West’s Bestiary

Over on Twitter, Colin West has been posting a new little rhyme every few days, featuring an animal for each letter of the alphabet. He’s then been inviting anyone who’s interested to create an illustration to go with the poem. I’ve been following along and here are my sketches. To keep up with the fast pace, and to keep it lively and fun, I’ve not tried to stick to a single style and I’ve created mashups of a few of the letters.

All the words featured here are Colin’s and all the drawings are by me :)

A is for anteater 
Hey, have you met my nice new pet?
An anteater is he.
There’s just one hitch — l’m apt to itch
When serving up his tea!
B is for bat
The bat in flight at dead of night
Can flap about with ease,
For with his ears he somehow steers
A path between the trees.
C is for chameleon
Chameleons, whenever seen,
Are red. Or orange. Maybe green.
They’re one of Nature’s strangest sights,
Their colours change like traffic lights.
D is for dog
My dog is well-equipped to hear
A note too high for human ear.
With ears so big they touch the ground,
No wonder he hears every sound.


E is for elephant
An elephant always remembers,
His head is quite stuffed full of knowledge,
And some of them even are members
Of Mensa, and study at college.
F is for flamingo
Flamingos are a shocking pink,
And use one leg to stand on.
The other leg they use, I think,
To practise how to land on.
G is for glow worm
I know a worried glowworm,
I wonder what the matter is?
She seems so glum and gloomy —
Perhaps she needs new batteries.

H is for hippopotamus
We thought a pleasant pet to keep
Might be a hippopotamus.
Now see him sitting in a heap,
And notice at the bottom — us!
I is for iguana
I have an iguana,
A plucky little fellow.
I fed him on banana
And now he’s turning yellow.

J is for jackal
The jackal, is he full of vice,
A sneaky and a snide type?
I like to think he CAN be nice,
A Jackal and a Hyde type.
K is for kangaroo
O don’t mess with a kangaroo
In either bush or outback,
For if you clout a kangaroo
The odds are it’ll clout back.

L is for leopard
The leopard cannot change his spots.
Those spots he’s been allotted
Are there (and here’s a paradox)
So he cannot be spotted.
M is for moose
What use
A moose?
Except, perhaps
For coats and caps.

N is for newt
I don’t know much about the newt.
I know he’s small, I know he’s mute,
I know he never is hirsute,
And lives life in his birthday suit.
O is for orang-utan
The closest relative of man
Some say, is the Orang-Utan,
And when I look at Grandpapa,
I realise how right they are!

Sea Life Animal Alphabet

Each Monday, over on Twitter, people share their drawings, sketches and paintings of a specific animal that was announced the week before. Starting at A, each week is a different animal starting with the next letter of the alphabet on a specific theme. It takes six months to get through the whole alphabet (26 weeks!) so the theme changes twice a year. I’ve been taking part in the sea life theme since January and here they all are!

Sea life animal alphabet illustration

Putting them all together at the end was a bit of a challenge. For the next alphabet I think I will spend some time at the start to decide on a common style / size / shape that I’ll stick to throughout. I might also incorporate the letters into the illustrations, rather than adding them after.

These are a mix of watercolours and digital drawings. Keep scrolling to see each animal up close and read about them and / or the drawing process used.

A is for Angelfish

This is watercolour and pencil with a little black ink for the eye

Angelfish watercolour illustration

B is for blue crab

This is a female blue crab, which you can tell from the red tipped claws. The proper name for the blue crab is Callinectes sapidus which means beautiful savoury swimmer and so, unsurprisingly, the internet tells me they are very popular foodstuffs.

Blue crab illustration

C is for clown fish

Iconic black, white and orange of Finding Nemo fame.

Clown fish

D is for dumbo octopus

The Dumbo Octopus gets his name from two fins on the top of his head that look like ears. He flaps these to move through the water and uses his umbrella webbed tentacles to steer.

Dumbo Octopus watercolour

E is for elephant seal

The male elephant seal can grow up to around 20ft long and more than 4 tons. They are much larger than the female seals and have an inflatable snout that resembles a trunk.

The females are pregnant for 11 months of the year, give birth to a single pup, nurse it for a month without eating (they live off their fat reserves) before getting pregnant again and repeating the whole thing.

Elephant seal watercolour

F is for fangtooth Fish

This guy is freaky, looking up photos made my skin crawl a bit. I had enough time to read that they only grow to about 6 inches long, so maybe not too nightmare inducing, before I had to stop looking. This is the first illustration in the series I did digitally rather in watercolour

Fangtooth Fish

G is for goblin shark

Trying to look up images to draw kept bringing up one particular animated gif of it eating a little orange fish in one big gulp, billowing out the red slashes (gills I guess…) in a crazy undulation.

The goblin shark can protrude its jaw almost to the end of its snout and it has more than 30 rows of teeth in both the upper and lower jaw.

Goblin Shark

H is for hourglass dolphin

Back to watercolour again for this one

Hourglass dolphin

I is for immortal jellyfish

The original illustration I did of this was in watercolour but with a splashy, drippy background. You can see that version by following the link above (it’s got some lovely in progress photos) and read all about it’s immortality. This version was done in Procreate.

Immortal jellyfish

J is for Japanese sea horse

Found around Japan, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. This version is watercolour and coloured pencil.

Japanese seahorse watercolour

K is for king of herrings

The king of herrings is a species of oarfish and the world’s longest bony fish at up to 17m long. It’s ribbon-like and swims in an undulating way, so possibly is the cause of many scary sea serpent stories.

King of Herrings

Here are the first 11 illustrations all together. You can see here why I needed a second version of the immortal jellyfish – having a solid colour background would not have worked with the other drawings

A to K animal alphabets

L is for lobster

I have a separate post on this lobster painting because I took lots of in process photos. You can check that out by following the link above. This is watercolour and different colours of pencil.

Lobster illustration in watercolour

M is for mantis shrimp

I did this illustration a week earlier than everyone else as it was used for the announcement of that week’s letter. These little guys are awesome! They are between around 10cm and 40cm in length and are famous because the variety with calcified clubs (smashers) can punch with such force they smash aquarium glass. Other varieties have spear claws (spearers) to catch their prey. Both these types can strike with speeds of around 50 miles per hour from a standing start with super fast acceleration. The smashers do this in order to break into prey with shells while the spearers hunt soft bodied fish.

Mantis shrimp have the the most complex eyes ever discovered with at least 4 times the types of photoreceptors humans possess and the ability to tune their colour vision to adapt to their environment. They are compound eyes on stalks and can see from deep ultraviolet to far red and polarised light.

This mantis shrimp is a particularly colourful variety known as the peacock mantis.

Mantis shrimp

N is for napoleon Snake fish

These guys hide in the sand, waiting to strike!

Napoleon eel fish

O is for ocellated wasp fish

Venomous spines! is the only fact that jumped out at me. Apart from that I think he just generally swims about and minds his own business.

Ocellated Wasp Fish

P is for pufferfish

Everyone knows about these crazy little (then big!) Fish. When looking for a reference photo I became distracted for quite a while watching videos of them deflating in slow motion.


Q is for Quillfin Blenny

Even more of a punk rocker than the pufferfish

Quillfin Blenny illustration

R is for red lipped batfish

Crazy. Odd little front legs to walk around the seabed instead of swim. Why do they have huge red lip? No idea. Maybe they fell for all the cosmetics adverts on the tube. From the Wikipedia page: “From appearance, to physical ability they are far from ordinary”

Red lipped batfish

S is for sea sheep

The sea sheep is actually a little sea slug and it eats so much algae that it can photosynthesise!

Sea sheep

T is for Thornback Cowfish

This fish is a sort of box with bits stuck on for eyes and mouth…

Wikipedia tells me it actually has “hexagonal, plate-like scales which are fused together”. So there you go. It is a poisonous box fish that has variable colour to match the environment. I think this means they come in different colours depending on where they live rather than they can change colour…

Thornback Cowfish

U is for undulate Ray

Here is the pink underside with his sad looking little face

Undulate Ray

V is for velvety sea star

Velvety sea star

W is for weedy seadragon

These guys look like little kangaroos covered in sea weed. Back to watercolour and coloured pencil for this. It was lots of fun and some nice granulating effects came out of it.

Weedy sea dragon

Watercolour detail

X is for Xantic Sargo

A lovely silvery, shimmery fish. A type of grunt fish, so called because their lips rub together and make a grunting sound.

Xantic Sargo

Y is for Yellow Tang

a popular salt water aquarium fish, this is watercolour. My scanner has issues with certain shades of yellow so this is then tweaked quite a bit in Photoshop to bring it back to life.

yellow tang watercolour

Z is for Zebra Lion Fish

a member of the scorpionfish family with venomous spines along its back. They are immune to other Zebra Lion fish venom though they keep to themselves anyway.

This is the last letter of the sea life alphabet!

zebra lion fish final watercolour illustration