NZ Natural History Artist #2: Piers Hayman


This months Natural History Artist is Piers Hayman. I first heard about him through New Zealand Bird Rescue, a charitable trust of which he was a founding member (then the NZ Wildlife Rehabilitation Trust). Originally from England, and trained as a graphic designer, he emigrated to New Zealand in the early 80’s.


He has done numerous beautiful illustrations of New Zealand Birds, and has written and illustrated numerous books on NZ wildlife- two of the most well-known books being ‘Discovering the Birds of New Zealand and ‘The Bird Next Door’. He was a regular contributor to the New Zealand Herald where he wrote and illustrated a weekly column about birds, a clipping from one of his columns from 1985 is below:

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2014- a year in review

well, its the end of another year! 2014 was the first year where I decided to really try to focus on illustration- I did the scientific illustration course, created a stop-motion animation that was science based, and developed a portfolio-which I submitted to a publisher. In the last month I also did my first market (selling cards and prints that I printed myself- a learning curve as well). Its been busy but I feel like the busier it got, the easier it was to create work and I feel like I started to definitely get into a stride of creating art consistently and regularly in the last few months of this year- something I have previously struggled with.

I also discovered a technique that I really like for doing picture book-style illustrations, and am excited to play around with that some more in 2015.



I saw this around tumblr in the past week and thought it would be a fun thing to do- you can find the original template here, and make one for yourself!

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illustration book finds- october edition

Its been a little while since I’ve done a second-hand book finds post (the last one was in March)- and I’ve found quite a few lovely illustrated books over the last couple of months so I thought it was time for another round-up post.

I found all of these books at my local $1 book sale, which is run to raise money for the Lion Foundation. It is a treasure trove for people who love books- especially old ones 😉 Most of the books mentioned below are full of wildlife illustration, but I also find lots of art instructional books (too many to post about now!).

Here are my favourite finds of late….

Town Birds in New Zealand by Raymond Wilson, 1980





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OCTOBER illustrated book of the month: Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes

This month I wanted to highlight a beautifully illustrated identification guide to primates. Primates of the World: an illustrated guide by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes was published on 2010 in French, but has just been translated and published by Princeton University Press last year.


The primate illustrations in this guide, by french wildlife artist Francois Desbordes, are absolutely phenomenal- and I recommend checking out this book for them alone. There are 72 realistically rendered watercolour plates, as well as a number of looser watercolour sketches in the introductory section entitles ‘Fascinating Primates’- including a very colourful evolutionary tree diagram.

Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg59
RING-TAILED and BROWN LEMURS from Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg59
Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg11
Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg11

I have read other reviews that say some of the scientific information is slightly out of date now (that’s how fast species phenology can change) but it is a comprehensive guide of the major primate species of the world, sorted by continent.

Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg105
TARSIERS from Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg105

What I really liked about Mr Desbordes illustrations is that they not only show the animals morphology but also give some clue to the postures and behaviour of the different species. I couldn’t find much information about the illustrator however it appears he has illustrated a number of books about wildlife in French.

Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg177
GORILLAS from Primates of the World by Jean-Jacques Petter and Francois Desbordes, pg177

I highly recommend taking a look at this book- its a masterpiece.



blog update: you may have noticed a new link in the right-side bar- best of drawing escape. I’ve  made a collection of the most popular posts from the drawing escape archives- you can check them out here!

AUGUST illustrated book of the month: A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Ashton and Sylvia Long

This week I thought I would post a new blog post that I am hoping will become an ongoing monthly series, where I will post a review of an awesome illustrated book I have recently come across. As you may know, I work in a library whose collection is slightly tailored toward childrens’ picture books and non fiction, so there are a lot of beautifully illustrated books available for the picking! So, here is the first illustrated picture book of the month post- I hope you enjoy and are able to take a look at some of these books in person.

This month, I am came across the wonderful book A Butterfly is Patient, by Dianna Hutts Ashton, and illustrated by Sylvia Long (you can view inside the book by following this link to the publishers page).

A Butterfly Is Patient
Source: Chronicle Books

This book is a junior non-fiction title (aimed at 5-10 year olds) that serves as an introduction to butterflies; describing various facts about butterflies and their lives, under the over-arching theme of metamorphosis (relating back to “patient” in the title). Every spread displays a different facet of a butterflies life, and is started off with ‘A butterfly is …’. One of my favourites spreads is the one that accompanies “A butterfly is not a moth”; it has various butterflies in a daylight composition, along with a variety of wonderfully illustrated moths on the facing page in the night time. The spreads are beautifully illustrated and each turn of the page provides a surprise, as the illustrations and text are quite diverse and the colourful illustrations are lovely.

From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit

There are quite a lot of scientific concepts also introduced which I really liked. One of my favourite parts of the book are the endpapers- the front ones have lots of different species of caterpillars, the end ones lots of butterflies, supposedly having metamorphosed through the book’s story.

From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit
From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit

The illustrations are what initially drew me to this book. According to Sylvia Longs’ website, she illustrates using pen and ink, overlaid with watercolour. Her illustrations in this book are amazing. They are clear, vibrant and sophisticated illustrations that are the perfect style for communicating natural history concepts to kids. I think they are the kind of illustrations that really  inspire wonder and interest in the natural world. I also loved the fact that the text is hand-lettered in a copperplate sort of style.

From A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011 Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit

This author-illustrator team have also collaborated on a number of other junior non fiction books in the same vein- including An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy, and a brand new title- A Rock is Lively. I would highly highly recommend checking all of these books out- even (or especially) if you aren’t in the kids age group and are interested in natural history and illustration- they are beautifully written and illustrated and I’m hoping they create even more books to add to the series.

Let me know what you think of A Butterfly is Patient if you have read it, in the comments below.

Check out Dianna Hutts Ashtons’ website here

and Sylvia Long’s website here.

See you next time with a process post!


All images taken from A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT by Dianna Hutts Ashton, illustrated by Sylvia Long ©2011

Used with Permission from Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco.


drawings that move

I have been reading quite a bit about hand drawn or traditional animation lately, and thought I would do a quick round-up of some of my favourite short movies that I have come across so far, for the blog- even though it is a bit of a departure from my regular posts! I think the process of animation is so interesting- the amount of thought that needs to go into creating pictures that move convincingly is an art form in itself.

Model Sheet from Bambi by Marc Davis via Disney Concepts and stuff

Because most current animation books and resources deal with animating as aided by the computer, I found that older books tend to be the most useful in descibing HOW to create different kinds of traditional animation in detail. The books I have found most useful are:

The Animation Book – a complete guide to animated filmmaking- from flip-books to sound cartoons, by Kit Laybourne (1979)- see here

Disney Animation- The Illusion of Life , by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson (1984)- see here



While the Disney Illusion of Life book has not been reprinted since 1984 (though there are reproduction copies that have been made and are available, as well as secondhand copies), Laybourne’s book has been reissued in 1995 with added information about digital animation, so that would also be an interesting read.

Ok- now on to the shorts….

5. Lotte Reiniger‘s cut out silhouette movies. Reiniger pioneered the technique of animating cut out cardboard figures in the 1920’s before the Disney style animation (hand drawn on cels) was invented.

There is an interesting video on her technique here. and also quite a few of her movies available on youtube. Interestingly, she apparently inspired the depiction of the Tale of the Three Brothers (from Tales of Beedle the Bard) which was animated in Reinigers cut out style for the Harry Potter movie– Deathly Hallows part 1.

4. This awesome slow-motion animation of cut out paper for Hyundai

3. Caroline Leaf’s work in sand and coloured paint on glass combined with the technique of stop motion animation. She also has a website where you can see how she made her films, and it is also covered in detail in Kit Laybourne’s book.

2. Animated hand drawn cels by Hombre McSteez aka Marty Cooper which integrate amazingly with daily life to create an awesome short movie called Aug(De)Mented Reality– watch it!!

p.s check out more clips on his instagram

1. And last but certainly not least- Glen Keanes beautiful and awe-inspiring short film Duet, which was premiered at the recent Google I/O Conference. Mr Keane has been an animator at Disney for quite a while and has worked on such movies as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan. He created Duet for Motorola to show how traditional techniques could be combined with modern technology to create interactive hand drawn animation. It is a beautiful story – if you don’t watch anything else, make the time to watch this.

Above is the uncoloured animation, but if you can also see the finished coloured version here, and a making of clip here.

I think one of the most fascinating things about animation is that there are such a wide range of styles and techniques, that can be used to tell a story. Have you got any other traditionally animated movies that you could recommend?


Lastly- again, slightly off topic, but you may know I am a fan of hand-lettering (see here, here and here) and have been eagerly awaiting the movie Sign Painters by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon for agggesss (see trailer). Apparently not in New Zealand yet, BUT I discovered that for this week only, is offering Sign Painters plus 3 other art movies in a bundle, for however much you want to pay for them. I have personally already bought and downloaded my copy. If you are interested, the deal is closing on 21st July (2 days left!) and you can buy it herePlease not I am not affiliated with this company in or receiving any compensation for promoting this deal- I simply thought it was really awesome and wanted to share the word with you lovely readers!

And with that said- I hope you enjoy the movies above and the weekend which is almost here! I know I’ll be fitting in some time to watch a documentary or two!


illustration book finds- march

A couple of weekends ago, I went to the local second-hand book sale, which is run regularly to raise money for a voluntary organisation. I thought I would post some of the awesome art and natural history books I managed to find!

2001 reprint of Miroslav Saseks ‘This is San Franscisco‘. Inspiring retro illustrations from the author-illustrator who is well known for this series of ‘This is…’ books.

Miroslav Sasek’s ‘This is San Franscisco’
Miroslav Sasek’s ‘This is San Franscisco’
Miroslav Sasek’s ‘This is San Franscisco’

Elaine Power’s Bush and High Country Birds of New Zealand. Elaine Power is one of New Zealand’s leading natural history artists. This book is beautifully illustrated with sketches of the birds in various poses, as well as a full colour illustration of the birds in their habitat. I really love the pencil sketches that are interspersed among the full colour illustrations. I’m going to try and collect all of her books now- she has a variety on seabirds and lake, river and wetland birds!

Elaine Powers illustrations in 'Bush and High Country Birds of New Zealand'
Elaine Powers illustrations of Silvereyes’ and Keas’ in ‘Bush and High Country Birds of New Zealand’
Elaine Powers illustrations in 'Bush and High Country Birds of New Zealand'
Elaine Powers illustrations of NZ Robins and Fantails, in ‘Bush and High Country Birds of New Zealand’

and below an image from the digital collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library collection (which you can view by clicking the image!)

elaine power2
Power, Elaine, 1931- :[Tui and silver eyes. 1987].. Power, Elaine, 1931- :[Bird studies prepared for four “Birds of New Zealand” books. 1987-1991.]. Ref: A-374-011. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
And finally – Calligraphy alphabets made easy’ by Margaret Shepherd….. This copy was a little worse for wear but the book itself is wonderful for a beginner calligrapher like me! It has exercises for every day of a year- each with a new calligraphy alphabet. The book is also full of useful hints and tips that are ideal for people just starting out. Can’t wait to give some of them a go!

Calligraphy Alphabets made easy by Margaret Shepherd
Calligraphy Alphabets made easy by Margaret Shepherd


Calligraphy Alphabets made easy by Margaret Shepherd- look at all those styles!
Calligraphy Alphabets made easy by Margaret Shepherd- look at all those styles!
Calligraphy Alphabets made easy by Margaret Shepherd-  the sciency+ animal fonts!
Calligraphy Alphabets made easy by Margaret Shepherd- the sciency+ animal fonts!

Aren’t the animal fonts so cool!

I love book-hunting- how about you?


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Book review: Capturing the essence- techniques for bird artists

If you, like me, are interested in painting wildlife, then Capturing the Essence- techniques for bird artists (<—you can see a preview on this link) by Australian artist William T. Cooper, is a beautiful book to read.

The book not only covers all the essentials on how to get started on painting and drawing birds, but also covers a few step-by-step paintings in a variety of mediums (watercolours, acrylics, and oils). While I much prefer books that go into depth on techniques rather than getting you to follow the steps in a paint by numbers approach, this book is entirely the opposite of this and definitely has some of the most  informative projects I have seen in an art book. I found the step-by step stages to be very useful particularly the full page colour photographs of the paintings as they progressed from stage to stage. It is inspirational to see how such a talented artist works in depth. In addition, the projects section is less than 1/2 of the overall volume of the text, the rest is packed full of information on how to get into painting birds.


The author emphasises the importance of knowing your subject very well before attempting painting them, and provides many suggestions about how to get to know birds better.



The other thing I love about this book is the detailed illustrations, especially in the first section (Part A- the basics), which covers things like composition of paintings, bird anatomy, as well as tips on sketching from life and painting backgrounds. The illustrations to describe bird anatomy are very detailed and beautiful, with illustrations of skeletons, wings, feathers, beaks and feet, with useful technical information to back up observations. The mix of sketches and finished work is just wonderfully designed and would have to be the most beautiful book I have seen on the subject.


What more can I say? I love this book and would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves wildlife art, even if all you do is look at the beautiful paintings and don’t even pick up a paint brush (though you will definitely be inspired to after reading this!).

See more about William T. Cooper on his website. He also has a very interesting section on his site with videos of himself working!! Check them out.

William T Cooper – Andrew Isles from sarahscragg on Vimeo.

All images used with permission. 

Favourite Books- mini reviews pt1

Just updating the resources page, and thought I would post my short reviews of some of my favourite books! You can read the full list of books+ online articles here. If you click on any of the pictures you will go to the book depository or amazon to check them out.

Natural History Painting with the Eden Project by Rosie Martin and Meriel Thurstan

Natural History Painting

Very informational, but also beautifully illustrated book all about creating your own natural history illustrations. Great for beginners to NHI, it has sections on the most commonly used materials (pencils, paper, paints etc) and how to use them, as well as specific sections on how to paint different subjects (eg motionless and moving fish, bones, feathers, bugs etc). And not all are exotic, many are things you could find in your own garden.

The thing I really like about this book is that rather than being a step-by-step technique book, it gives you really practical and useful information that can be utilised for the case at hand as well as examples by the authors- you can tell they are masters at their craft. Plus the inspiring foreword by Dr David Wilson FZS is lovely.

The Natural Way to Draw- a working plan for art study by Kimon Nicolaides

The Natural Way to Draw

This book about teaching yourself to draw throughout quite a large number of exercises (grouped into different sections), was published after the death of the famous art teacher Kimon Nicolaides (who taught at the Art Students’ League in New York). It is recommended on a number of online forums (I found out about it on, but I also read some criticism about the example illustrations not having being selected by the author. I don’t know if this makes a difference, but this book is very informative (and I guess you can also simply go by what the text says and not adhering too strictly to how the illustrated examples look if you were worried). I myself have not gotten even half way through the exercises yet (which starts off with things like contour drawing, then moves through things like proportion, structure of the body, the muscles, etc), and might start a blog series on completing the exercises. The cool thing about this book is it really is like lessons, he describes what to do and provides schedules with time designations for practicing each exercise.

Illustrating Children’s Books- creating pictures for publication by Martin Salisbury

Illustrating Children's Books: Creating Pictures for Publication

The BEST practical children’s book illustration guide I have seen. It has sections all the way through the process of creating illustrations- from observational drawings; to what mediums is available, character development, composition, through to print. It’s got great illustrations too, with lots of examples of his own students and other illustrators work.

Color and Light- a guide for the realist painter and

Imaginative Realism- how to paint what doesn’t exist

both by James Gurney (Creator of Dinotopia and author of

Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist PainterImaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

Both amazing books- the most information packed art/illustration books I have seen. A lot of the tips he imparts I believe have come out of his own research using a combination of research from the old masters and modern day technologies. He covers so many amazing topics, including things like how to capture motion blur, underpainting, gradation, the real color of sky (all in C+L) . Imaginative Realism is such a fun book- he covers things like creating animal characters, creating maquettes, putting characters in settings, how to paint dinosaurs and much much more. Plus the book is packed with amazing illustrations all by James Gurney himself. I will try to do a proper review of these books in the near future. Check out his awesome blog here.

Darroch Donald’s Creatures- encounters in wildlife rescue by Darroch Donald

Darroch Donald is trained wildlife artist and semi-professional photographer who, during his career as a wildlife rescuer, and wrote and illustrated this lovely book about his time working at Middlebank wildlife rescue centre in Scotland. The book is full of various stories about animals that came into the centre, and beautiful illustrations and photos to boot. He also now lives downunder! Check out his website here.

I will be adding to the library as time goes on, so check it out if you are interested!