Thursday, 30 January 2014

Hornbills and roulrouls

Time to get started on the wrinkled hornbills - Aceros corrugatus.  These birds are sexually dimorphic, so I would need to paint both birds and show them in positions that displayed those distinguishing features. I would need to show the tail of at least one bird, so that the dark bar at the tail base could be seen - they both have this; the head in profile for both, showing the differences in casque shape and colour and the very different head plumage; a clear view of the necks of both and for the male this would need to extend down to the chest to show where the colouration changed.  On top of all that they needed to fit into a square composition and the positioning of the birds as such to allow them to be as big as possible within that square format.

I did a few compositional roughs to try out different positions to see how well they would or wouldn't work and once I had a composition that I felt met all those points, I started on the drawing.

I ended up putting the female in the front with the male behind as this best suited the need for the male to be more upright to show off that neck and chest. 

The last time I photographed these birds for reference was about a year ago and both were well under a year old... so the adult plumage had not yet moulted through. After a quick check on them in their aviary I could see that the females adult colouration was through - her head was now black with a blue throat patch - this has changed from the pale yellow of her juv plumage. The male had also coloured up and his casque ridge has developed more. Although I could see them in their indoor area, and I could see the changes, I could not see details. Following the ok I got last week with the animal department I arranged to go in the aviary with these birds to see them as adults much more clearly and get up to date photo's for reference.

This photo shows the male's casque development over the last year. The top image is from a year ago and the bottom image was taken this week. The recent photo isn't great in that it doesn't show the deeper colouration he now has, his colours were previous more browny red on his bill, now they are really deep red and the ridge, especially is a glorious deep red. Another change is on the mandibles of both birds... they now have serrated edges.

My visit to the aviary was interesting. The hornbills share their aviary with a small group of ground birds called roulroul partridges. I was let into the aviary and left to get the photo's of the hornbills who, very cooperatively, had come outside where I was waiting. As I stood taking a few photo's of the hornbills I could hear the roulrouls chattering away noisily somewhere near. I looked down around me to see where they were, or in fact where the one who was making the noise was. I could hear it but couldn't see it anywhere. I looked at the bases of the small bushes around me and over the ground of the surrounding area. Nothing! But it sounded so close.. very close. Then I felt something on my leg coupled with a very noisy squawking. Looking at my feet I feared I had somehow trodden on a bird or something... only to see this female having a real go at my boots and trouser legs!! 

Why was she doing this? Was it my bright yellow hi-viz coat (not the best choice for the animals but it's my only waterproof, windproof cosy coat); was it the pale colour of my trousers (keepers wear green); was it me... a stranger? I soon worked out, by my movements around the aviary to get better views/angles on the hornbills, that it was only when I was in a certain small area of the aviary that she attacked me. She was obviously upset that I was invading that/her space. So I moved away from that area, leaving her in peace and happier. 

Once I had got my range of reference photos for the hornbills I left the aviary and that lovely little roulroul. 

So back in the studio to get on with the hornbill illustration.

I transferred the drawing to the blue paper and started blocking in the basic colour.

Then I painted the branches on which they will be sat.

On Tuesday I also went up to Bug World to get more photo's of the inverts that I am due to illustrate. Today it was a spider, mantis shrimp, and trying to get some better ones of the sun beetles.

Mark showed me and Anna his prize goliath beetle larvae. This beastie weighed in at 52grms putting on 2grms from the day before! One breeder he knows of got one of these up to 90grms! What a spectacular beast.... can't wait to see it as an adult.

This is the spider I had to photo.. Brachypelma emilia. It has many common names including painted tarantula and Mexican red legged tarantula but of course it's not a proper tarantula.. those spiders are actually very different. This is a beautifully marked animal and I can't wait to paint him/her. But I have a number of fish and other animals to paint before I get to this one on the list.

Some painting work needs to be done in the underwater area of Bug World, where the giant squid mural is. The colour I thought I had used for the wall colour on which the squid is painted turned out not to be the right one.. so a check up in Bug World with Eddie and with Annemarie from the Maintenance Dept and a new colour has been ordered. Hopefully I won't have to get involved in the painting, although there are tentacles going across the areas due to be painted. So I may have to go in after, to touch up around the fiddly bits.

This was the last of my run of three 2-day weeks, so next week it's back to the normal 3 day week. 

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