Natural history illustration combines hyper-real detail with aesthetic appeal, but the results are often admired more than their makers are remembered. Who now recalls Horace Knight, the English artist who drew highly detailed moths and beetles for the British Museum in the early 1900s? Or Nicolas Huet the Younger, the French artist who drew colourful exotic birds and mammals for Napoleon?
Perhaps the students in the University of Newcastle’s Bachelor of Natural History Illustration course will fare better, given the evident talent of convenor Andrew Howells and his charges.
Cosmos presents this selection from the next generation of Australian wildlife artists.
The leafy seadragon is a uniquely ethereal creature. Capturing the delicacy, translucency and elegance of this unusual fish was my primary approach in creating this artwork. Working digitally allowed me the flexibility to play with colour and contrast in a way that would mimic the other-worldly nature of the leafy seadragon without having to surrender to the permanence of traditional media.
This elephant was one of many I spent time observing and drawing while completing my PhD. I became fascinated by the interactions between elephants, their movement, mannerisms and awesome presence. I experimented with many media and materials in developing a style that would enable me to capture the true form, surface quality and essence of these magnificent creatures.
The Australian white ibis is often considered a pest – a ‘flying rat’ or ‘bin chicken’ – due to the fact that it cohabits with humans in urban areas. Few people stop to consider why there are so many of these birds in built-up environs. It was not until I decided to illustrate this animal that I realised how intricate and beautiful they truly are. The goal of this painting it to make people re-evaluate these unique birds and to stop and consider what effect the destruction of their natural habitats has had on the way they are perceived.
The insect was measured and sketched out on paper before being scanned into Adobe Photoshop. A series of layers were created allowing each major part of the beetle to be worked on independently. After modelling the form in grey tones, texture was applied and colour added over the top. A graphite version was produced on clayboard, instead of paper, to develop skills in this media and to allow fine detail to be picked out of the surface. The colour image won first prize in the Australian Entomological Society competition.
Originally published by Cosmos as The Art of Nature
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