Friday, 14 February 2014

Hornbills, splitfin and Wild Place

Once again time motors on and I'm playing catch up; having missed posting last week. So I start off with the finished illustration of the wrinkled hornbills.

I completed this last Monday and after getting it checked and ok'd by Nigel (Curator of Birds) was able to replace the present sign with a photo of the juv male on it, with this and get a new sign up in place.
Next on my to do list is a crescent splitfin, a small fish.

This is my current 'to do' list for ID species .... any day soon I am expecting at least half a dozen more fish and several inverts to be added!! Will I ever catch up!!

After an internet search of images for the splitfins I went over to the Aquarium to check the printed images I had chosen, against the live animals. These fish are in a mixed display with other very similar fish... I could not tell which ones I was looking for, couldn't see any like the internet photos. So I contacted Jonny (Assistant Curator - Aquarium) and we arranged for me to see the ones off show. However, at this time of year with the temperatures low, the fish go dormant and hide low in the tank. This could be why I saw none in the public display tank. So Jonny ended up doing a spot of fishing and 'try and catch me if you can' with the off show fish!

He managed to catch a few in the end and I was able to have a quick look at them and discuss with Jonny the best generic body shapes and colourations for both the male and female illustration, comparing live animal to internet images. I got a drawing done of each and started the painting by Wednesday (last week). 

Also that week I had a number of extra or replacement ID's to print, laminate and put up. This included three copies of an orange headed thrush that was to go in the Forest of Birds house. The illustrations here are presented in 'book' form - being laminated signs, hole punched and threaded onto a pair of U bolts that are bedded into a flat wood board. I have written of these acursed things before... sometimes replacing the ID's on them can go well and be over with in a few mins for each board. But now and again they can be devilishly awful things to change. One of the 'books' this time gave me a helluva an awful time, with the nuts just not threading onto the bolts. It doesn't help that I have to get at these bolts underneath a low board and the top pair are right against the wood of the fencing... so very awkward to get to with fingers and little fiddly nuts! I was there a good 25 mins on the one board, crouched down struggling with those blasted bolt ends and nuts. My knees, legs and ankles hurt like mad from the prolonged operation, but I couldn't leave it as it was my last day in that week and the house was just about to close for the day! Needless to say I got incredibly frustrated and angry with myself and the nuts, bolt and book! Added to that the floor was wet and I had roulroul partridges hanging around investigating what I was doing and hoping for food, so I had to be careful not to step back on any of them as I worked. I dropped first a washer and then a nut into the stream that runs under the walkway I was on. I managed to rescue the first by kneeling in the wet and stretching my arm through the fencing to the stream beneath. When I did managed to complete the task and leave... I was knackered physically in the legs and back and mentally numbed out by the hassle of it all... it should be a five min job! 

This week has been less fraught. Monday the Graphics Team (Phil, Anna and myself) trooped up to Wild Place to re-do the directional signs. The ones we put up last July have already prematurely deteriorated (!) and were replaced by the print company that did them as something was faulty in the making of the signs. Thankfully we didn't have to replace every sign we put up last July (maintenance had that job)... we just had the directionals on the wood posts to do. So Anna and I started the job and Phil joined us later in the afternoon, when he had finished all the jobs and meetings he had to do whilst there.

I tried to persuade the maintenance lads to let us borrow the quad bike to get around with all the replacement signs, instead of the old wheelbarrow they had loaned us. Sadly as the quad bike is on loan from Honda, no-one is allowed to ride it unless trained by our Honda supplier.  Shame... I would loved to have had a go on this. I had to content myself with just sitting on it for a photo instead!

Old signs on the left new on the right...

For the most part Anna drilled the holes - using the old signs as individual templates - and I took off the old and put up the new signs on the posts. We had a Dewalt cordless this time... made such a difference (last July we had a knackered old cheapo cordless and it made the job much harder than necessary).. especially once we borrowed the correct sized bit head from maintenance.

Sod's Law... there's always some missing... such as this particular sign for the Secret Congo with right pointing arrow of which there should have been several, but we were well short. 

The weather was changeable between beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies, then heavy cloud and rain. Anna and I decided, as no one was around, to eat our packed lunches in the shelter of the open air 'schoolroom' in the Madagascar section. We had the company of the guinea fowl  for a short spell as they pecked their way around the enclosure. I had a thermos of hot water and a supply of green tea  tea bags, which went down very well in the cold wet weather.

The snowdrops are showing everywhere.. 

Different varieties like this delicate little one.... And the crocuses were just starting to show.. so in a week there will be the colour of them in amongst all the trees. Might just have to go up to see that.

When the sun came out it was lovely, but it was very wet and muddy underfoot in places... all adds to the fun of it.

This is going to be the new viewing hut for the wolves that we shall be getting in for Easter. Can't wait to see them and the red river hogs that are due in too.

We were finishing the last post as the sun started to sink below the tree line. It threw gorgeous light across the scene. This is the main visitor centre with a shop, cafe, toilets and the play barn behind.

Lovely old trees in the last of the sunlight.

The rest of this week I have been back in the studio. The splitfin illustration didn't get touched this week as I had some computer work to do getting more ID signs ready for printing, some of which I could finish, print, laminate and get on section. One of these is a replacement for a fish ID.

The current ID is above a landscape tank in the Aquarium... these are our large tanks that house the bigger fish. It is a lightbox sign, so is printed on a thick plastic transparancy. As the fish from this particular tank are due to be moved, in a few weeks (into the soon to be finished renovated walk through centre tank), there is no point spending the money to get a replacement transparancy done.. so I printed a paper copy and put that up, cutting the previous plastic film sign to allow the paper copy to sit in. Getting at this sign involves a large pair of steps and two people.. one to hold the steps (health and safety) and a climb into the dusty, cobwebby heights of the Aquarium. Anna was inundated with work so I got help from Lee who works in the Aquarium.

Other main job of this week was getting some roughs done for some animal shapes. The idea is to have some wooden cut outs of historic extinct mammal species in the UK. I was given a list of the animals they want, so I set about doing internet searches and coming up with a few ideas for the cut outs. They may or may not go along with my roughs.. or may stick to the more simple silhouettes they had originally. It would be fun to do these though. 

Sadly... the two silver birches outside of our studio window had to be cut down this week. The Education centre, where our studio is situated, is undergoing a bit of a change this year, having extensions built at either end of the building. This will mean a new studio for us... and no doubt a lot of moving of all our stuff back and forth as the building work is done. To the left, in this picture, is a portacabin that will be removed by lifting it over the top of the education centre...and the ground outside will be prepared for the new building extension to be added this year. I have no doubt this could involve a lot of disruption and noise to our work environment this year, but should result in us having a bigger room and a better building.

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