Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Common Plants and Animals

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Common Plants and Animals   

I can vividly remember the bright red fluttering flight of a moth crossing our playground at Abegavenny Convent.  It was the summer of 1959, I was about six and we were playing cowboys and indians whilst the girls, no friends of ours, were skipping or playing home in the gaps of a bedraggled hedge that ran along the wall of the school building   Leaving my friends I ran after the insect which was easily caught, looking at the delicate creature trapped in my fingers made a huge impression on me.  I now know the insect was a Six Spot Burnet, an insect that flies between the Thistles and Knapweed on hot summer days.
Some children are good academics, others like sport.  I was neither of these, but after my encounter with the Six Spot Burnet I never cared.  After that incident the rest of my childhood centred around insects.  At the age of eight I was sent to boarding school, my parents had to choose between a school where the head master kept a moth trap and another where there was a Mulberry tree that were the required food plant for my silkworms.  The silkworms won, and the school's tiny science department became Julian's menageries of insects, Red Eared Terrapins and Black Mollies, a tradition that went on after I left five years later. 
At public school I looked after the moth trap.  Every day I would keep records of the night's catch, but I could never get on with the Latin names.  Between O and A levels, when I moved school because the science master had told my parents I was too dim to take A levels, I bought my own moth trap and set it up next to the cricket pitch.   At university I studied Marine Biology but read not a single academic book on the subject, but my closest friend was a moth fanatic.  He was academic and became a curator of natural history and insects at Inverness Museum.  
My experience at  university taught me that I would never be a naturalist, the Latin name thing was simply too academic and boring.  That is how I turned from moths to becoming an artist.  This is all a very long time ago.  Today, 54 years after I captured the Six Spotted Burnet, I find myself writing a mildly academic blog about drawing, visual grammar and plasticity....and suddenly I stumble on the reason I was so besotted with moths.  Yes it was the look and feel of the creatures, but it was also the Common Names which are tied to a way of looking at the world that pre-dates science, and is why scientists had reject common names and re-classify all the species in Latin.  I was always a disorganised romantic who failed the discipline of scientific methodology.
Ask yourself what was goes on in the subconscious mind of a little boy looking at pictures of Purple Emperors, Giraffe Necked Weevils and Garden Tiger Moths? This is the launching pad of my new idea: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Common Plants and Animals.
At the start of this article is a picture of an Eyed Hawk Moth. Could the name create plastic associations with hawks?  Does this other animal perhaps exist somewhere deep in our subconscious minds, maybe an animal like this?


The Illustrated Encyclopaedia is really about that world between reality and imagination.  It is that subconscious no man's land that we are all aware of, but never really see.

I have always wondered about Dandelions, which in my dyslectic days I used to spell Dandylion.

Everyday I choose a name to illustrate and paste it on my facebook page. I started with a really easy subject catfish


The pressure to produce a new image every day is very useful because ti forces me to work to a time table and use the photoshop tools.  The downside is that almost all the images are a mixture of success and failure.

This is a Damsel Fly 


and this is today's effort - An African Fish Eagle








So far there are about 25 images on the facebook page.  Sometimes I remove the old ones, or improve them.

I have also got a long list of possible plants and animals to draw.  Maybe you can help me with your own ideas?

Angel Fish; Ant Lion; Banded Snake-Eagle; Basilisk Lizard; Bed Bug; Bee Orchid; Bearded Vulture, Bearded Tit; Bell orchid; Black Buffalo Fish; Black ghost knifefish; Black-winged hatchetfish; Blue dolphin cichlid; Blue Bells; Blue Bottles; Booted Eagle; Bull Head (fish);  Bull Dog; Bull Finch; Bull Frog; Bumblebee cichlid, Bumblebee Hummingbird; Bumblebee Goby; Bumble bee snail Bumble bee Shrimp, Bush Baby; butterfly cichlid; Butterfly Fish; Camel shrimp; Cardinal Beetle; Cardinal finch; Carrot Fly; Cat Flea; Cat Eyed Snake; Chickweed; Clothes Moth; Clown Fish; Clown loach; Crowned Eagle; Cock; Cock Robin; Collard Dove; Cockroach; Damsel Fly; Days Eye (Daisy); Death Cap; Devil’s Coach Horse; Devil’s Egg; Diving Beetle; Devils Fingers (Fungi); fairy cichlid; Devil Fish; Devil’s Tongue; Dog Fish; Dog Rose; Dog orchid; Dragonfish;  Eagle Owl; Elephant Shrew; Elephant Seal; Fairy Tern; Fairy Penguin; Fairy Shrimp; Fairy Wren; Fan-tailed Warbler; Fireflies; Fish Eagle; Flying Fox; Fox Sparrow; Fox moth; Fruit Bat; Garden Spider; Garden Skink; Gooseberry; giraffe cichlid; Giraffe Necked Weevil; Goat Moth; Goat fish; Grasshopper Warbler; Green Cat Snake; Hagfish; Halloween hermit crab; Harebell; Harlequin shrimp;  Hawkfish; Hawkmoth; Hawker; Hermit Crab; Hermit Warbler; Head Lice: Horsefly; Horned Devil Lizard; Horned Parakeet; hornet cichlid; Holy Mackerel; Hooded Crow; Hook-Billed Hermit Hummingbird; Horse Fly; Hyacinth Macaw; Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross; Jaguar cichlid; Jewel Skink; Kuhl's Flying Gecko; Kingfisher; King Vulture; Kittyhawk; Lady's-slipper; lavender cichlid; Leaf Hopper; Lemon tetra; Leopard Moth; Leopard Seal; Leopard Gekko; Lion Fish; Lounge Lizard; Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer); Magpie Moth; Madarasz's Tiger Parrot;  Mud Skippers; Mongoose; Monk Fish; Mousebirds; Ox Eyed Daisy; Pair of Great Tits; Panther Chameleon; Panther Gekko; Paradise fish; Peacock; Peacock bass; Peacock orchid; Penguin tetra; Polecat; Pond Skater; Puss Moth; Pussy Willow; Queen Bee; Red Admiral; red devil cichlid; Rhinoceros Beetle; Runner Bean; Sawfish; Sea Cow; Sea lion; Sea Urchin; Sea Hare; Secretary Bird; shark catfish; Sheep Dog; Snakes head Fritillary; Soldier Beetle; Sparrowhawk; Speckled Mousebird, Painted Tiger Parrot; Spectacled; Spider Monkey; Stag Beetle; Squirrel Monkey; Swan's neck orchid; Swan Plant;  Tapeworm; Tasmanian Devil; Thorny Devil Lizard; Three Eyed Lizard; Tiger barb; Tiger Beetle; Tiger Fish; Tiger Fly; Tiger Lily; Tiger Mosquito, Tiger Moth; Tiger prawns; Tiger Ratsnake; Toad Stool; Trumpet Chanterelle (fungi); Trumpeter Swan; Turkey Vulture; Vampire Bat; Western mosquitofish; Whiptail catfish; Witch Hazel; Zebra Finch; Zebra Fish; Zebra loach; Zebra Shark

No comments: