Natural history art techniques

As science has developed over the centuries, so too have the styles and techniques of natural history artists and image makers.

Here you can find out about some of the techniques used over the last 300 years and about the work of 3 modern-day artists.

  • Wood-block print of the blackbird
    Wood-block printing

    Discover the work of Thomas Bewick and find out how his wood-block engravings helped revolutionise the printing of natural history illustrations.

  • Acrylic painting of a weevil, Baris cupiristris, by Mark Russell
    Weevil art

    Entomologist and artist Mark Russell paints striking images of weevils, using a microscope to study the tiniest details.

  • Portia tree illustration, from a drawing made by Sydney Parkinson during the HMS Endeavour voyage
    Metal-plate engraving

    Metal-plate engraving and printing was used to produce some of the most wonderful and lavishly illustrated natural history books ever seen.  

  • Re-drawing the dodo from a tracing of the iconic Savery image
    Painting the dodo

    Avian paleontologist and artist Julian Pender Hume paints a new picture of the iconic dodo based on recent scientific evidence.

  • Image of the giant squid at the Natural History Museum by Alice Shirley
    Squid in ink

    Explore myth, monsters and reality with artist Alice Shirley who has drawn an amazing life-size picture of the Museum’s giant squid.

  • Wilson's watercolours
    Edward Wilson’s ground-breaking watercolours

    Edward Wilson, a prominent figure of early Antarctic exploration, was not only a highly-regarded field naturalist but an accomplished self-taught illustrator. His great-nephew explains how he helped transform modern wildlife painting.