News Stories in category: Zoological step by step

Natural History and Natural Science Illustration: Step by Step Ladybird Watercolour

Story posted: 17. March 2016 by Lizzie Harper

I was recently commissioned to do an entomological illustration of the Seven-spotted ladybird  Coccinella septempunctata for a birthday gift.

As always, the first step is to assemble your reference.  I use as wide of a range of reference as I can; this decreases the chance of "copying" mistakes, and helps show the main features to highlight.  With the ladybird, I've recently done a whole project illustrating different British species of ladybird, so had plenty of reference (and my own existing illustrations!) to work with.

There's a youtube film that accompanies this…

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Category: Zoological step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 5865

Natural History Illustration of the Goshawk

Story posted: 8. January 2016 by Lizzie Harper

After a lot of recent botanical illustration, it was a treat to be commissioned to do an ornithological natural history illustration of the Goshawk Accipiter gentilis for a private client.

The Goshawk is a gorgeous bird of prey, and has long been used in falconry.  They’re really hard to spot, and are fearsome predators. (A recent and beautiful book on the Goshawk is well worth a read;   H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald)  Therefore, getting good reference for them is very tricky.  Luckily I had permission from some top ornithology photographers to use their photos for…

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Natural History Illustration: Step by step Painting a Parrot

Story posted: 13. November 2015 by Lizzie Harper

As a natural history illustrator, I get asked to do botanical illustration, entomological illustration and recently, to complete an ornithological illustration of the Yellow Headed Amazon Parrot Amazona ochrocephala oratri for a friend, who has one as a pet.

The first step is always the same, get the reference ready.  In this case my cleint wanted a quick turnaround, but had helpfully supplied me with photos of the parrot.  I went online and collected extra illustrations to be sure the details of the bird were clear, and consistent for the species (for more on painting…

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Natural History and Botanical Illustration: Creating a Butterfly Bouquet Watercolour

Story posted: 6. March 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Often I'm asked to combine botanical art with scientific illustration, but rarely as tightly as in a recent insect meets flower art commission.

The client sent over a rough visual, and asked me to combine features of a butterfly with a Victorian style bouquet.  Species and details were up to me.

Well, first thing was to choose the butterfly.  The client is American, so I decided to stick to common species from the USA.  Although the iconic Monarch butterfly worked well, I wanted a species with some blue on the lower wings as I knew I would be including purpley blues in the…

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Category: Zoological step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 1641

Natural History Illustration: Step by step Painting a Waxwing

Story posted: 29. January 2015 by Lizzie Harper

Science art, natural history illustration, natural science illustrations, botanical drawing; all these terms cover what I do,  But this week's blog is about creating an ornithological illustration, in this case of the Waxwing  Bombycilla garrulus.

First step is always to draw up the bird.  I wanted to include background, and hoped scarlet and orange berries would echo the reddish areas in the bird's plumage.  I use a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil, and draw striaght onto my hot press fabriano artistico watercolour paper.

Then I open my watercolour box, predominantly full…

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Natural History Illustration step by step: Painting a Puffin September 26th 2014

Story posted: 26. September 2014 by Lizzie Harper

When completing a natural science or scientific illustration of a species, the process varies according to variables including what reference you have (photos, stuffed specimens, or the living plant or animal); and how long you have to complete the job.

However, there are some general steps which are common to the evolution of all my illustrations, and for this blog I'll use my ornithological illustration of a puffin to show what I mean.

Set up your equipment.  This is to be a watercolour, so I use Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton hot press paper which is nice and smooth.  I…

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Category: Zoological step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 1927

Natural Science Illustration: Painting a Bumble bee January 31st 2014

Story posted: 31. January 2014 by Lizzie Harper

I was commissioned to do an entomological illustration for a natural history illustration interpretation board on flight by Anglezarke Dixon Associates .  The client wanted a White tailed bumble bee (Bombus lucorum) to accompany my scientific illustrations of the pipistrelle bat and peacock butterfly in flight (which he purchased for re-use from my online image library ).

As always, the first step is to assemble your reference.  I use as wide of a range of reference as possible; this decreases the chance of "copying" mistakes, and helps show the main features to highlight.  I…

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Natural History Illustration: Golden Plover in a Landscape January 17th 2014

Story posted: 11. January 2014 by Lizzie Harper

As well as scientific illustrations and botanical and natural history illustrations which are cut-to-white, I often have to illustrate subjects within their natural habitat.  This can be a challenge, but also highly enjoyable as you can put in specific details (such as someone's home, or a tree they really like) and it stirs the mind as you have to figure out what array of plants and animals are representative of the ecological niche you're illustrating.

I recently worked on an illustration of a Golden Plover, as a diary cover for my father's Christmas present.  I knew I wanted…

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Scientific Illustration of a Heath Fritillary - December 13th 2013

Story posted: 13. December 2013 by Lizzie Harper

Painting a scientific illustration of a butterfly out of season is always a challenge as it's hard to get good reference, either of the butterly or of the plants to be inculded in the image.  However, I throughly enjoyed this private comission of two Heath fritillary butterflies and the food plants their caterpillars feed on.

The Heath fritillary is very rare in the UK, and only occurs at a couple of sites where volunteers work tirelessly to create the environment these insects favour.  This painting was done for one of these volunteers.  For more on this butterfly, please click…

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Scientific Illustration of Bechstein's bat - step by step. October 18th 2013

Story posted: 18. October 2013 by Lizzie Harper

One of the more difficult animals I’m asked to do natural history illustrations of is bats.  This is because getting reference of them in flight can be tricky, (and involves being nice to lots of extremely talented photographers), and because getting the different details on their body is vital.

Here’s the approved rough of the Bechstein’s bat which was commissioned by BBOWT .



Generally, ear shape and the shape of the tragus (the structure within the ear) is key. It's amde of cartiledge and seems to be involved in echo-location.  For more on this, look at this link…

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Scientific Illustration of a Silver Washed Fritillary - October 4th 2013

Story posted: 3. October 2013 by Lizzie Harper

I've been working on natural history watercolour illustrations for Buckinghamshire, Bedforshire & Oxon Wildlife Trust this month, and one of the species they wanted me to paint was the beautiful Silver washed fritillary butterfly.

This butterfly is instantly distinct from the other fritillaries becuase of the striking markings on its underwings; greens, golds, and some streaks of pure silver (hence the name).

For this reason I decided to show the butterfly form two angles; flying and at rest on a scabious flower.



Once BBOWT had approved the roughs, I…

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Scientific Illustration of a Death's Head Hawkmoth - August 3rd 2013

Story posted: 3. August 2013 by Lizzie Harper

I received a private commission to do a scientific illustration of the Death's head hawkmoth, Acherontia atropos for someone who is passionate about moths.  Normally the first step is to get a specimen to work from, but alas in this case there were none at the local museum, and the deadline was tight.

I collated picture ref from as many sources as possible (it's always so much harder to work from images than from the real thing which you can rotate and examine), and combined it with the geometry and anatomy of the hawkmoth.  I chose to do a male as I prefer the tapering point…

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Category: Illustration techniques, Zoological step by step    Comments: 0    Viewed: 3192