Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sea Slug in Art Stix and pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is sea, and this is a nudibranch. They're more familiarly known as Sea Slugs, and the nudibranchs really are in the same Gastropod group as land slugs. They're kind of like snails without shells, but much, much more colourful. I've picked a relatively simple-looking one here (Chromodoris annae, or Anna's Nudibranch), but there are plenty of other out there that are much, much more impressive.

Nudibranchs tend to feed on very specific organisms (this one concentrates on Petrosaspongia sp. sponges), and I've lost the source page now but I think I read that some of the colours of the nudibranchs come from their food sources. Kind of like flamingos gaining their pink colouration from shrimps.

While doodling this sea slug I discovered that it's hard (at least for me) to make them look at all realistic because they just plain don't look real. I might have had better luck in graphite, just going for the shape and shading... but then I would have lost the colour, which is pretty much what nudibranchs are known for. Ah well, if it looks like a cartoon it looks like a cartoon.

It's surrounded in scribbles anyway, so why I was even the slightest bit concerned about realism is beyond me.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Sea-gooseberry in Derwent Metallics & carbon pencil

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is light.

The Comb-jellies or Ctenophores are a group of jelly-like aquatic animals. They're largely colourless (well, most of them are. There are exceptions, though), but as they move their rows of propelling cilia they scatter light and look as though they have moving rainbows, more or less.

There are some ctenophores that are bioluminescent (that is, they can produce their own light), but most of the ones you see on those deep-sea submarine documentaries are just shining in the light that the filming equipment uses.

This doodle is VERY loosely based on a comb-jelly known as the Sea-gooseberry (Pleurobrachia pileus), which is found world-wide. Well, in the oceans at least. I have a feeling that you'd have a time finding them here in Alberta.

I wish I'd had my black paper to do this one on, but since I don't have it with me you get carbon pencil scribble instead. Ah well. You work with what you have, right?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Socky in Art Stix and Koh-i-noor woodless pencil crayons

... and a bit of Verithin thrown in for good measure. Guess I'm a little crayon-happy today.

Today's Illustration Friday prompt is puppet. And this is my hand. In a sock. It's from a picture, because as hard it is to take a photo of your own left hand in a sock with a DSLR camera, it'd be even tougher to sketch your own left hand in a sock when you're left-handed...

Anyway. Do kids even make sock puppets these days? Do they know what they are? I suppose you'd need an app for it now, wouldn't you.

This is pretty sketchy, but that's on purpose. Just trying to loosen up somewhat. Fight the fussiness, Dee. You can do it.

Yes, I'm my own pep talk. Comes in handy sometimes.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Octopus Garden in watercolour

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is octopus.

Octopus gardens are real things. Octopods have been known to carefully arrange rocks, shells, and debris around the entrances to their dens. It's probably for camouflage, but who knows? They've shown in lab that they're very intelligent. Maybe they like to decorate as well as protect.

I was going to ink this one after I was done painting, but I decided that I sort of liked it the way it is. Weird, for me and painting (for those new to the program, I have the brush skills of a five-year-old). I might ink it later. We'll see after I've let it sit for a while.

In other news, I opened my travel pan kit to find the top half of my water brush missing. No big deal since I hardly ever use it, but how would it just disappear? I'm guessing that I took it out at some point to clean it, and then...? Ah well, it'll turn up. Or not. Or I'll just buy another one at some point. There's lots of brushes out there.

Especially for someone who doesn't actually paint.

IF's prompt a while back was ocean, and I did a proper octopus for that one. It's right here. Oh, and of course we need to end with one thing. Everybody sing!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Mute Swan in pencil crayon

 This week's Illustration Friday prompt is silence. That was tough for me, since I don't think there really is such a thing as silence. On Earth, anyway. After all, in space no one can hear you scream...

On Earth, though, sound is everywhere. Just because our so-so hearing doesn't catch it all doesn't mean it isn't there. And even when we think we're going somewhere for the "silence", it isn't. Quiet, maybe. Muffled, even. But not silent.

I suppose I should say at this point for anyone who hasn't read the blog bio that I'm a professional naturalist. I'm paid to notice sounds out there that most people who don't listen everyday wouldn't hear. I've never in my life been for a silent walk, because there's always something out there making sounds. That's also why I never walk with an mp3 player, by the way. Artificial sound just gets in the way of the real thing.

Anyway, for the prompt I went with a bird (Cygnus olor, the Mute Swan) with a version of silence in its name. Ironically, and going a little way to prove my point, the Mute Swan isn't even mute.

This was done very scribbly and quickly, partly because I tend to get a little fussy about detail, and partly because I've been trying to train my injured wrist (yeah, still working on that blasted thing) not to tense up so much when I try to draw. The neck's a bit short, I think, but overall I guess it actually looks like a swan. Yay wrist.

Just for fun, here's Bob the kitten (he doesn't qualify as Bob Cat yet. And yes, the name was on purpose. His brother is Tom...) imploring me to stop taking his picture and get to the art stuff already instead of just leaving it on the bed.

You're right, Bob, but the camera's fun too.

Sorry, buddy.

Well, not really.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Creamsicle in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is novelty. This is an extremely quick (like, 15 minute) creamsicle. Quick, because honestly I'd like to go have lunch, but I wanted to post something because I've been pretty lazy lately.

The wrapper's only suggested because I wasn't in the mood to come up with something that didn't break copyright.

Personally, I always preferred raspberry over orange, but I wasn't sure that people would get it if I made the thing red.

Um, ice cream novelties count, right?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bufflehead in pencil crayon

I drew a duck last night.

No, not randomly. I needed it for work. Yep, I'm still my own illustrator, so to speak. Sometimes it's interesting working for a non-profit.

Anyway, this is just to show that I'm still doodling, even if you're not seeing much of it at the moment.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Fragile? in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is fragile. This butterfly would be known to those of you in the UK as a Camberwell Beauty, but to most of the rest of us (in various languages) it's a Mourning Cloak. That's where scientific names come in handy, so let's call it Nymphalis antiopa. And this one's feeding on... I dunno. Cotton candy? To be honest, my wrist was completely done for by the time I got that far, so it's feeding on scribbles.

So, butterflies. The epitome of fragile, right? With those thin, scaly wings that are so easily broken, and the ephemeral life span and all.

Not so fast, Sam. Not only is this particular butterfly tough enough to be found all over North American and Eurasia in a variety of climates, it's also capable of going through (at least) two broods even where I live in Canada. And how does it manage that in such a short season?

The second brood of adults overwinters.

Yeah, seriously. Forget what you know about insects getting through cold, long winters as eggs or as buried chrysalids. These beauties and a few others find their way down under leaf litter, piles of sticks, or other sheltered places and go through the entire winter as adults. Then, they're out flying pretty much as soon as the air's warm enough to allow it. Even before there's food around for them. They're our first butterflies of spring, and always looked forward to for that reason. If you want to encourage them in your yard, leave a bit of a brush pile in a back corner and they'll have a place to shelter for the winter.

That whole thing astounds me, really, and I talk about this sort of thing for a living. I guess the lesson is to not be fooled by the appearance of fragile.

Or something.

Maybe there is no lesson except that the world is a very cool place and I wish that we'd take more time to look at it that way.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Canola in watercolour

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is summer. And this is, quite honestly, a little fifteen-minute sketch done in front of the television last night. Most of those fifteen minutes were spent watching the paint dry...

Yeah, I know. Such an artist, me.

Anyway, I live in a part of Alberta where a lot of canola is grown, so summer around here usually means bright yellow fields contrasted with a vivid blue sky (and no, I'm not being poetic. The sky on a hot day is strikingly blue) and the greens of poplars and spruce. It's about as pretty as agriculture can get (in a good way, I mean). Around here, anyway.

The one thing missing from my imaginary field is a pump jack. I wasn't in the mood for that particular reality of life in Alberta. Oh, and if you've never seen an actual canola field, this picture is a pretty good representation. Our area's a big more rolling-hilly than that, though.

On a medium note, I'm finding that Sakura's Koi watercolour pans read a bit better on my cheap scanner than my Cotmans. Do I like the paint itself better? Hey, I have the brush skills of a five-year-old. You could probably substitute in the Reeves school set I had in grade three and I wouldn't notice. Ok, I would... but I'm really not a very good judge when it comes to paint of any sort.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Behind the door...

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is contraption. And this is one of the neatest contraptions in nature, I think. The hiding place built by the trapdoor spiders.

Trapdoor spiders make a fairly sophisticated hole (considering that they're spiders and all) and cover it with a trapdoor that's sort of cork-like in texture. It consists of soil, silk, and whatever plants may be around, and is attached to the hole with a silk hinge. When closed, the door almost perfectly camouflages the spider's den.

The spider waits, gripping the door closed, until a prey animal crosses one of the trip lines radiating from the burrow. Then the door is swiftly opened and the prey is whisked into the den.

Pretty cool contraption for a spider, especially considering that some of its Mygalomorph cousins (think tarantula) don't construct much of anything at all. But then, anyone who's followed this blog at all knows that I think spiders are pretty cool regardless.

This is a really quick doodle -- literally doodle this time -- in my pocket sketchbook, so you can imagine the size. It's still all about what my stupid wrist (YES, still) will let me do before things get really shaky. Fine control and weakened wrist just aren't getting along. It's easier with pencils (meaning, despite the lack of posts I'm still arting. Just nothing I've felt like introducing to the internet), but man do I miss working in pen. Ah well, nothing to do but keep trying.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


Ok, so Illustration Friday's prompt this week is retro, and that's not really my thing. As you would have seen if you'd watched me draw out something vaguely retro-ish and then completely mess with it by deciding to colour it up in metallics (this is Derwent metallic watercolour pencils with Pentel metallic pen). What can I say? It was what I was in the mood for.

I say you would have seen that retro's not my thing, but as usual my cheap scanner pretty much ignored the watercolour part of the doodle. I've had to bump the saturation on the scan up so much that this almost does look nearly sort of kind of like it might be almost retro now.

Almost. Did I mention almost?

Ah well, at least it's something. This blog has been neglected lately. I'd say I'll try to be more active, but I don't want to set myself up for any promises.

Oh, I should say that this is an ATC, so if you're interested just contact me. Keep in mind that the reality doesn't look much like what's on the screen, though.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Snowshoe Hare in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is survival. The problem with it for me is that since I usually go at this from a nature point of view (hazard of the job) it's pretty much all about survival. That's a pretty big range of subjects, and I generally have a lot of trouble narrowing things like that down. Sooo... in the end I finally decided to think about digestion.

Hard to survive without digestion if you're an animal. Hard to survive without digestion for some plants, too.

Plant eaters have a special kind of digestion problem. Large parts of plants aren't terribly digestible, and that creates a bit of an evolutionary conundrum going back to the whole balance of energy thing. If you're a plant eater do you put a little energy into getting the most easily digestible parts of your food out and then eat a lot more, or do you eat less and put a lot of energy into digesting what may, in the end, be low quality food?

There are animals that have gone either way, of course. A good example of the first is the equids, like horses or donkeys. They have reasonably uncomplicated digestive systems that let food pass through quickly (there's a lot of identifiable undigested plant matter in the scat, as anyone who's dealt with horse poop knows). It means that they have to eat a lot and often, but on the other hand their systems don't waste much time on bad food.

The best known example of the other strategy is the ungulates or hoofed mammals. Think cow or deer here. Fancy, complicated four-chambered stomachs that spend a lot of time digesting plants. To aid that, the animals cough up partially digested food known as cud, chew it again, and then send it back to the stomach for further processing. Erm, so to speak. More efficient digestion, but they're hooped if the food isn't good.

So what's the deal with the rabbit?

Well, first of all rabbits and hares aren't the same thing. They might look similar and belong to the same group (the leporids), but there are plenty of differences that I'm going to leave you to look up for yourselves if you're interested. After all, we're supposed to be talking digestion here, and to do that I need to talk feces.

Yep, poop again.

Hares, rabbits, guinea pigs, and things like that need more time to digest than their small systems allow, and they don't have the luxury of those four-chambered stomachs. The solution? Coprophagy. Or, in actual English, eating your own poop. Plenty of animals do it.

Hares and their relatives have two kinds of scat: the familiar hard pellets that we get to see, and a soft, partially digested form that the animal harvests (bad choice of words there? Sorry if I gave any of you interesting visuals) as it comes out, rechews, and sends back through the digestive system. Sounds disgusting, but it's pretty effective.

And, of course, that's what counts for survival.

If anyone's interested in what this all looks like, to be honest it doesn't look like much. There's a video here though, if you've ever wondered how you can tell when your pet rabbit is eating caecotrophs.

And my apologies for all of the poop talk.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Phoenix in watercolour, pencil crayon, and metallic pen

Out of the dusk a shadow,
     Then, a spark;
Out of the cloud a silence,
     Then, a lark;
Out of the heart a rapture,
     Then, a pain;
Out of the dead, cold ashes,
     Life again.
          - John Banister Tabb

Father Tabb and I certainly don't share a philosophy, but if you're not familiar with his poetry it's definitely worth a look.

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is spark, and frankly this was just me making a free-form mess while watching television last night. I have a tendency to be too literal when I'm doodling since a lot of it's for work and whatever plant or animal I'm working on has to look like that plant or animal. I figured I'd just wing this one, though, since no one really knows what a phoenix looks like anyway.

In the light of day this one looks more like it's wearing a black tutu than anything.

Yeah, you can't unsee that now, can you?

The paper I was using was far too thin to take watercolour, but I actually kind of like the way the wrinkles scanned. Sort of like rays of light and dark.

Lucky accidents are fun.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Work things

 Why yes, I have been stuck at home drawing catkins because of the very cold weather.

What else do you do when you're stuck at home by this endless winter but draw catkins? I mean, really?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Hermit Crab in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is disguise.

I often say "quick doodle", but this one actually was because I have other things I want to do this morning yet.

As usual, the cheap scanner's picked up more of the yellow than there really is, but it gives the idea.

I have no idea why I did this on a slant, really.

I kind of want a hermit crab now...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Chicken or egg in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is beginning. I'll be honest, though, and say that this was more of an excuse to take the Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth colour pencils that I got for Christmas for a spin. On the toned paper that I got for Christmas. Yay Christmas if you like to see me doodle, I guess.

I must say that I like the laydown of these things. Very smooth. And if they're anything like the Koh-i-noor woodless pencils that I've had for years, they'll last damned near forever.

Back to topic, though. From an evolutionary standpoint, the whole what came first -- the chicken or the egg? question is a non-starter, really. A chicken-like thing lays an egg that contains an embryo with a mutation that makes it more chicken-like. Assuming that the mutation isn't severe enough to kill the chicken-like thing or render it infertile, it has more chicken-like things that may have more mutations. Lather, rinse, repeat (I'm massively simplifying things here, of course). Eventually the egg contains an actual chicken, if everything goes all right.

This prompt sent me straight to Sound of Music, by the way (Let's start at the very beginning...). I can't say that I was in the mood to draw a whole doh (a deer, a female deer) though...

Oh, one other thing: I found out recently that the term pencil crayon is apparently Canadian and that most of the rest of English speaking world refers to them as coloured pencils. Who knew?

Well, I didn't at least.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Alarm in watercolour

This was going to be for Illustration Friday's prompt time, but I was too late.

Ironic that, I suppose.

Posting it here anyway, since I've been so lazy lately about posting anything. This week's prompt is search, if I remember right. I have no idea if I'll have anything for that, but I've still got a few days.

In other news, it's really hard to open a bottle of masking fluid when you haven't used it for a while...
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