News Stories in category: Showcase of themed natural history illustrations

Christmas Greenery

Story posted: 12. December 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Greenery has always been associated with winter and christmas.  This blog explores a little of the history surrounding how and why we bring plants like holly, mistletoe and ivy into our homes in the middle of winter.  It's based on notes from a fascinating talk by IAPI .



Greenery at Christmas: an overview

The history of bringing greenery indoors pre-dates Romans.  In early times, evergreen plants represented new life in mid winter, and gave hope for the spring.  The Romans had a Saturn Festival at a similar time to Christimas, and decorated with greenery.  This…

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Support the Bees & Save the World: Guest Blog by Gus Stewart

Story posted: 22. May 2018 by Lizzie Harper

Support the Bees and Save the World by Guest blogger  Gus Stewart

Apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, onions, hazelnut, green beans, celery, coffee, watermelon, walnut – no, this isn’t a grocery list. These are just a few of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that we will  lose if the bee population continues to decline. While you might have thought that humans were responsible for food production, it is in fact the bee that holds the key. Without bees the world would look drastically different, but there are ways you can help.



Bees pollinating Pear blossom

A…

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Botanical Illustration: Telling Gorse species apart

Story posted: 6. April 2017 by Lizzie Harper

Whilst working for The Field Studies Council on charts of Heathland and Wayside plants, I needed to illustrate the three species of Gorse ( Ulex ) found in Britain.

Gorse is a shrubby, spiny family of plants in the pea family with spiny green prickles or spines and bright yellow flowers.  Young plants have trifoliate leaves (slightly resembling elongate clover leaves), but on mature plants these disappear leaving the spines and the flowers.



Painting of Gorse with specimens

All three of these plants are found on heathland and acidic soils, but their…

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Botanical Illustration: Buttercup Ranunculus Species UK

Story posted: 22. February 2016 by Lizzie Harper

Looking through my botanical illustrations recently, I realised I’d completed quite a few watercolors of flowers in the Buttercup or Ranunculus genus (family Ranunculaceae).  Like the botany ingénue I am, I assumed I’d covered most of the British buttercups, and decided to write this blog.  Little did I know, I wasn’t even half-way through them!

Buttercups are members of the Ranunculus genus which also includes hellebores, marsh marigolds, clematis, anemones, and crowfoots.  Buttercups and Spearworts are the focus of this exploration of the Ranunculus genus.

Ranunculus…

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Botanical Illustration: Invasive Plant Species

Story posted: 4. June 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustrators have to do natural science and botanical illustrations of both beneficial and of problematic species.

Many times, the reason a plant or animal is causing problems within an ecosystem is because it doesn’t belong in that system; it’s not evolved in equilibrium with the other species there, and thus can out-compete them.  In many cases this is because it’s been introduced from another part of the world and subsequently invades; hence the terms “invasive” and “introduced “ species.

This blog will look at three of the most problematic invasive plant…

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Natural History Illustration: Ornithological illustration of Corvids (Crows, ravens, and magpies)

Story posted: 22. May 2015 by Lizzie Harper

As a botanical illustrator and natural history science art illustrator, I do have my favourites among the animal kingdoms.  And I really love the Crow family, the Corvidae .

I’ve only painted a few species from this family which includes jays, rooks, chough, ravens, crows and magpies; but I love both the way they look and their incredible intelligence and character.

The Raven ( Corvus corax ) is a big bird, the largest of the crow family, more than 60cm long and weighing more than 1kg, bigger than a buzzard!  It lives in uplands on Wales and SW England, the Pennines and…

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Natural History Illustration: Ornithological illustrations of Tits (Paridae)

Story posted: 1. May 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Botanical illustration, natural history illustration, SciArt; well this week’s it’s all about ornithological illustration.  Birds.  I thought it might be an idea to look at one family of British birds, the Tits ( Paridae ).

Although I’ve not illustrated all the members of this family yet, I’ve done a fair few, so thought it’d be worth taking a look at each in turn.

First up is the common garden bird, the Blue tit ( Cyanistes caeruleus ).  This beautiful little bird has a flash of a sky blue cap, blue and green back, with a pale-ish yellow belly, and a dark stripe across the…

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Natural History Illustration: British Lizards September 5th 2014

Story posted: 5. September 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Of the six species of reptile found in the UK (see last week's blog on the snakes), three are lizards.  My scientific illustrations of these reptiles have been done over the years for Wildlife Trusts and books (The Bumper Book of Nature by Stephen Moss , amongst others.)

Our first British lizard is often mistaken for a snake, but is in fact a legless lizard, the Slow worm ( Anguis fragilis ).  This is a beautiful slender bronze creature, the only clear markings being a black vertebral stripe in the females.  It can reach 45cm in length.  Like other lizards (and unlike snakes)…

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Natural History Illustration: British Snakes August 29th 2014

Story posted: 29. August 2014 by Lizzie Harper

There are over 8,000 species of reptile on earth; Britain has only six of these, and three are snakes.  Natural science illustrations of reptiles are always a challenge thanks to the problems presented by scientifically illustrating their scales; however, this in no way diminishes my affection tor them.

Two of the three species are common across Britain, while the third (the Smooth snake  Coronella austriaca ) is only found on southern heathland.

First up is the Grass snake (Natrix natrix). This snake is common and found throughout the UK, and at 70-100cm long it's our…

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Natural History Illustration: The Amazing Blue Butterfly August 5th 2014

Story posted: 5. August 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Scientific illustration involves learning about your subjects, as well as illustrating them.  I've always been amazed by the blue butterflies (family Lycaenidae ); partly because of their vivid hues; and equally because of their fascinating life-cycles and interractions with ants.

Most of the information in this blog comes from the website of Butterfly Conservation , a charity concerned with recording and researching British butterflies and moths, and preserving both them and their habitats.  With the blues, as with many butterfly species; if you can get the right food…

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Natural history illustrations of Common British Dragonflies June 27th 2014

Story posted: 27. June 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Following on from my natural science entomological illustrations of damselflies last week; this week I'll be looking at common British dragonflies.

I really learnt to love these amazing animals whilst working on a series of postage stamps for Jersey Post (see my blog on this " dream job "); and this affection continues.

Dragonflies are glorious insects, but sometimes identifying them can be tricky as their colours are highly fugitive; once the animal dies its' colours fade swiftly.  For details of all these species and their distributions, I find  British Dragonflies by…

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Natural history illustrations of Common British Damselflies June 20th 2014

Story posted: 20. June 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Entomological illustrations and natural science illustrations of Odonata are not uncommon; and over the years I've completed many.

One might think the real challenge with such a subject is the wings; but that's not the case.  A damselfly wing is not a hard thing to render, so long as you have a fine tip to your brush (I favour winsor & newton series 7 00 brushes for this work).



Large red damsefly pair mating (detail)

The hardest part of illustrating a damselfly is getting the tiny differences on the segments of the abdomen and on the thorax precisely…

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Scientific Illustration: Considering Parasites June 13th 2014

Story posted: 13. June 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Natural history illustration involves learning about the animals and plants you draw; and recently I drew a parasite.  This got me thinking about parasites in general; and how diverse a group of plants and animals practise this form of getting nutrients.

Looking through my files; I've not got tons of parasitic plants or animals illustrated which, in istelf interests me.  Why don't they get coimissioned more frequently?

I've chosen a handful of species to consider, which will give an inkling of the diversity of parasites out there.

Plants can be parasitic.  The dodder,…

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Natural History Illustration Guest Blog: Dave Prescott on Wonderful Fungi May 31st 2014

Story posted: 31. May 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Scientific illustrators get to spend time with some pretty inspiring people; this week I asked Dave Prescott from Hereford New Leaf to write a guest blog about his love of all things fungal:

"Check out these beautiful shrooms that Lizzie has drawn. It is a little-known fact that fungi are probably the greatest species on the planet. Philosophically, biologically and edibly, they outstrip anything else by quite some distance (except possibly bamboo, but that is a subject for another day). Consider the following:



Field Mushroom by Lizzie Harper

Fungi are…

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Natural Science Illustration: A gallery of beetles April 4th 2014

Story posted: 4. April 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Scientific illustrators and natural history illustrators tend to have many passions for their subject matter, and we also tend to have "favourites."  Without a shadow of a doubt, one of my very favourite subjects to illustrate is insects, and especially the beetles or Coleoptera.



Chrysochroa buqueti rugicollis

I'm not quite sure where my passion for beetles sprung from.  I adore their divers ity of shape , and the incredible way they've evolved to adapt to almost every different habitat under the sun. I love how peculiar some of their adaptations seem, such as…

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