Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus).
Scarcely had I mentioned how well Sophie the Stegosaurus complemented the presence of the beloved Diplodocus at their respective entrances to London’s Natural History Museum than news of the latter’s planned retirement emerged, apparently splitting the public and experts alike into ‘Team Dippy’ and ‘Team Whale’ across social media.
Of course I’m sad — very sad — to see ‘Dippy’ retire (no, I don’t much care for the name either, but that’s another story). For me as for so many others, it has been the museum’s de facto mascot and symbol for as long as we can remember. And lest our readers forget, sauropods are among my favourite dinosaur groups. My own ‘saurian portrait‘ is a Diplodocus, for heaven’s sake.
‘However, change, or its refusal, is not within our gift.’ I welcome the blue whale with happy, if subdued, acceptance. Of the many voices in its favour, Michael Rundle of Huffington Post UK encapsulates it best for me, not least because he puts forward the case with great respect and affection for both without any of the unnecessary aggression and derision I’ve seen accompany some arguments (‘Dippy is fake! A lie!’). My illustration above attempts to reconcile this change in the same vein. The title of ‘It’s your turn now’ speaks both of the whale skeleton’s place in Dippy’s stead and of the blue whale’s fragile existence being celebrated now. I wanted to avoid that dreaded word, ‘relevance’, much bandied about in this case. Nevertheless, highlighting the blue whale’s significance doesn’t seem to me to signal a disregard for the Diplodocus. But perhaps I’m not cynical enough on that score.
I seem to have forgotten to share this here at the time of its completion.
This photograph gives a slightly better idea of the deeper tones in the neck which are missing in the scan.
As with the illustration of The Cat that Walked by Himself, this piece was painted with washes of ink together with the watercolours after the initial pencil sketch.
The ticket is from when I was staying with my friend, palaeontologist and marine reptile expert, Dr Adam Stuart Smith. Adam showed me around Wollaton Hall and Deer Park, presently rather famous for having served as Wayne Manor in the latest Batman film. Though I must say I’m much keener on the deer and the natural history collection myself.