Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Natural History Illustration, Techniques & Materials

I was recently given a tutorial by Professor Alan Male at University College Falmouth on how to achieve a realistic outcome when tight rendering. This kind of method is applied for use in informative materials such as field guides for identification of animals, and other informative text.

So I thought I would relay a little of what he showed me, and some of the advice. 

So lets start with the materials-
suggested papers, paints and brushes include:

PAPER- Schoellershammer 6R paper

PAINTS- Winsor and Newton Artists' watercolour series.
BRUSHES- Winsor and Newton Series 7 Kolinsky sable size 2 & 3
These brushes are superior in quality to most other brushes, and also carry far more paint as opposed to getting smaller sized brushes, and yet you can still achieve a very fine point with the brush. Hair thin lines are very achievable and the paint flow on the brush allows it to keep on laying down lines for far longer than I ever thought imaginable.
Ok, so onto the method:
This time I have chosen the Himalayan Cicada- Pycna repanda

First you get a piece of tracing paper, fold it in half, and then draw one half of the insect right up to the line. Next, fold over the tracing paper and trace the side you have just drawn, onto the other side so as you now have a complete, symmetrical insect. Of course, this doesn't work for all natural history illustration... it is very rare to only do birds-eye views of creatures. Nowadays we show the animals in a posture that would give away more information about the behavior of the animal; such as eating, or hunting or building a home. Many things can be told about the animal just by adding in the correct vegetation/background/prey animals/surrounding/time of day to the scene.
For the moment though, I am just going through a traditional cut to white illustration...most commonly found in identification guides.
Tracing Stage

Next step is to transfer the image once you are happy with it. I decided that the forelimbs on this did not look right, and so changed them after in the tracing paper stage. 
Buy some graphite tracedown (from most art stores) a.k.a carbon paper.
Then we take the watercolour paper, and attach it to your work surface/drawing board etc.
Then align the trace with where you want the image to be on your paper. Stick this in place with masking tape. Then get your carbon paper and slide it under (check that it is the correct way up! do this on a spare piece of paper quickly to save any wasted effort of tracing...only to find the image hasn't been traced down!)
Once the carbon paper is in place, correct way up, then you can start going over the drawing with a fine point pencil. Its a good idea to check how light/heavy the graphite is being traced down, so check several times until you are happy and know the amount of pressure to apply.

Once you have finished, your image should now be transferred to your watercolour paper.


Next time I will start painting and keep you guys informed at each stage.

Hope this helps!


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