At the moment we (myself and the team from Edicions Lynx) are finishing off the final lay-out of the fourth volume of the Handbook of the Mammals of the World (Lynx Edicions), dedicated to marine mammals – basically, pinnipeds (seals, etc.) and cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). As a result, I have had to put aside for a while the drawings for the fifth volume dedicated to the marsupials.
The task of concluding the plates requires a great deal of precision and care to ensure that there are no errors – no matter how small – in the scales, colouration and details of the drawings. The editorial support from Albert Martínez-Vilalta at Lynx is key in guaranteeing that the plates are not only attractive but also highly exact. A typical e-mail from him contains phrases such as “Are you sure that the dorsal fin of the female Inia geoffrensis shouldn’t be slightly higher and wider?”
Part of the problems I’ve had in this latest volume of this handbook is that I have had to work almost as a forensic artist. For volume 2 of this handbook, dedicated to the ungulates, I had to work with, amongst other sources, hundreds of photos of animals killed by trophy hunters (the typical first-world nouveau-riche pictured next to the beautiful animal he has just slaughtered).
With the cetaceans, I have sometimes had to resort to photographs of animals stranded on beaches, often somewhat putrid, or of animal parts photographed in a Japanese ‘fish’ market. Sometimes, the main reference material is just a skull.
Fortunately (or otherwise), many of these rare species are still unknown to most people – and may be forever. There are bound to be fewer readers of the HMW – always incredibly demanding – who will canalize the illustrations of this volume with as much zeal as the average can comment drawings of wolves, zebras or gorillas!!