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


This is a little illustration for the prompt angler fish + ballet set by @studioteabreak over on Twitter. See the trouble I had drawing her shoulders and head in the speed paint below!

I’d also be super interested to know what you think of the framing with my details. I’ve become much more sensitive to copyright and image sharing issues since I started working digitally a large proportion of the time – when there’s no physical original the image on the screen is all you’ve got to show and keep for your efforts.

I’ve been resisting anything that distracts from full enjoyment of images such as posting in low resolution or adding watermarks but I know some people do that and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it all.


So it seems this MerMay hashtag thing is all month and people will be showing different mermaid sketches each day. I can’t promise that, but I did have to create this one – particularly on my mind I think with the local elections yesterday. I can’t be the first person to have thought of this but also I haven’t actually seen any other illustrations of Theresa with a tail. I was going to leave her with just a plain black tail to represent her leather trousers (plus the leopard “shoes” obvs) but then remembered that it’s Friday so incorporated the colour collective colour for this week (celadon) into the background and texture of her tail. I’m not 100% on the background but the texture is great.


Been seeing lots of mermaid paintings, drawings and illustrations for the hashtag #mermay

I thought I’d join in with this crocodile headed version. I think, before I started, I had a vague notion that it would be a dark and mildly disturbing image 😂 turns out super cute instead! I love him and his cheeky, toothy grin.

Double bass

A little sketch for the mythical mashup prompt of flamingo + double bass. Also, today is draw a bird day so two birds with one, um, bird…

I also drew a Napoleon Snake fish for this week’s animal alphabet and it’s another freaky one – burrows into the sand with just it’s head sticking out. Thankfully only found in tropical waters so no danger here in the UK. Tiny silver lining of English weather…


A quick sketch is a nice way to wind down after work on a Friday evening. This was prompted by the colour “serenity” which, it turns out, is this pale blue. I first was trying to think of blue animals that I could draw but none came to mind that sparked my imagination so I moved on to grey animals since you can draw these in blue tones and have them accepted as appropriate. I’m sure I must have drawn an elephant in the past but not in recent memory so an elephant it should be! I looked up a few reference photos and decided standing in water would be a nice setting. In fact the blue can be the water and I’d just use regular grey for the elephant. Ah ha, a baby elephant would be close enough to the surface to have a nice reflection. And there you go, the idea for the image was born, I looked up some images of elephants in the correct posture to get the proportions right, made up the water and there you go. A little insight into my thought process.

immortal jellyfish


I is for immortal jellyfish.

This jellyfish can revert back to it’s immature polyp stage and then become mature again over and over whenever it gets old or sick.

This was fun to paint and I think I may prefer some of the early stages of the painting over the finished piece. Less is more!

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A little sketch for Valentine’s Day. Walking past the local charity shop last weekend I saw they had red helium balloons decorating the window spelling out “love”

I snapped a photo as the range of colours from dark maroon to pink and white caught my eye. A useful reference for this sketch but I thought I’d keep it simple with just a single heart shape. This was done on Procreate, just using the coloured pencil brush. I copied the brush they supply you with and tweaked it a few times so I now have a fat round one for colouring in and a smooth one for writing. Their default is good for outline drawing.

paper automata 2

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20190124_paper_automata (3)

In my first post on the paper models you can make from the paper automata book we saw a bowing jester and some jumping sheep. Here are the other two models – a pecking chicken and a flying fish. I think the chicken is the simplest model of the four – it had the fewest pieces and has the simplest mechanism – as you can see in the video below though it is very nicely implemented – the chicken springs back up with a nice pop when you let go of the lever. The flying fish was, I think, the most complicated model of the four – quite fiddly to put together in places. The wheel only turns in one direction – I’m not sure if this is intentional or if I slightly misaligned something. All four models are really nice and for ~£5 I think this book is a good buy. It would make a nice present for someone interested in paper craft and/or automata. I think they are too complicated for children but it could be a nice thing to do together with kids.


Because of decorating I was moving furniture around and found 10 full watercolour sheets under the bed! A present from the me of Christmas past :) I vague remember stashing them there to keep them flat.

I thought I’d take advantage of the psychology of them being a bonus to freely scribble away on a whole sheet without the stress of worrying about ruining expensive supplies.

This is an enlargement of a little pigeon sketch I did a long time ago. Lots of splashing ink and paint to evoke the flustering of feathers in a crowded urban square.

I think I still prefer the spontaneity, colour and blooms of the original little scribble but it was still fun to work so big for a change. One disadvantage of painting big is that it doesn’t fit in the scanner and photos of watercolour never quite capture the colour and detail properly. You can see in the scanned sketch below the granulating watermarks and texture of the paper.



A fun and gruesome amigurumi crochet pattern for Halloween. Written using American crochet terms but only single crochet stitches are used so just substitute for dc if you’re used to reading English patterns. You will need:

  • brown and red yarn, around dk or worsted weight
  • a suitable sized hook
  • a yarn needle
  • buttons or beads or safety eyes or felt or whatever you’ve got
  • black and pink embroidery floss and a suitable needle

Head. In brown, crocheting into the back loop only of all stitches:

  1.  create a magic ring with 6sc
  2.  2sc in each stitch (12 stitches)
  3. *2sc, sc* repeat 6 times (18 stitches)
  4. *2sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (24 stitches)
  5. *2sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (30 stitches)
  6. *2sc, sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (36 stitches)
  7.  1sc in each stitch around (36 stitches)
  8.  1sc in each stitch around (36 stitches)
  9.  1sc in each stitch for half the round (18 stitches) then add red yarn and finish the round crocheting the two strands (red and brown) together, 1sc in each stitch (36 stitches total)
  10. *2sc, sc next 5 stitches* repeat 6 times (42 stitches)
  11. *2sc, sc next 6 stitches* repeat 6 times (48 stitches)
  12. drop the brown yarn and continue with just one strand of red *2sc, sc next 7 stitches* repeat 6 times (54 stitches)
  13. *2sc, sc next 8 stitches* repeat 6 times (60 stitches)
  14. *2sc, sc next 9 stitches* repeat 6 times (66 stitches)

underside of blood pool. In red, crocheting into the back loop only of all stitches:

  1.  create a magic ring with 6sc
  2.  2sc in each stitch (12 stitches)
  3. *2sc, sc* repeat 6 times (18 stitches)
  4. *2sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (24 stitches)
  5. *2sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (30 stitches)
  6. *2sc, sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (36 stitches)
  7. *2sc, sc next 5 stitches* repeat 6 times (42 stitches)
  8. *2sc, sc next 6 stitches* repeat 6 times (48 stitches)
  9. *2sc, sc next 7 stitches* repeat 6 times (54 stitches)
  10. *2sc, sc next 8 stitches* repeat 6 times (60 stitches)
  11. *2sc, sc next 9 stitches* repeat 6 times (66 stitches)

Ears. Make 2. In brown, crocheting into the back loop only of all stitches:

  1.  create a magic ring with 6sc
  2. *2sc, sc* repeat 3 times (9 stitches)
  3. *2sc, sc, sc* repeat 3 times (12 stitches)
  4.  1sc in each stitch around (12 stitches)

repeat round 4 until the ear measures ~7cm or any length you like the look of. Fasten off leaving a tail for sewing the ear onto the head. fold each ear in half at the base and pinch while sewing on to create the 3d ear shape.

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Eyes. Use a safety eye or button or white felt for one “normal” eye and create the other as in my zombie phone case pattern – sew a patch of black embroidery floss to create a socket then knot up some pink floss with a white bead on the end. Sew through the socket and knot at the back.

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stuff the head with scraps of yarn or fabric or toy stuffing and sew/crochet the head onto the blood pool base. You might want to also sew around closer to the brown head part to secure the blood flat. This can also be a good opportunity to introduce some messy blood patches – sew loosely with multiple threads to build up a messier finish.

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Pay what you feel

If you liked this pattern and want to contribute to my wool stash so I can make bigger and better things then you can donate whatever amount you think this pattern is worth here. To donate more than £1 just increase the number of items 😉 Thank you!



The version below was my first attempt at this idea, many years ago now. It was very free-form as I wanted a bumpy asymmetric transition from brown to red and an uneven shape of blood pool. I used red satin fabric for the underneath. I like this version the best but it’s difficult to write a coherent pattern for something that’s supposed to be messy and unplanned :)

˜Road-kill Rabbit

Copyright & Legal Stuff: I’m happy for you to sell items you make from this pattern but the images and words of the pattern itself are mine – I worked hard writing & testing & photographing so don’t copy or distribute any part of this pattern. If you’d like to share it then please link to this page. Thanks & happy crocheting


shiny crochet sardine


This little guy has been swimming around in my head for a while now.

Today he finally got out.

I always thought pilchards and sardines were different fish. Actually, I never thought that before today. This is the first time I ever contemplated pilchards. But I wanted to know what to call this post so i looked them up. It seems to depend where in the world you are but generally pilchards are longer than 15cm long so this is a sardine :)


Green Iguana


About this painting:

  • Materials: platinum carbon fountain pen with carbon black waterproof ink, W&N watercolours (gold green, cerulean blue, magenta, yellow ochre, turquoise, ultramarine), white gouache for the highlights & a size 10 round brush
  • Paper: A4 Moleskine watercolour pad
  • Process: steps shown above. Drawn from a photo found online. The whole thing took around 2.5 hours.

five minute flamingo


I’ve been catching up with watching The Big Painting Challenge on BBC iplayer and it made me so happy when they all painted flamingos! I realised I hadn’t sketched anything for a few weeks (flu + car accident + house decorating + crazy work schedule) and not sketched a flamingo for maybe over a year. So Here is a quick one. I love the range of colours you see in a flamingo’s feathers – orange and pink and red and purple :)


For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted to attempt a watercolour painting where you could see the individual brushstrokes in layers, on top of each other. Maybe it was the influence of the nice effects from the overlapping linocut patterns that have been going round in the back of my mind.

I chose a semi random photo of a robin to try this out since it’s a wintry, Christmas theme and I also thought this could work well for painting feathers. This is the result and I’m fairly happy; it does represent feathers very well. The paper I used is not great for painting which made the background a struggle but I’m trying to use up an almost full sketchbook so I’ll persevere with it a little longer. I’m not sure how well this style would work for something that doesn’t naturally form into strokes (i.e. not feathers). I’m tempted to try a building or urban scene next.


a few more birds



Two final bird sketches today. Flamingos because they’re bright and cheerful and pigeons because I feel I’ve been a bit harsh on them in comments over the last few days. They can’t help the bad rep they get and are just trying to make their way in the world like everyone else. When I think of a pigeon it’s never a single one perched on a branch like the previous two bird drawings. I picture huge numbers of them, flying; flapping; whirling; chaos; wind. They’re ubiquitous and merge in with the crowds of people, tourists and commuters in most cities across the UK. I wanted to sketch their movement and the feeling of the wind from their flapping wings as they fly past, slightly too close for comfort.

Edit: previewing this post I noticed that the flamingos look as though they’re staring up at the pigeons. I like that :)

This post is number 10 of 31 of world watercolour month. There’s still time to take part if you haven’t already. If you’ve always been intrigued by watercolour but never given it a try then now is the time to take the plunge!

world watercolour month july 2016

blue grosbeak

blue grosbeak

Another blue bird today since I enjoyed yesterday’s budgies so much. This is a blue grosbeak and I chose to paint it because I think this is the bird I saw all over the outskirts of Mexico City when I was there last year. It seemed common in the area but was such a beautiful blue that I was jealous we don’t have them here in the UK. Yesterday Laura (createarteveryday) commented that she has hummingbirds in her garden and that is just amazing to me as I’ve never even seen one in life. I wonder if anyone on the other side of the world would think of pigeons and magpies as exotic?

This is day 9/31 of world watercolour month. Today I drew the image first with watered down sepia acrylic ink and a dip pen. It proved to be very waterproof :)

blue budgies

watercolour budgies

Two birds with one brush today, both figuratively and literally. Here are two blue budgies for both day 8/31 of world watercolour month and July 2016 draw a bird day.

This was my first time in a while painting from a photo rather than life and wow! it was very different. A completely different experience and skill set. In some ways painting from a photo is much easier – the subjects don’t move and are already on a 2D plane making the drawing much easier. When drawing from life every slight move of your head changes all the angles and shapes and that’s before anything in the scene has moved of its own accord! but then again drawing from life has a certain urgency and personal viewpoint that is lost when painting from a photo – a photo is already someone else’s interpretation of the subject/scene and my version feels kind of second-hand, kind of redundant. An advantage of painting from a photo is the luxury of time – you can ponder, let it dry thoroughly, try different techniques (rice for the background texture here). I can see why ‘proper’ artists draw and paint sketches on location as well as taking their own photos and making lots of notes to produce a finished painting in the studio. I’ve never done that but perhaps will try it someday.