Author Archives: 12images

Jigsaw puzzles for sale – a challenging collection

This jigsaw puzzle collection is a rather challenging one – the textures and patterns of trees, tree branches and forests reminiscent of gemstones and crystals from my Wooden jewelry box series aren’t so easy to put together 🙂 … not to mention the composite images with the starry night sky…

The puzzles are square format 676 pieces, 20″ by 20″, available in my VisibleTales webshop, clicking the images will lead you directly to the store. There’s always a running discount on the site, just click through and check the banner.

Jigsaw puzzles for sale – the Dragon’s tales of the enchanted forest edition

1000 piece puzzles with scenes and stories from the bridge at the edge of the enchanted forest, not just for kids :)!

Here’s the second chapter of my jigsaw puzzle collections, already available in my VisibleTales webshop, clicking the images will lead you directly to the store:

Obviously, they’re not meant for really small children – I’d say up from the age of around 6-7 – , but if your kid is a motivated type and you’d like to spend some time together doing something fun while you can chat about more or less serious topics, putting together these puzzles is a perfect occasion.

The only thing you need is a table you don’t need to use for anything else for a while, because most probably you will not be done in one afternoon or evening :)…Have fun!

Jigsaw puzzles for sale – Sailing the Seven Seas edition

Looks like most of the world will be closed for a while so I decided to make my illustrations available on jigsaw puzzles – maybe it can help some people to make the time or forced isolation a bit more enjoyable.

My family has been an avid puzzle fan since I can remember, we used to make home competitions when I was a child. On holidays, putting together a puzzle is one of our favorite regular programs – it’s nice to sit around a table and fiddle with the pieces while chatting.

For now, the illustrations of my Sailing Seven Seas collection are available as 1000 piece puzzles, but I will add all series in the near future – stay tuned for the blog posts for announcements. I opened a new store dedicated for the puzzles, it’s called VisibleTales. There are almost always some running discounts, check out the link to see the current offers.

Here are the puzzles, clicking on the images will lead you directly to the store:

More jigsaw puzzles pinned to my Pinterest board.

Opera poster series available

My new minimalist opera poster series featuring classic works of great composers is out and available!

gift-ideas-for-opera-fans-classical-music-lovers

gift-ideas-for-opera-fans-classical-music-lovers

As many people out there I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing about the present virus situation but the story of creating this series is loosely connected to the Covid-19 crisis. I had a ticket for the opera for late March and I was looking forward to having a great night when the first round of the restrictions was announced and the show got cancelled.

To find some compensation, I searched a bit on youtube and was delighted to discover that there are hundreds of excellent recordings of whole opera performances from all around the world to listen to. And to top it, you can watch some of the greatest singers perform who you would never had the chance to listen to live. So, using the time of the forced isolation I delved into the world of operas and decided to create a poster series for some of the greatest classics.

mozart-opera-posters

mozart-opera-posters

It wasn’t easy to choose the ones I  featured. I had to include some of the most popular operas of musical geniuses like Verdi’s Aida and Rigoletto, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly or Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, many of them – Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Le nozze di Figaro, Puccini’s Turandot or Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia – are among my personal favorites . Die Zauberflöte was the first opera performance I’ve ever been to – I was only around 8 when I saw it with my sister, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is my mother’s favorite. Strauss’ Elektra and Beethoven’s Fidelio were new to me and – for very different reasons – I found them both very interesting.

minimalist-opera-poster-design

minimalist-opera-poster-design

Of course, there are dozens of popular, beautiful or interesting operas of great composers that I couldn’t include – I usually stop my collections at 12 pieces, but this time I think I will make an exception and continue the series until the epidemic is over with adding one or two new design each month. And I definitely plan to continue to discover pieces I’ve never listened before – I think this is a good way to make something positive and enjoyable come out of the time while we have to stay home.

german-opera-posters

german-opera-posters

If you think you’d like to have a poster of your favorite opera on your wall or you are looking for a gift for someone who loves classical music, please feel free to visit my store –  all of my poster designs are available as high quality acrylic, metal, canvas and framed prints in different sizes.

More opera posters on my Pinterest board.

lesser-bilby-macrotis-leucura-yallara

Lesser bilby – the yallara

lesser-bilby-macrotis-leucura-yallara

lesser-bilby-macrotis-leucura-yallara

Lesser bilby – the extinct rabbit-eared bandicoot

On a personal note…I clearly remember the first time I saw a picture of a bilby. I was just staring at the photo thinking there’s no way this creature is legit: this must be a hoax, a digitally manipulated image of a rabbit and some kind of other rodent…
In fact, this is a recurring impression for me – certain animals simply look so beautifully unreal like they were fictional characters from a weird dream or an animated movie. Of course, it’s just a feeling evoked by the amazing diversity and whimsiness of our planet’s wildlife, but in some cases this impression proves to be right with time 🙂 : in 2018 Dreamworks released an animation short about a bilby meeting a chick in the dangerous outback of Australia.

Bilby – short animation
©Copyright Dreamworks via CartonBrew.com

I really hope Dreamwork’s short will gain the bilby a little exposure and support: obviously, the species actually exists (at least the greater bilby…) and it needs every help to keep it that way. So back to the facts:

Bilbies are rabbit-like marsupials also known by the name rabbit-eared bandicoot, endemic to the arid and semi-arid areas of central Australia. There are two bilby species: the greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis), slowly becoming endangered with around 9000 mature individuals living in natural populations and in captive colonies; and the lesser bilby (Macrotis leucura), already extinct.

The lesser bilby or yallara is relatively unknown to science: most of our knowledge is based on a 1931 description (On mammals from the Lake Eyre Basin) by H. H. Finlayson, who also collected 12 live specimens near Koonchera dune in north-eastern South Australia, where the species seemed to be abundant at that time.

lesser-bilby-yallara-Macrotis-leucura-extinct

lesser-bilby-yallara-Macrotis-leucura-extinct

The lesser bilby went extinct during the 1950s

Date of extinction: The lesser bilby most probably went extinct during the 1950s, but the exact date is unknown. According to the accounts of aboriginal Australians, the species might have survived into the 1960s; but the last physical evidence collected was a less than 15 years old skull found below a wedge-tailed eagle’s nest in the Northern Territory in 1967.

bilby stamp rabbit-eared bandicoot

bilby stamp rabbit-eared bandicoot


The bilby on Australian postage stamps from the late 1950s 

Range: As the lesser bilby was first described in 1887, there’s very little known about the original range and distribution of the species – at the time of the discovery, lesser bilby populations might have been severely decreased by foreign predators introduced to mainland Australia by European settlers in the late 18th century. The known range of the species is confined to the Gibson and Great Sandy deserts and the northern half of the Lake Eyre Basin in central Australia.

Habitat: Lesser bilbies used to inhabit arid, sandy dunes and deserts with spinifex vegetation (common collective name of the characteristic, hummock-forming bunchgrasses endemic to Australia), sandhill canegrass, tussock grass and mulga.

spinifex-hummock-bunchgrass-central-arid-Australia-habitat-bilby

spinifex-hummock-bunchgrass-central-arid-Australia-habitat-bilby


Spinifex – the characteristic vegetation of central arid areas in Australia
©Copyright Dr. Fiona J. Walsh / CC BY 2.0 

Description: The appearance of the lesser bilby was very similar to its surviving relative regarding the general shape and proportions of the body, the head and the tail. Bilbies have characteristic, elongated bandicoot muzzle; long rabbit-like ears; and long, furry tails. They have strong forelimbs and claws used for burrowing and digging for food; and they move with a cantering gait with the hind legs moving together and the front legs alternatively, often carrying their tail like a banner.

The fur of the lesser bilby was colored pale yellowish-brown to grey-brown, with lighter fur on its belly, limbs and tail. The body mass of adults was about 300-450 grams, a lot smaller than the greater bilby’s.

Bilbies are strictly nocturnal animals; they spend the daytime sleeping in their 2-3 m deep burrows. The lesser bilby had the habit of temporarily closing the entrance with loose sand while in residence. Bilbies have very limited eyesight – they’re almost blind – but their ears and nose are very sensitive. They are omnivores, feeding on anything from ants, termites and other insects through roots and seeds to small rodents.

greater-bilbi-lesser-bilby-bandicoot-cure-ears-muzzle-portrait

greater-bilbi-lesser-bilby-bandicoot-cure-ears-muzzle-portrait


Characteristic features of the bilby: the elongated muzzle and the long, rabbit-like ears

Being marsupials, lesser bilby babies spent a longer period in their mother’s pouch after birth. The females usually had twins and the species probably bred non-seasonally.

Cause of extinction: Competition with rabbits and other animals, degradation and loss of habitat, being hunted for food by aboriginal people and changes in the fire regime are all possible factors that contributed to the extinction of the lesser bilby; but the main reason was that the bilby was defenseless against foreign predators like the foxes and feral cats that were introduced to their ecosystem by humans. The main threats for the still surviving greater bilby are very similar. The national conservation program to save the greater bilby includes monitoring and protecting the wild populations from competitive animals and predators, and captive breeding with reintroduction of small groups into conservation areas of its former habitat.


The national conservation program for the greater bilby also includes captive breeding in zoos.
©Copyright TVGreen on YouTube

 

The lesser bilby poster at the top of this post is available in my store on Redbubble, with design variations more suitable for apparel and other products. My whole profit goes to the Sea Shepherd to support their fight to protect our oceans and marine wildlife. 

old-botanical-plant-prints-drawings

Vintage botanical illustrations

With all the modern imaging technologies today it’s easy to forget that even just 150 years ago the only way to illustrate any kind of book was by hand-made drawings and paintings. In the case of scientific works – be it a herbal for physicians and pharmacists, a gardeners handbook, or an account about the flora and fauna of some newly discovered territory – the perfect depiction of the subject with utmost attention to fine details was crucial and required not only scientific accuracy and the understanding of morphology but also great artistic skill.

From around the 1700’s, with the spreading of a more affordable book printing process these books became available for wider audiences; and the works of great illustrators like Pierre-Joseph Redouté, Anne Pratt, Georg Ehret, Maria Sibylla Merian, John James Audubon or Ernst Haeckel ( the latter two naturalists themselves) became fairly well known and popular.

One of my personal favorites among the lesser known illustrators of this era is Madame Berthe Hoola van Nooten, a Dutch artist who spent several years on the Dutch East Indies and made a beautiful botanical plate series illustrating 40 exotic plant species of the island of Java. The fineness, the delicate coloration, the accuracy and artistic details of her works are incredible – Fleurs, Fruits et Feuillages Choisis de l’Ile de Java (Flowers, fruits and plants from the island of Java) was published in 1863-64 in Brussels with descriptions of the 40 selected plants and excellently executed chromolithographs of the original drawings.

My family has been running an antique book shop for decades – through our connections I had the opportunity to access high resolution scans of these illustrations and digitally restore and clean them. You can check out all 40 illustrations in this gallery, art prints of the restored images are available in different sizes in my store.

 

endemic-wildlife-of-Madagascar

Madagascar wildlife poster series

My new wildlife conservation awareness poster series is out featuring the amazing wildlife of Madagascar, a unique biodiversity hotspot with a range of endemic species severely endangered by the deforestation of the island.

wildlife-of-Madagascar

wildlife-of-Madagascar

This series was created in collaboration with Chances for Nature, a Göttingen (Germany) based non-profit organization working for the conservation of natural habitats and biodiversity. They have several ongoing projects around the world (you can read about them in detail on the CFN webpage); one of the locations is Madagascar. Among other things, they established an environmental education camp in the Kirindy Reserve in the western part of the island where they bring local children to the forest to observe the animals as closely as researchers do – many of the species featured on the posters occur in this relatively small area.

For now, the new series is available in my RedBubble store on posters, art prints, spiral notebooks and stickers. Similarly to the two original series I plan to create design versions more suitable for apparel and to write a blogpost about each of the species later.

As usual, my whole profit from the RedBubble sales goes to the Sea Shepherd . We are working to make this series available through other channels that would directly support wildlife conservation projects on Madagascar – so stay tuned for updates.

addax-nasomaculatus-white-screwhorn-antelope

The addax – a desert specialist

addax-nasomaculatus-white-screwhorn-antelope

addax-nasomaculatus-white-screwhorn-antelope

Addax – the screw-horned antelope

One of the defining movies of my childhood was Jamie Uys’ 1974 nature documentary Animals Are Beautiful People. I remember the opening shots panning over the sand dunes and flats of the Namib desert and the narrator’s voice: ‘The oldest and driest desert of the world…. You’d think nobody could make a living here.’ And then the movie introduces the incredible animals and plants inhabiting that hostile and seemingly empty environment; and shows the other, ephemeral face of the desert by filming how the Kalahari turns into a meadow for a few weeks after a rain.

The Sahara – largest of all (non-polar) deserts – doesn’t appear in this movie; but the wildlife of the over 10 million km2 area (together with its southern Sahelian fringes) is just as uniquely adapted to the complex mosaic of arid and semi-arid lands of rocky plateaus, sandy dunes, basins, depressions, wadi systems, gravelly plans, arid grasslands and mountain ranges. Thanks to the extreme conditions these habitats have remained largely undisturbed by humans, and the main threat to the survival of most of the wildlife is the recent severe drought. For the last few hundred thousand years, the climate and the vegetation of the Sahara has alternated between hot desert and savanna grassland – this phenomenon is attributed to a 41 000 year cycle caused by the 2.5° precession of the Earth’s axis. Although currently we are in the dry period – with the next wet period expected in 15 000 years – the long droughts of the 1960-80s are considered rather extreme and induced a catastrophic expansion of desertification over the entire region with direct and collateral consequences affecting both the flora and the fauna of the desert.

sand-dunes-desert-grasses-erg-Chebbi-Northern-Sahara-Marocco

sand-dunes-desert-grasses-erg-Chebbi-Northern-Sahara-Marocco

Desert dunes of the Erg Chebbi in Northern Sahara
©Copyright  Ali Eminov / CC BY-NC 2.0 

Unfortunately there is one group of Saharan animals threatened not only by the extreme drought: large mammal species of the desert have been heavily overhunted in the last century with modern arms. The populations of these species are rapidly declining; many of them are facing the imminent threat of extinction. One of the critically endangered species is the Addax – or white antelope – with fewer than 100 individuals living in the wild.

Range: The addax was historically widespread throughout large areas of the Sahara and its bordering Sahelian grasslands, but over the past century and particularly over the last few decades the range of the species has been drastically decreasing. Once found in all countries sharing the Sahara Desert, today there’s only one remaining addax population in the wild in the Termit/Tin Toumma region – a narrow band of desert between eastern Niger and the Djourab sand sea in western Chad -; with some occasional vagrants in southern Algeria and a possible small group in central Mauritania, based on unconfirmed reports.
A few hundred addaxes have been reintroduced into fenced enclosures in their former range and habitat in Tunisia and Morocco, with slowly increasing numbers. The captive population is estimated to be around 6000 individuals globally (in Europe, North-America, Japan, Australia and the Middle East); partly in managed breeding programs of zoos, partly in private collections and on ranches in the USA where they are kept and bred for hunting.

The addax used to inhabit all major habitat types of the Sahara
©Copyright Coke Smith

Habitat: Addaxes are desert-dwellers, the species has been recorded in all major habitat types of the Sahara except the mountainous areas; they inhabit even the most arid territories with extreme temperatures and less than 100 mm annual rainfall. They have a preference for firmer sand sheets and flatter areas between sandy dune fields where they can graze on ephemeral annual pastures and more permanent perennial vegetation.
The addax is a nomadic species with movements following the food source available at the moment – they penetrate deep into the central arid Sahara after rainfall makes the desert bloom and move out of the desert to the bordering Sahel regions during the drought to find shade and grazing.

Critically endangered addax antelope
©Copyright Coke Smith

Description: The addax (Addax nasomaculatus) – besides the rhim gazelle, also endangered – is the most desert-adapted African antelope: it has anatomical, physiological and behavioral characteristics allowing the utilization of extremely desolate, inhospitable and arid habitats. The species is also known as screw-horned antelope: its most recognizable feature is the beautiful, long spiral double horn that can reach over one meter in length with one to three twists.
Male addaxes have a shoulder height of about 95-115 cm and a body weight of around 100-125 kg – females are a bit smaller and lighter. They have a stocky build, relatively short and sturdy legs for an antelope, and broad hooves with flat soles and strong dewclaws suitable for traveling efficiently on sandy terrain – they have adapted to endure the extreme conditions of the desert rather than to speed. The coat of the addax changes seasonally: in the hot summer it is almost white to reflect radiant heat; in winter it turns into smoky grey while the belly, the legs and the hindquarters remain white. They have dark brown hairs between the horns and a conspicuous X shaped white mask over their greyish nose. They have a short, slender tail ending in a tuft of black hair.

addax-antelope-portrait

addax-antelope-portrait


Portrait of an addax
©Copyright Josh More  / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0  

Addaxes are primarily grazers, eating mainly grasses; but they also consume leaves of shrubs, leguminous herbs and bushes, water-storing plants such as melons and tubers, perennials turning green after the rain, and – if there are no grasses available – they browse leaves of small trees like Acacia too. The addax has physiological functions highly adapted to desert life; these antelopes are able to survive without water utilizing only the moisture from their food and the dew that condenses on plants. They conserve the moisture by excreting dry feces and concentrated urine and they are able to tolerate a daily rise of 6 °C in their body temperature before they need to resort to nasal panting to cool down. They feed at night and early morning and spend the day resting in shaded areas and depressions that provide them protection from direct heat of the sun and sandstorms.

The addax is the most desert adapted African antelope
©Copyright Coke Smith

Addaxes are social animals, herds usually contain up to 20 members – both male and female -, with a strong social structure based on age and led by the oldest female. Breeding peaks during winter and early spring, females deliver one calf after a 9 month gestation period.

addax-female-baby-calf-nursing-winter-color

addax-female-baby-calf-nursing-winter-color

Female addax and calf in winter colors
©Copyright Greg Goebel / CC BY-SA 2.0

Threats: The addax has been hunted historically with traditional methods for its meet, skin and horns by nomad peoples of the desert and by European trophy hunters; but the rapid decline of the population started at the end of the 1940s with the advent of the lethal combination of modern firearms and off-road vehicles. The extreme drought periods of the second half of the 1900s resulted in general reduction of pasture lands, forcing the addax from the more secure arid area to the Sahelian steppes where it was more exposed to exploitation.

By the beginning of the 21th century the number of addaxes plummeted to near extinction – the wild population was estimated to be around a few hundred individuals. During the last two decades growing regional insecurity, migrants, and the illicit trade of arms and drugs has significantly increased the traffic and illegal hunting in the remote, formerly undisturbed habitats of the addax. Poaching has also increased because of hunting by mining, military and administrative personnel of the Chinese oil industry’s installations in Niger, the last remaining reserve of the addax.

The Termit/Tin Toumma region in Niger is the last reserve of the wild addaxes
©Copyright Coke Smith

In spring 2016, an extensive aerial and ground survey of the experts of the IUCN and the Sahara Conservation Found had found only three individuals in the Termit/Tin Toumma Reserve of Niger – an area considered as the key habitat of the addax. Fortunately later that year and during 2017 new surveys in Chad and Niger revealed a few small groups – still less than hundred individuals – of addaxes, giving hope that with joint efforts and engagement of the governments and wildlife services of both countries and with the expert help of several conservationist groups an effective action plan can be implemented to save this remaining population.

 

The addax poster at the top of this post is available in my store on Redbubble, with design variations more suitable for apparel and other products. My whole profit goes to the Sea Shepherd to support their fight to protect our oceans and marine wildlife.