Tag Archives: adventure

Shape and colour – rediscovering the palette knife!

Hello again, radiant readers!

It’s been a busy few months since my last post, and I have lots to share with you!

I’m so excited to announce that I was longlisted for the Templar Illustration Prize a few weeks ago… My name was officially listed within the top ten entries, which was such an incredible surprise! I unfortunately wasn’t selected in the final three shortlist, but I got so much further than I thought I would- it’s an amazing step for me as an illustrator!

A short snippet about that to begin with- it was a really interesting project to complete, we had to submit a cover design, storyboard to explore the book’s narrative and layout, and a completed artwork spread for a book about dragons aimed within the age bracket of 0-12 years. I learnt a lot during this project, and visited some pretty interesting places for research (one, a birthday trip to St. Fagan’s in Wales – to study and draw old buildings!)

"Cover" FINAL ( + text) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
The final draft cover of my dragon themed project for Templar’s 40 Year Illustration Competition- “The Island”. © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration


Alongside what is becoming my signature painting style of gouache and coloured pencil (with a teeny bit of ink thrown in!) I explored (and revisited) lots of different mediums and techniques to decide how to create the final artworks for this project. Bleach and lemon juice into ink to produce botanical patterns, scraping and “rock rubbing” to create texture…

At the core of this exploration was the underlying principle to simplify all elements of the final artwork which weren’t the direct focus. For example, in the cover artwork depicted above, I spent days painting sea and waves to come up with a way to make them noticeable, but not so detailed that they would distract away from the dragon floating in the middle. I needed a way to produce flowing, swirling water which could look different every time I painted it, a technique with a little bit of a mind of its own…

Then I rediscovered my Grandma’s trusty old palette knife.

I haven’t used a palette knife since the second year of university during a life-drawing lesson with oils, but I thought I’d give it a go for this project.

Painting stripes of pure colour onto the palette knife and dragging it across the page produced some really interesting sketchbook studies, as well as scuffing back across dried blocks of colour to create waves. (Scuffing a little paint across a very finely-textured sketchbook page can give some really interesting textures too – as I’ll explore a little later on!)

Geometric Waves
Painting the sea! © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration

Something I’ve always shied away from when painting flowing or floaty objects without clear lines is using geometrical shapes to help build the final outcome. As the palette knife I was using has one long, tapered point, I thought I might break down some walls and attempt a rough sea constructed from triangles.

Triangular Waves
A close-up… © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration

While it seemed a little alien to be be painting something which moves about so much in such a static way at first, the exercise of using triangles to create this ocean really helped me to build a sense of background and foreground, as well as liveliness in the waves. Blocking simple colour in like this allowed for more complicated processes over the top:

Little Red Boat - Top to Toe
Sample oceans to hold a little tugboat. © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
Little Red Boat
© 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
Little Red Boat v2
Stripes of colour applied to the palette knife, (darkest at the bottom, lightest at the top) placed on the page and dragged in a single diagonal movement from top left to bottom right really worked as a technique to create larger, more dramatic waves for the little boat to perch atop! © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration

After this project was finished and sent off, I turned my head back to getting some Spring/Summer animal themed greetings cards designs ready for 2018. In a similar train of thought as when I was working on “The Island”, I wondered how I could use the palette knife to help bring new depth into my artwork.


Again, the decision in using the palette knife to work out a backdrop in these greetings cards was to lend more sharpness to the foreground focus- be it animal, mineral or vegetable- equally adding some context to the main attention of the artwork, in this case a mole burrowing.

In the development stage of this particular design I used similar dragging techniques as I had when exploring the water in “The Island”, as well as loading up the palette knife with mixed colours to dab and scrape over pre-dried layers, to create bobbles, lumps and lines, as you would find in real earth.

Earth sample 1 (smaller file)

Earth sample v2 (Smaller file)

Earth Sample 4 (Smaller file)
Scraping the first layer of dark colour across the clean page at the bottom seemed to help accentuate the dandelion roots!! © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration

Next, came the moles, happy burrowing in Spring through the damp earth for the juiciest earthworms!

Mole selection
Using a paintbrush for the foremost element of the design, the main character, helped to keep the outlines clean- as well as brighter colours, cementing him the focus of the whole shebang.     © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration

Little mole spring blank v2 Mole sketch v3Little mole spring blank v1 Little mole spring blank v1.1

















Above are some snippets from next stage of the development for this design; some of the thumbnails from working on the final layout. The palette knife scrapes began to suggest the flinging of dirt as the mole speedily dug away his tunnel, placing him firmly in his own little story. If the mole had no backdrop here, he might look a little as though he was swimming or floating through space, but having that extra layer lets him reveal to the viewer a little piece of his life. (As my skill lies mainly in narrative illustration, you can see how it seeps into all of my other projects too!)

One thing I really want to attempt next is rust- as a side-note for my silent book project I’ve begun a small sketchbook on boats as research to support a couple of the spreads, so whenever I’m in a port or seaside town I’ll be a-scribbling, with particular interest in the older behemoths which are busy oxidising and gathering sealife!

My next post will be based around an AMAZING trip to Malta, (I arrived back yesterday!) – it’s given me some really interesting ideas for my SWLA (Society of Wildlife Artists) competition entry – another little something I’ve been meaning to do in the past, which I’m really knuckling down to enter this year!

Thanks for reading- hope you’re having a great time wherever you are, and continue to find a little inspiration in every day!

The AutumnHobbit

© Carina Roberts and AutumnHobbit. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carina Roberts and AutumnHobbit with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




Knuckle-biting, anxious, excitable Vikings!

A happy sunny Spring morning to all! I want to begin this entry with a big congratulations to a fantastic degree class. The opening of our graduate show was yesterday afternoon, and I cannot describe how proud I am of everyone: people worked to their limits to conjure up a storm, and we certainly managed it. Some beautiful words were said by students and tutors alike, and there was a wonderful sense of companionship, of FAMILY in those hours: I could not have asked for a more exciting, inspiring, kind and wonderful group of people to spend the past three years of my life with. Thankyou. Think of this time not as the end, but the beginning- of exciting new adventures into the unknown!

Incidentally, if any of you lovely readers are in the Swansea area from the 12th – 17th of May, please drop by and have a peek at the public view of the show, there will be a huge variety of different illustrative subjects and styles, something for everyone! The details are on the flyer below.


For this post, in aftermath of the frenzy of the past few weeks, I thought I would share a sneak peek of my own preparations for this exciting event: not too much, as I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for those who are already planning a trip to see the show, but a little something that will be starring in my ‘exhibit.’ This, contrary to my usual aversion to anything involving 3D materials, is a small snow/glitter globe containing our good friend, Mr. Erik Norovegr the Viking! I worked with Super Sculpey, a light and bakeable modelling clay-like substance: it does not dry in air, which makes it perfect for delicate projects like this one.

Erik sculpey for blog 1 watermarked

Sculpey requires around 15 minutes on 130 degrees for every quarter of an inch of thickness, so any fairly hefty projects would take forever to bake. An easy way round this is to construct a wire armature (for added support during baking as well!) and pad it out with foil, as shown in the image above.

Erik sculpey for blog 2 watermarked

A complete padded ‘skeleton’ of Erik stood up all on his own, with a rough idea of where the muscles, hands etc would go. Small details are easier to make up in sculpey: for example in this 10cm model, the nose, fingers, lip and hair detail.

Erik sculpey for blog watermarked 3

Before adding these details, I covered the foil with sculpey (any holes showing foil might burn or singe the surrounding sculpey) – with flattened sheets of sculpey, like sheets of ‘skin’.

Erik sculpey watermarked for blog 4

Next come the details- hollows for eyes to be painted in, the shaping of the nose, and the HAIR. For Erik, the hair is a very important detail- he is quite hairy! By ‘snaking’ little rolls of Sculpey (rolling them longways into little snakes) and laying them in the correct places, I begun to build up the hair.

Erik sculpey for blog 5 watermarked

I use a set of cake-decorating tools for delicate work on the sculpey, which is perfect for the next job- “fluffing” up the snakes to give that tousled, windswept Erik look. Erik sculpey for blog 6 watermarked

Erik sculpey for blog 7
Ready for baking!!
Stay tuned for next time- there will be more definitive photos of the exhibition (so as not to spoil it this time round!) and an update featuring some group ‘plein air’ paintings I’m planning.
Enjoy the weather, and enjoy the warming of Spring!
-The Autumnhobbit© Carina Roberts and AutumnHobbit, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carina Roberts and AutumnHobbit with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.