Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Lily in pen & ink

Am I happy with this? No.

I started out intending to do some fine detail work because I haven't been doing that lately, but it wasn't long before my wrist informed me that we weren't going to do that at all.This became yet another scribble instead.


This is getting a little frustrating, you know? Ah well, what can I do but keep trying... or go back to wearing the *insert expletive here* brace...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Thin-legged Wolf Spider in carbon pencil

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is carry. I usually make an effort to do a doodle specifically for the word (actually, that's really why I bother participating at all. I'm not an artist. I'm sometimes pretty uncomfortable putting my stuff anywhere near those of you who are. At least IF gives me a reason to keep practicing, though), but it's not going to happen this week from the looks of it. So, rather than miss another week, here's an oldie. It was done for a spider display at work.

Wolf Spiders and Nursery Web Spiders are unusual in the spider world in that, rather than make an egg case and guard it, or make an egg case and just plain die, they carry their egg sacs with them. For the Nursery Web Spiders it must be massively difficult -- they carry theirs on their jaws. Wolf Spiders, however, attach theirs to their spinnerets and drag them around with them while the spiderlings develop.

They're not done even when the eggs hatch, though. The dozens of tiny spiderlings climb up on their mother's back and hitch a ride until they're big enough to fend for themselves.

Pretty nifty parenting for an invertebrate.

This spider is a Pardosa sp (no idea of the sp. We have a few spp around here, and I couldn't begin to tell them apart. And incidentally, I've totally been saying sp as "spuh" in my head as I've been typing this) that I found on my father's pond liner conveniently just as I was starting to create the display. I'm not sure she was a willing model, but at least she stayed long enough for a reference photo.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Oriole Nest in soluble graphite

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is suspend. This is a preliminary sketch of an oriole (specifically, Baltimore Oriole. They had separated out our Northern Orioles as their own variety for a while, but last I heard it was all one big happy Baltimore family again) nest for a project that I may or may not take on at work this summer. I haven't quite decided yet.

For anyone who's never seen an oriole nest, you've missed something incredible. The birds actually weave a fabric pocket. They'll use whatever stringy material they can find: in the country it's horsehair scavenged from barbed wire fences; around here it's yarn, pieces of burlap, or whatever else they can find. And it is, really, a fabric. A strong one, too. The nest is suspended between a couple of branches, and usually hidden so successfully that you don't even notice it until the leaves fall from the trees.

Orioles are very territorial, and as a result are pretty easy to call down. If you hear an oriole whistle (the call is easy enough to find on the internet), whistle back. It doesn't matter if you don't get it right; the mere fact that someone's whistling in his territory will cause a male oriole to come and check it out. And they'll come fairly close if you keep whistling back.

I didn't believe that at first, to be honest. When I started here at the nature centre our resident birder always told me that I should whistle to the orioles, and I never tried. For whatever stupid reason, the first time I finally gave it a go was when I was leading a nature walk (why I wouldn't try it out alone first is beyond me to this day). The class's teacher had asked if she could videotape me (yes, video tape. This was a while ago) because it was an anniversary year in Canada -- doesn't matter which one -- and they'd been paired with a class in Quebec. She thought it'd be nice to send them a video of Alberta nature. Well, I heard an oriole and again, for whatever stupid reason, decided to give the whistling a go right then and there.

Damned if it didn't work.

We got the bird to come right down to us; less than a metre away. The kids were excited, the teacher was saying "This is sooo cool" right on tape, and I? Well, I was repeating to myself don't tell them it's the first time don't tell them it's the first time don't tell them it's the first time...

In the end I did, though.

It was still cool.
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