During my Foundation course last year I went on the same day trip to Oxford, so fortunately I was already familiar with the town and easily navigated myself around the museum.
[Below is a photograph I took during my trip last year.]
My intention during this visit was to record basic photographs of information and the taxidermy animals, in order to prioritise observational drawing. To my surprise there was a whole section on marsupials – my grandfather’s area of expertise – which allowed me to have a close up look of the animals he used to study.
Something that struck me about the display was the similarities that the body of creatures took, as though their species family was like a family resemblance much more than the technical specifications which put them in the same mammal group. It was also interesting to get a sense of size, from the tiny shrews to the huge wombats, which had previously been difficult to deduce from photographs online. These combined discoveries may allow for some kind of character based storyline of the Australian mammals.
I’m a bit rusty at observational drawings, but as I got used to the practise I soon became more comfortable with doing quick live drawings. My media of choice has remained the same this year, ink and coloured pencils, so I predict I’ll be pushed to use alternative methods of recording. I have no problem with wet or grainy materials – the only holdback is the mess and preparation involved in each!
‘Mammals of Australia’ display text write up:
For the last 40 million years or so Australia has been an isolated island continent, having by that time lost its connection, via Antarctica, to South America. As a consequence Australian mammals have radiated independently from those of the rest of the world, and are a unique fauna. The marsupials, or pouched mammals, are the dominant group. Many marsupials parallel particular adaptive types of placental mammals on other continents; there are marsupial versions of other carnivores, herbivores and insectivores including moles, anteaters and gliding mammals.
The monotremes are the second unique group of mammals found in Australia. These peculiar egg-laying mammals with their short, stout limbs and lack of teeth are represented only by the duck-billed platypus and the echidnas.
There are also a few placental mammals indigenous to Australia, which arrived on the continent during the last few million years. These consist of several groups of bats and a handful of murid rodents that arrived from southeast Asia a few million years ago. Otherwise, the only placental mammals present are human introductions. The dingo was brought in around 8,000 years also as a domesticated species. The rabbit, black and brown rats, feral cats and pigs were introduced to the continent by European settlers during the last three centuries.