workshop at Ross on Wye Library

I had work to do, namely illustrating a bamboo shoot for The Cultivated Forager (by Adele Nozedar, due out in spring 2015).  I laid out a stand of postcards, my portfolio, books featuring my illustrations, and my botanical sketchbooks. The sketchbooks invariably get a great deal of attention; people seem to love to have the chance to flick through them, so I always bring them along when I demonstrate.

Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator workshop at Ross on Wye Library

Simultaneously, there was a wonderful exhibition of the Hereford Botanical Illustration Group's work on show; showing species found along the river Wye.  The work was of a very high caliber, and the group's organiser, Mary Brewin, had presented it beautifully.  All through the days people and group members stopped by to see the paintings and drawings, which made for a lively and chatty day.

The first visitor to draw (Kim Harrison) stayed for ages and did an entire series of pencil illustrations of skulls.  Below is a slection of her work.  I was impressed both by her concentration and her enthusiasm.

Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator workshop at Ross on Wye Library

I got on with my bamboo, and had finished it by the time children came in after school.

Lizzie Harper botanical illustration sketchbook illlustration of bamboo

The kids who came in were brilliant; really up for drawing and inspired by the specimens.  I was lucky enough to have a stuffed buzzard, owl and grey squirrel (on loan from Hereford Museum Resources team) as well as a table of skulls.  I did bring in a bucket of wild-flowers, but clearly they weren't as tempting as the animal specimens.

Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator workshop at Ross on Wye Library

The range of ages and abilities was great; here's a selection of just some of the lovely work they did:

Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator workshop at Ross on Wye Library

By the end of the day; not only had I met and chatted to over 75 people, seen lots of wonderful pencil sketches, sold a painting of a polecat (hooray!), been paid by my sponser for the event (Western Power), and consumed endless cups of tea; but I'd also be reminded of why I love this job, and how very lucky I am to be a natural history illustrator.

Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator workshop at Ross on Wye Library

 

 

 

 

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