Thank you for visiting my website, which I'm at present (December 2015/January 2016) updating and adding to. It contains a selection of paintings, drawings, prints and books on the natural world, a subject that has absorbed me so much over the years. Since leaving the Berkshire College of Art and Design over forty years ago, apart from six months with a design group, I have been a full-time, freelance illustrator, specialising mainly in insects and other invertebrates; I've yet to get a proper job. I've never really known what title to use for my work, whether I'm a scientific, biological, natural history or wildlife illustrator but at the moment I've plumped for the latter. My interest in the natural world has always been with me. Both my father and grandfather were keen countrymen, and some of my earliest memories are of exploring the countryside with my father, and visiting my grandparents' house in the appropriately named 'Cricket Hill' in Finchampstead, Berkshire, where I would race to a small cabinet in the corner of their living room, to stare at my granddad's modest collection of butterflies and moths.
So, it follows that my main interest in my working life has also been insects and other invertebrates. For the artist/illustrator there can be no area of greater diversity, with an infinite range of shapes, colours and textures, and with more species than one could ever hope to illustrate in many lifetimes. Of all the insect groups, butterflies are at the top of the pecking order of popularity, and although I have illustrated examples of all insect orders, it is only a few groups that attract enough attention to encourage publishers to give them the full, field guide treatment. Over the past twenty years, I've managed to cover most of these more popular groups, and have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some of the most respected, knowledgeable and interesting people, who have inspired me to attempt to do justice to the subjects that they write of so eloquently and always with such passion.
As well as the invertebrates I also occasionally paint vertebrates - mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds, though not often the latter if I can help it, as some may know of the other 'Lewington' illustrator, my younger brother Ian, who is much better at them than am I, and who is one of the very best bird illustrators in the world. Take a look at his website Ian Lewington and you'll see what I mean even though I'm a bit biased! Sometimes, I stray away from the natural world, for example in 2008, when I was commissioned by Waitrose to paint Easter Eggs, but even then, they were made into a mini Easter egg field guide for chocoholics. It was galling that they printed 750,000 copies, which were seen by far more people than would ever see my 'proper' illustrations.
In addition to those illustrations that appear on this website, I have a huge number of other individual images, which may be used either for publication or as prints for framing. If you would like more details of any subject on the website, or any not shown, please feel free to contact me.
Royal Mail Bees Stamps - August 2015
In April 2014 I was asked by Royal Mail to paint a sample illustration of a Bilberry Bumblebee Bombus monticola, as a tender for a proposed set of 6 stamps on British Bees. I was fortunate to win the commission, which I worked on throughout the summer, and completed in September of the same year. The set was issued on 18th August 2015, which was good timing given the nationwide concern over the use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids. These persistent, systemic chemicals kill not only the flea beetles they are aimed at but they also affect the nervous systems of pollinators, notably bees. Unbelievably (or maybe not) following pressure from the NFU and the Agro-chemical industry, the government has just partially lifted a ban on these poisons, so the future of bees is uncertain and could possibly prove hugely costly to the environment, as well as financially. I hope these stamps might promote the plight of bees and help publicise their importance to us all.
Royal Mail Butterflies Stamps - July 2013
In 2010 I was asked by Royal Mail to submit samples of butterfly artwork for a proposed set of ten butterfly stamps they were planning to issue. This was to be the first time butterflies were to feature on British stamps since Gordon Beningfield produced a set in 1981. The Butterflies Issue came out on 11th July 2013, which coincided with warm weather and a sudden increase in butterfly activity. It turned out to be the best summer for butterflies for several years, even drawing the attention of non enthusiasts.
It was clear when Royal Mail approached me, that they were favouring photography as the probable route for the stamps, but their minds were still open and I felt it was a part of my submission to try and convince them that the flexibility of artwork was the best way to proceed. With such a small format as a stamp, and bearing in mind the Queen's head and the denomination are mandatory, a bold, eye-catching image was essential, and I felt artwork could do this more ably than photography.
Royal Mail had already decided on a short list of around 20 species and had also decided they wanted to show the butterflies on a white background, as if in flight. This was OK by me, although when painting butterflies, I do like to include flowers and plants, as they are obviously closely associated with each other and can combine to make beautiful designs.
I initially submitted two paintings, one of a Chalkhill Blue, the other a Painted Lady and after some months, involving several Stamp Advisory Committee meetings, I was informed that I had won the contract to produce the stamps.
The ten designs were completed in 2011 and I was also asked to write the information for the Presentation Pack and First Day Cover. This involved supplying illustrations of the early stages of the butterflies featured and instructions for illustrations of a looser nature, which were commissioned for the Presentation Pack. Earlier this year I was also asked to write the text for a double-page spread about butterflies for the Royal Mail Yearbook, which includes all the special stamps issued throughout the year.
New Publication - Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland
Throughout the last few years, I've been working on the illustrations for a new publication on British social and solitary bees - the Aculeate Bees, and now it's finally out. Rather like the recent book on Micro-moths I did with Phil Sterling and Mark Parsons, there is no single-volume book available on the subject, apart from David Baldock's book on the Bees of Surrey, and a couple on Bumblebees. In fact, the last book covering British bees was 'The Hymenoptera Aculeata of the British Islands' by Edward Saunders (1896), not easy to get hold of, very expensive and just a bit out of date! In recent years, anyone wanting to identify and learn more about bees, has either had to use the very good but incomplete Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society (BWARS) website, or consult many different papers and specialist publications. So, together with Steven Falk, the highly renowned entomologist working for BugLife, we are hoping to do for bees what the micro-moth book, is hopefully, doing for micros - giving them the attention they deserve. I've put together a plate of bees showing their amazing diversity, together with one of the more spectacular immigrants, the Violet Carpenter Bee Xylocopa violacea, which has been turning up in recent years, here :- Bees
Bumblebees App *now available*
I've also been involved in a project to illustrate all the British bumblebees for an app. This has now been produced by BirdGuides for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and contains illustrations of all the British species plus photographs and video footage. There are also distribution maps and detailed texts, including advanced identification notes by Steven Falk. Identifying queen bumblebees in the spring, after they have emerged from hibernation, is fairly straight forward but later in the year when workers and males are around identification can be more tricky, even though there are only 23 British species. It's been an interesting group to work on and hopefully the illustrations I've produced will help with more positive identification. Details about the app. can be seen here :- Bumblebees
2015 Field Studies Council course - Identifying Butterflies, Moths and Dragonflies
From Friday 24th - Monday 27th July 2015 I ran my course on Identifying Butterflies, Moths and Dragonflies at the idyllic Field Studies Centre of Flatford Mill. It was fully subscribed and went very well, despite the weather being the worst I've had in around 14 years! Next year's course is a couple of weeks earlier than usual, from 15th-18th July 2016. If you are interested in joining the course, it's worth applying as soon as possible, as it gets fully subscribed pretty quickly. Further details can be seen here :- Flatford Mill
Field Studies Council charts
I've illustrated 6 charts for the F.S.C., the most popular being 'Butterflies, and the most recent being Guide to Insect of the British Isles. The charts are now available here.
|Butterflies of Britain|
|Caterpillars of the Butterfies of Britain and Ireland|
|Insects of the British Isles|
British Pugs chart
I've recently revised and updated this chart, incorporating the new taxonomic order, re-scanning the originals and adding a few new images. All the pugs are reproduced life-size so that direct comparison with size and shape can be made with 'potted' specimens. Each chart is double-sided and individually printed and laminated for full protection from the weather. £3.50 each p&p £2 for up to 10 charts. If you would like to order one or more, please email me at :- email@example.com or via the 'Contact' page above, and I'll send details of how to pay.
British Birdwatching Fair 19th-21st August 2016
Once again I really enjoyed the 2015 British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland, which was a great success. It was good to meet up again with so many friends and enthusiasts, and to get feedback about various projects I've worked on in the last few years. It was also useful to receive suggestions for possible new subjects to cover in coming years. For the fourth year running Phil Sterling and I appeared in the main Events Marquee, where we performed 'Moth Trapping Live - on the big screen'. My brother Ian also joined us on stage to operate the camcorder, the idea being that he would relieve me of having to operate the camera while also trying to control the moths and talk, all at the same time. Unfortunately there was a slight glitch with the communication between his camcorder, the laptop and the screen projection but we eventually got going. The result was the usual chaotic and unpredictable event with moths becoming active, me attempting to get them in postion for Ian to focus on, whilst trying to say something sensible. The event though seemed to be well received, with several hundred people attending. It was great (though not for Nigel the chief organiser) that at the end of the talk, many members of the audience came up to the stage and some on to it, to get a closer look at the incredible diversity of moths. I especially liked the idea of children handling moths and being absorbed by their beautiful markings. So, We've been asked to do it again this year. In addition to having my usual stand in the Art Marquee last year, I was joined by Ian and we shared a double stand, this was his first time back at the Birdfair for 9 years. This year however, due to his work load, he has decided not to have a stand but he will be visiting the fair.
Signed Mounted Prints
All prints, with the exception of proof-prints, are scanned from the original artworks and adjusted by me, so as to get the most accurate likeness to the original. Each one is individually printed on high image definition, Archival Matte paper using pigmented inks. These prints should last for more than 80 years without fading, they are mounted using Castile Ivory blackcore mounting board. Because of this attention to detail the resulting prints are always of a higher quality and detail than mass produced images and are of equal or better quality than expensive professionally produced Giclee prints.
Although I regularly add new original paintings to the website, I've decided that I cannot keep all the artwork I've done over the years so I'm prepared to offer more of it for sale. So, if there is a particular species you are interested in, I may well have a painting of it, as there are many illustrations I have that are not shown on this website.
The Summer 2011 issue of Atropos magazine has an article I wrote discussing the merits of artwork over photography for identification guides, from an illustrators point of view. Click on the image below to view the article, it seems the illustrations are best viewed on a PC rather than an iPad not sure why!
Finally, on occasions in the past, some website enquiries have gone astray, so, if by chance you haven't heard from me after a couple of days of having e-mailed, please contact me by phone on 01235 848451
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