Tuesday, 29 September 2015

'A cracking good egg' - eggs and art

You know me, always fascinated by so many aspects of the natural world, and I am always up for illustrating subjects that don't always appeal to others.

Eggs are one of those subjects ......

This fascinating image of a variety of eggs was illustrated by Adolphe Millot (1857-1921), a French natural history artist who was Senior Illustrator at the Museum Nation d'histoire Naturelle.  The image was published in Paris by the Librarie Larousse (1897-1904)

It shows the eggs of various birds, a reptile, various cartilaginous fish, a cuttlefish and various butterflies and moths.

Previously I have had a commission for an illustration of Gull's eggs.  These eggs can only be collected under license and in the past the collecting of these eggs was common place along areas of the coast.  Many years ago they provided a rich food source, but in recent times they have become a delicacy in high class restaurants, with individual eggs costing a lot of money.

Now the license holders are few and far between.  Even though gulls seem common place in many of our towns and cities, in actual fact many of the species are in decline.

Gull's eggs can vary considerably in shape and colouration and can at times be quite elongated, like the one on the far right.

Quail's eggs are great fun to illustrate.

I was given a whole tray of Quail's eggs and many of them had some lovely colour combinations and patterns.  Most of them were considered too 'different' to be packaged up for sale in shops, so yours truly had the great opportunity to make her choice.  This has proved a popular painting, and several others have followed after this one was sold.

Hen's eggs - from Aurora, Twinkle and Star

Now for something a bit more subtle.  My friend gave me some freshly laid eggs and prior to cooking them I did this quick sketch.  The Daniel Smith Primatek colours came in useful for this painting, although unfortunately I didn't make a note of which ones I used.

More recently, I was given a Robin's nest.  The nest had been abandoned in early summer and throughout the summer the eggs within had remained intact. 

Painting a tiny Robin's egg on vellum.  Once finished, this will be part of a series of small paintings which will be framed using the frame seen above.

The small book is the Observer's book of Bird's Eggs, a book I have had since childhood.

The subtle colours of burnt sienna, natural sienna, buff titanium and graphite grey were all used in this painting (all Daniel Smith colours)

The pale creamy colour of the natural calfskin vellum was perfect for this subject and the graphite grey watercolour was used for the areas of shadow.

Now for some COLOUR !

This painting I called 'Dream Eggs'.  After painting one of the Quail's Eggs paintings, I felt that I needed to splash some colour around.
All of the patterns and colours are created by me, although of course there are some similar representations in the natural world.

It is hard to believe that out of all of the entire array of egg colours and patterns, only two colour pigments are responsible - a reddish brown and a bluish green.  Scientists have been investigating this for many years, and it was only in the 1970's that progress was made.

To read more about this fascinating discovery go the Audubon website.

Hard to believe that all of these colours and patterns are the results of just two pigments !

For further fascinating facts about bird's eggs why not have a look and listen at BBC Radio 4 Natural Histories series of programmes ?

Happy painting !