Sunday, 6 April 2014

Snowshoe Hare in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is survival. The problem with it for me is that since I usually go at this from a nature point of view (hazard of the job) it's pretty much all about survival. That's a pretty big range of subjects, and I generally have a lot of trouble narrowing things like that down. Sooo... in the end I finally decided to think about digestion.

Hard to survive without digestion if you're an animal. Hard to survive without digestion for some plants, too.

Plant eaters have a special kind of digestion problem. Large parts of plants aren't terribly digestible, and that creates a bit of an evolutionary conundrum going back to the whole balance of energy thing. If you're a plant eater do you put a little energy into getting the most easily digestible parts of your food out and then eat a lot more, or do you eat less and put a lot of energy into digesting what may, in the end, be low quality food?

There are animals that have gone either way, of course. A good example of the first is the equids, like horses or donkeys. They have reasonably uncomplicated digestive systems that let food pass through quickly (there's a lot of identifiable undigested plant matter in the scat, as anyone who's dealt with horse poop knows). It means that they have to eat a lot and often, but on the other hand their systems don't waste much time on bad food.

The best known example of the other strategy is the ungulates or hoofed mammals. Think cow or deer here. Fancy, complicated four-chambered stomachs that spend a lot of time digesting plants. To aid that, the animals cough up partially digested food known as cud, chew it again, and then send it back to the stomach for further processing. Erm, so to speak. More efficient digestion, but they're hooped if the food isn't good.

So what's the deal with the rabbit?

Well, first of all rabbits and hares aren't the same thing. They might look similar and belong to the same group (the leporids), but there are plenty of differences that I'm going to leave you to look up for yourselves if you're interested. After all, we're supposed to be talking digestion here, and to do that I need to talk feces.

Yep, poop again.

Hares, rabbits, guinea pigs, and things like that need more time to digest than their small systems allow, and they don't have the luxury of those four-chambered stomachs. The solution? Coprophagy. Or, in actual English, eating your own poop. Plenty of animals do it.

Hares and their relatives have two kinds of scat: the familiar hard pellets that we get to see, and a soft, partially digested form that the animal harvests (bad choice of words there? Sorry if I gave any of you interesting visuals) as it comes out, rechews, and sends back through the digestive system. Sounds disgusting, but it's pretty effective.

And, of course, that's what counts for survival.

If anyone's interested in what this all looks like, to be honest it doesn't look like much. There's a video here though, if you've ever wondered how you can tell when your pet rabbit is eating caecotrophs.

And my apologies for all of the poop talk.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Phoenix in watercolour, pencil crayon, and metallic pen

Out of the dusk a shadow,
     Then, a spark;
Out of the cloud a silence,
     Then, a lark;
Out of the heart a rapture,
     Then, a pain;
Out of the dead, cold ashes,
     Life again.
          - John Banister Tabb

Father Tabb and I certainly don't share a philosophy, but if you're not familiar with his poetry it's definitely worth a look.

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is spark, and frankly this was just me making a free-form mess while watching television last night. I have a tendency to be too literal when I'm doodling since a lot of it's for work and whatever plant or animal I'm working on has to look like that plant or animal. I figured I'd just wing this one, though, since no one really knows what a phoenix looks like anyway.

In the light of day this one looks more like it's wearing a black tutu than anything.

Yeah, you can't unsee that now, can you?

The paper I was using was far too thin to take watercolour, but I actually kind of like the way the wrinkles scanned. Sort of like rays of light and dark.

Lucky accidents are fun.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Work things

 Why yes, I have been stuck at home drawing catkins because of the very cold weather.

What else do you do when you're stuck at home by this endless winter but draw catkins? I mean, really?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Hermit Crab in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is disguise.

I often say "quick doodle", but this one actually was because I have other things I want to do this morning yet.

As usual, the cheap scanner's picked up more of the yellow than there really is, but it gives the idea.

I have no idea why I did this on a slant, really.

I kind of want a hermit crab now...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Chicken or egg in pencil crayon

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is beginning. I'll be honest, though, and say that this was more of an excuse to take the Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth colour pencils that I got for Christmas for a spin. On the toned paper that I got for Christmas. Yay Christmas if you like to see me doodle, I guess.

I must say that I like the laydown of these things. Very smooth. And if they're anything like the Koh-i-noor woodless pencils that I've had for years, they'll last damned near forever.

Back to topic, though. From an evolutionary standpoint, the whole what came first -- the chicken or the egg? question is a non-starter, really. A chicken-like thing lays an egg that contains an embryo with a mutation that makes it more chicken-like. Assuming that the mutation isn't severe enough to kill the chicken-like thing or render it infertile, it has more chicken-like things that may have more mutations. Lather, rinse, repeat (I'm massively simplifying things here, of course). Eventually the egg contains an actual chicken, if everything goes all right.

This prompt sent me straight to Sound of Music, by the way (Let's start at the very beginning...). I can't say that I was in the mood to draw a whole doh (a deer, a female deer) though...

Oh, one other thing: I found out recently that the term pencil crayon is apparently Canadian and that most of the rest of English speaking world refers to them as coloured pencils. Who knew?

Well, I didn't at least.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Alarm in watercolour

This was going to be for Illustration Friday's prompt time, but I was too late.

Ironic that, I suppose.

Posting it here anyway, since I've been so lazy lately about posting anything. This week's prompt is search, if I remember right. I have no idea if I'll have anything for that, but I've still got a few days.

In other news, it's really hard to open a bottle of masking fluid when you haven't used it for a while...

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Last post 26 October? October? Sheesh.

Excuse #1: I've been rehabbing a very stubborn wrist injury that makes me shaky if I try to have too much fine muscle control for too long. Frustrating for someone who likes to work in pen and ink. It's getting better (finally!) but I think I'd be wise to stick to pencils and (sigh) paint for a while. Why the sigh? Well, as anyone who's looked at this blog more than once knows, I paint like a five-year-old. I wish I didn't, but somehow my brain just doesn't like to think in paint.

Excuse #2: The "art" I've been making lately is just too randomly blobby for me to want to bother scanning it. I've been amusing myself, but it's definitely not for public consumption. Heck, sometimes it's barely for my consumption. Trust me, you haven't been missing anything.

Excuse #3: Is it just me, or has Illustration Friday been a bit less inspiring lately? Probably just me. It's my usual reason for bothering to post here, though, so if it hasn't been doing much for me I guess that still counts as a reasonable excuse.

Today's (likely) last post of the year is a quicky in tinted charcoal. And yes, I know that's not the right colour for a poinsettia; even the highly overbred ones that make up Christmas decor these days. If they make red or even pink in tinted charcoal, I certainly don't have it. Lavender was the closest I could come.

Anyway, here's to posting more than every two months in the new year. And here's to me not being stupid enough to bugger up a major joint for months ever again.

Um, anyone who knows me in person is killing themselves laughing right now at the absolute impossibility of that last sentence, and to them I'd just like to say shut up and then pout in a corner...
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