natures ghosts animation

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might remember the short film I “drew” for my sisters university assignment, just over a year ago. This small project made me realise the huge number of possibilities and ideas that could be brought to life through combining illustration, film and animation. Stop motion animation is something I’m really interested in, and I had the idea to perhaps do some biology and conservation based short animations, but hadn’t gotten around to doing anything yet.

Then earlier this year, I saw an advertisement for the Outlook for Someday film competition, which is to encourage film making specifically regarding sustainability, for young people. I thought it would the perfect competition to enter (and my last opportunity- next year I will be too old!) as it combined film (stop-motion animation in my case) with conservation. So I made a short stop-motion animated film on the subject of ecology and sustainability, using coloured paper cut-outs and live action drawing, and entered it. I found out a few weeks ago that my film was selected for the Department of Conservation Big Picture Award- and we got to attend the amazing awards ceremony last week.

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Here is the film- I called it Nature’s Ghosts because it is about the huge loss of species the earth is currently experiencing as a result of mans’ influence. It was created using a borrowed ipad and a basic stop motion app, then edited using Photoshop CS5 and Corel Video Studio, and my  sister kindly did the voice-over (recorded on the ipad using garageband).

Natures Ghosts from The Outlook for Someday on Vimeo.

The other films in the competition were amazing, a combination of animated films and real-life documentaries, and it was great to meet the other film makers on the night. You can check out the other films here. The overall winning film was this documentary ‘To the Rescue’ by Mason Cade Packer– an amazing film about food wastage and the charities that work to ‘rescue’ food and bring it to the people that need it.

I can’t wait to make some more biology/conservation animations. There are definitely things I would like to improve on next time and I am hoping to write up some more short films to animate in the new year. Thank you very much to the Outlook for Someday team that created such an awesome event and competition. If you or someone you know is into film and is under 24 years old, encourage them to enter next year– its an awesome thing to get involved in!


I’ll be back later this week with some more posts and am hoping to do a blog giveaway before Christmas gets here!



from india ink to (digital) colour

since the last post about what I’d learnt about digital illustration techniques, I have been trialing the “new” method of colouring ink-wash paintings in photoshop (described at the end of that post).

Here are a couple of inktober illustrations that I coloured in photoshop, using the watercolour brush from Kyle T Webster.






I had so much trouble using the watercolour brush because it was lagging so far behind my mouse pointer, but then I figured out that I hadn’t down-sampled the resolution of the B+W image after I tidied it up (I always scan at 1200dpi for B+W)- so if you are a total newbie like me and that happens to you, just place your high res tiff image into a lower resolution PSD file and you shouldn’t have any problems with the brush!! 🙂

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a few chalkboard lettering pics I have posted. Next time I’ll be sharing a quick how-to on how I made my chalkboard- so check back at the end of the week if that interests you!


Puriri Moth Project Pt.3 – the poster

or perhaps I should have called it ‘the mock-up poster’ because this was sort of a quickly put together version of my puriri moth lifecycle for a portfolio submission. I’d like to add to it by doing a fully painted background at some point and adding in text of course.


the tree+backgrounds to the various larval stages are watercolour+coloured pencil, the insects themselves are coloured pencil only.

Its Puriri Moth season again in NZ- I’ve only seen one this year though- much less than last year!

You can see part one and part two of this project by following the links 🙂


baby crocodiles in watercolour

I hope your weekend has got off to a great start!

Today I’m posting a painting I finished last week of baby saltwater crocodiles hatching from their nest. It was inspired by a story on the saltwater crocodiles life cycle that I read- and I left the upper corner empty to suggest a space for text in a book spread.


Mediums used: W&N cotman watercolours and Pebeo Gouache (covering white) for highlights.

I tried out splattering the background with watercolour to get a dirt-like effect and after I was done realised that I’d splattered tiny paint drops all over my walls…oops. Lucky it was an easy clean up!


Don’t forget- you have until Monday 5pm (NZ time- Midnight Sunday EST) to enter the skillshare giveaway for 1 months premium membership! There are only 2 entries so far so you’re chances of winning are high if you enter 🙂 The classes are really awesome- lots of new ones have recently been added including Vintage Hand lettering by Mary Kate McDevitt and Drawing Daily Monsters by Stefan G. Bucher- which I am really keen to do. Get your entries in!!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend,



inky doodles- from random sketch to finished drawing

I’ve been playing around with ink and brush lately- having been totally inspired by Yuko Shimizu’s illustration and her new class on Skillshare– which is just amazing. Here are a series of photos from very random squiggle that I made into a face, all the way through several iterations to a final illustration that I’m pretty happy with. Re-doing drawings until I’m happy with them is something that has only just recently occurred to me (!!!). Its very rare that I’ll be able to make something that nice first time round, so instead of just being annoyed about the first go, hopefully with practice (ie what I have done here)- I’ll get better!

Anyway- here are the various versions:

1. Random Doodle:


Not sure where it came from, just randomly came into my head after squiggling that line that makes up the profile of his head.

2. the illustration I was pretty happy with but then decided it would be cool to add some extra bits to



I wasn’t happy with the little bird sitting on the guys head- so decided to change it to a big toucan (its in the Amazonian rainforest if you couldn’t tell) sitting on a branch above his head. Also wanted to improve the background a little.

3. The one where I had this idea to also add in little eyes in the dark areas of the foliage


That wasn’t a good idea….

4. The final (ish) illustration


Of course I’m sure there are still improvements that could be made! But I’m pretty happy with it. Its the most fun as well as the least planned drawing I’ve done in a long time, so that was pretty cool. All done with India Ink and a Chinese calligraphy brush.

You may have noticed but the posting has been a bit irregular over the last couple of weeks. I will be back to more regular posting soon- I’ve been working on a few real scientific illustrations!!- and should be able to share more on the site then.

Until then I’d love to know- Do you have anything new you have learnt recently that has made drawing more fun for you?

Have a great week


maui’s dolphin (OR try and try again)

Its been rather quiet over here over the last couple of weeks- been feeling a bit unmotivated to make anything- especially since my scientific illustration course finished- so haven’t been posting. BUT I finally got the idea to do this little illustration of a Maui’s dolphin, and actually managed to FINISH it, which happens rarely. I actually did it twice- the first time the watercolour paper (Hahnmuhle watercolour 300gsm) I was using crapped out (won’t be using that again for watercolour!), and so I decided to re do it, second time without a background (and on my so-far-favourite- HP Fabriano 5 watercolour paper). There definitely is a benefit to doing a drawing twice!


The background was going well...
The background was going well…

Round 2 attempt:

Can you spot the little kitten helping?

And the final scan:

Maui's dolphin and her calf, watercolour, 2014
Maui’s dolphin and her calf, watercolour, 2014

I was inspired to do this painting because World Ocean Day (on June 8th) and the campaign that WWF NZ is running, called the Last 55. It is estimated that there are only 55 Maui’s dolphins over the age of 1 year left- making them the rarest dolphin in the world (they are also the smallest dolphin in the world!). They are a sub species of the Hectors dolphin, which is found mostly in the South Island of NZ- however the Mauis dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) is found on the west coast of the North Island (hence ‘Maui’s’, as te- Ika-a-Maui is the Maori name of the North Island)- they are NZ’s only endemic cetaceans. As they prefer shallow water, they are threatened by the fishing industry (set-net fishing and trawling), as well as ghost nets and other rubbish, and (to a lesser extent) diseases such as toxoplasmosis (which it is believed enters waterways via storm water runoff).

You can sign the WWF petition to help save the Mauis dolphin here (they are aiming to hit 55,000 signatures before the national elections at the end of this year), and if you have seen a Maui’s dolphin- report your sightings here to add to the national record. If you are interested in reading more- here is a recent article in the NZ Herald and some info from the excellent charity Project Jonah.

I’m thinking of selling some prints or cards of this illustration to with proceeds to go to one of the whale charities- would anyone be interested??

Have a great weekend,



100 (threatened) species challenge- intro post

I was trying to think of a challenge I could start on the blog that would involve illustrating lots of different animal species to practice natural history illustration and wildlife art, when I came across the 100 species challenge started by pandemoniumfire on deviantart, through a wetcanvas member.

The challenge lists 100 different animal groups (all living, no extinct species) and you choose a species from each group to draw. I thought it would be fun to do this challenge, but I will be choosing all species that are threatened to some degree or another.

A quick search of the IUCN Red List of threatened species and (sadly) it appears that it will not be too hard to find one species in each of these groups.

I think I will start off with Chiroptera- bats. There are so many species to choose from!

File:Acerodon jubatus by Gregg Yan.jpg
Acerodon jubatus (golden-capped fruit bat) by Gregg Yan
Pteropus livingstonii (Livingstones Flying Fox)- the largest bat in the world-
copyright Jeff Goodman

Marianas flying fox videos, photos and facts – Pteropus mariannus – ARKive.

If you would like to do the threatened species challenge too- simply go to the IUCN Red List and search the animal group on the main search box, and a list of species will appear, each with the ‘status’ of the species listed under the name. The IUCN categorises threat to a species at various levels depending on severity of threat to the population, from “least concern” to “critically endangered”.

IUCN conservation statuses

Clicking on the species will give you lots more information about the species ecology and why they are threatened.

Another great website with lots of reference pictures is ARKive– a wonderful not-for-profit initiative that was started up to create a record of life on earth, of photos, film and information that can be preserved for future generations. Searching the species you are interested in yields lots of beautifully captured pictures and video. Definitely worth looking at!

Take a look at this Golden-capped fruit bat photo – Acerodon jubatus – G54734 – ARKive.

Art may be a good way to publicise the plight of these animals to a wider audience- so if you do the challenge, remember to share your artwork!

So, have a go and remember to link back to pandemoniumfire‘s challenge page to give credit for the work put into organising the challenge.

Next post on this topic, I hope to go into more details about the ways in which animals are represented in natural history illustration/wildlife art. And hopefully will have started on the bat!

Comment below if you are joining in!