Tag Archives: Birds

Skokholm- A week in paradise!

“We must leave this province of the laboratory and theology to resume our study in the field.” Ronald Lockley, “The Island”. 

Third time’s a charm, or so they say. After two failed attempts to leave Martin’s Haven jetty since 2017, I held my breath, and crossed every part of my body that could be crossed in hope that this little superstition might hold firm this time.

Fair winds and a spot of good fortune later, and I can joyfully proclaim that WE MADE IT TO SKOKHOLM!!

While we (my partner, his parents and I) were there, I kept a journal- a diary and study of every wonderful thing I learnt during a week on the island, as I made friends with as many of the inhabitants as I could! This sketchbook accompanied me in all weathers and crossed a small portion of the Celtic Sea twice- it’s far from polished, but I think that adds to its charm- a bit like an old fashioned explorer’s log!

In honour of the wildly wonderful island community of Skokholm, let me tell you the story of a week spent among puffins, seals and stiff salt breezes with the help of my little battered book!

(All photos and sketches: © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration, unless credited otherwise.)

IMG_20190603_140653392_BURST000_COVER_TOP (LR FOR BLOG) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

Day One – Arrival

From home to Pembrokeshire, through Marloes and on to Martin’s Haven, 03/06/19. Passing luggage onto the boat through a chain of all the people you’re going to be sharing your home with for the next week is a great way to get to know them! (Wonderfully reminiscent of my summers spent camping with Guides, too!)  Departed around 1:30PM on a slight swell, around 20 of us altogether- not choppy, but a little touch and go for the seasick among us (for once, not me!) It didn’t take long to spot the first locals- we were joined for most of the crossing by a gull gliding over our heads, and the tiniest flash of bright red, yellow and brown-black whizzing over the water would be my very first puffin sighting! And who would be waiting in the South Haven harbour for us but a speckled group of seals, wiggling about in the afternoon sunshine- with others popping their noses out of the water to see who had arrived today. What a welcome!

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Continuing the warm greeting, we all joined Richard the warden for a cup of tea and an introduction. Skokholm is home to thousands and thousands of seabirds every spring and summer, (including over 9,000 puffins!) as well as the aforementioned seals, butterflies, moths, and lots of other types of birds. As a Special Protection Area, a hugely important National Nature Reserve and a Bird Observatory, humans are very much in the minority- the island belongs to the feathered and furred inhabitants. Pathways are set up with white stones to show visitors where they’re allowed to walk around the island- keeping a respectful distance away from the residents (although you sometimes have to be careful not to tread on any burrows!)

Exploring on this first day, we visited Howard’s Bay and Crab Bay, the latter being the best place on the island to see puffins- not only are there a lot of burrows, this is where the puffins are tamest and the most inquisitive! As Richard told us later on at the Bird Log that night (where the two wardens, volunteers and guests can gather to give their wildlife sightings of the day) if you keep still enough they will come up to investigate, and perhaps even sit on you!

(Here I include a link to the official map for the island, the same one I stuck in the front of my journal. You’ll be able to see where all of the places that I mention are located!  visitor-map-Skok (1)

Settling into our room that night, blankets up my neck, I was surrounded by an ornithological racket- idyllic when mixed with the sounds of the lapping sea and whistling wind, but not exactly quiet! I stayed up pretty late just listening to the wild world outside… What a wonderful place!

Day Two: The drawing begins!

Day Two (04/06/19) was wet, so after a little more exploring we visited the hide (and the puffins!) at The Neck, overlooking North Bay. This became my workplace for the day, as I watched the puffins congregating, chattering, and generally being busy. I stayed until my fingers were too cold to draw anymore – click on the sketchpages below to enlarge today’s findings!

 

(Click on any of the images to see larger! © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration)

A bit of expansion for the little notes made here:

  • The puffin’s folded wings seem to cross over when viewed from the back, with a beautiful arrow pattern picked out in white across the dark brown-black.
  • As in the colour gouache studies, rain droplets beaded on the feathers of the landed birds- I know it’s not surprising as they spend so much time in and around water that they would have impressive waterproof jackets, but it was amazing to watch it happening in slow motion!
  • There were some pretty fabulous “boy band” power stances going on there!

IMG_20190604_141351752 (LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

  • Puffins (or other seabirds for that matter) “raft” – float on the sea in large groups, particularly early in the season, so I’m told.
  • I discovered two new plants that day- rock sea spurrey (sperularia rupicola), and sea campion- a halophyte, a plant tolerant to salty soil.

Day Three- An Introduction, The Jetty and the Seal Chorus!

IMG_20190605_125159951 (LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

The third day brought a strong breeze and brilliant sunshine, so we were led out on our postponed introductory walk by Richard the warden. We got acquainted with the main flora and fauna to be found on the island, as well some of the key locations around the perimeter- including a quick tour around the lighthouse.

Looking out from the disused lantern room over Grassholm and the wild ocean, we were told a famous ghost story. Just visible on the horizon through the telescope was the Small’s, another lighthouse which used to work together with others along the Pembrokeshire coastline to protect ships.

The tale goes that two lighthouse keepers were put in charge of the Small’s who didn’t get on, and would constantly quarrel. When one of them died, the other was terrified that he would be accused of murder, so he made a coffin and hung it from the lighthouse, hoping to be exonerated. Records show that passing sailors noticed the coffin, but no-one came to question it – or take the body away…

The coffin broke open during a bad storm, and the sound of the body slapping against the window of the hut eventually sent the remaining keeper mad. The poor man lived out the rest of his days in an asylum.

Some more (slightly more jolly!) things I learned:

  • A lot of the plants around the island are typically found in woodland (wood sage, sorrel, red campion) – apparently it should be covered in trees, so the Norse word “Skokholm” (“wooded island”)  would suggest. I wonder why it isn’t? Perhaps these days it’s more exposed to strong winds, as a lot of the plants and shrubs which grow are fairly squat to the ground?
  • Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) flowers were particularly interesting to Darwin- apparently when cross-bred with the blue variety would produce a purple hybrid!
  • The Quarry houses the “Petrel Station” nestled in amongst the towering cliffs – a man-made wall with boxed burrows in the back which the volunteers and wardens use to monitor the Storm Petrels. (More about that on Day Four!)
  • Manx Shearwaters dig their own burrows, and the chicks are beautiful bundles of brown fluff which are weighed every week or so to monitor their progress. The burrows are marked with numbered boards so they aren’t stepped on, and the birds themselves are fairly used to being handled by the wardens and volunteers. Richard scooped one out to show us, they were a lot smaller than I expected! (Sadly they are a favourite food of the great black-backed gulls, so it’s very common to see their carcasses dropped around.)

Still fair weather in the afternoon, so at low tide I wandered down to South Haven jetty where we had seen the welcoming party of seals two days ago with my partner and his mum, in the hope of seeing some more.

We managed to spot twenty-one of them around the bay! Some were snoozing stretched out on rocks, others cruising about and “bottling” in the warm shallows- resting vertically in the water, huffing through flared nostrils. A couple in particular came so close to the jetty where we sat, curiously winking at us with those huge, liquid eyes of theirs. They definitely seemed to be interested in E’s mum’s concertina practice! The closest one slowly dozed off upright, a content grin seeming to spread from ear to ear.

(Click the images below to see my seal observations from life!)

 

Sketches © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

Day Four- Moths, Singing Seals and Storm Petrels by Night

This morning we were treated to the opening of a moth trap! Ishbel (one of the long-term volunteers) gently introduced us to each new beastie, sharing her extensive knowledge – we were all particularly excited to meet the Spectacle moth, as it has a really cute little face! (It’s also the only moth I’ve ever seen with a mini mohican! See sketch below)

After exploring Spy Rock and a couple of the bird hides in the morning, I went back down to the jetty in South Haven to draw my sealy friends again. I was joined by three other ladies who were staying on the island at the same time, and we had lots more willing models!

This afternoon was particularly exciting because the seals were chorusing together, wailing and howling a beautiful song that echoed all around the cliffs. I’ve never heard anything like it- now I understand where a lot of the folk tales about sirens must have come from!

Click on the image below to see more ‘morlo’ drawings- seal in Welsh!

 

(Sketches © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration)

(A note here about a small sketch in the bottom-right corner of the page entitled “Figurehead of the Alice Williams” – in South Haven this figurehead replica watches over the harbour since the original was moved inside. The wreck of the same name was found and bought by R.M. Lockley in 1928, the timbers of which were used to help build the Wheelhouse- where the original figurehead now watches over the guests’ mealtimes.)

We were accosted by puffins for a short time at Crab Bay before dinner:

 

When it was dark, we all trooped along to the Petrel Station to see some of the Storm Petrels using Richard’s infrared camera. Even without the light, you could feel them flitting past your shoulders like bats!

A bit about these funny little birds:

  • Storm Petrels are Britain’s smallest sea-bird, they’re only about the size of a sparrow!
  • They used to be known as “Mother Carey’s chickens” to seafarers as harbingers of rough, stormy weather- Mother Carey being an ancient witch and the wife of Davey Jones- and were meant to embody the souls of drowned sailors.
  • They only lay one egg, which once hatched is the father’s responsibility- he will float out to sea with the chick as soon as is possible!
  • “Petrel” apparently came from the story of St. Peter, who could walk on water- they’re very light, and wouldn’t come inland unless they had to!

To conclude a birdy evening, we stopped on the walk back to our rooms after hearing a scuffling in the bracken just off the path- and spotted a Manx Shearwater hauling itself along on its belly through the undergrowth. (They’re pretty useless on land down to how far back their legs are on their bodies, so they’re nocturnal to reduce the chances of being eaten by gulls.) Soon, the air was full of them flying about on their nightly business, whizzing about and trying not to crash into each other- their banshee-like screeches much more eerie up close than from the comfort of bed!

Day Five- Lashing rain and howling winds

We were hit by a storm on the Friday, which meant a little sketching from life during the breaks in the rain but ultimately a day to explore the library and congregate in the cottage with the other guests to keep warm. (It was too cold even for the bird hides, really!) We did attempt a walk to the hide at North Bay, but spent most of it horizontal!

It was lovely to spend some time with the other people who were staying and get to know them, as well as the volunteers who popped in during the worst of it.

Our fifth Bird Log was a really good one- I learned that melanin, the same substance that colours our skin and freckles, is also what makes bird feathers healthy. The darker the feathers, the more attractive the male bird is to the female in the mating season- apparently a Coal Tit with his “bib” extended with marker pen was shown to get more females! Periods of feeding stress will result in “fault bars”- lighter lines in the feathers which are weaker and more likely to snap.

Click on the images below to see today’s puffin observations and studies!

 

Sketches © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

Day Six- An eely good one!

We went for a walk around the cliffs and past North Pond this morning- sadly the Shelduck parents have lost three of their chicks to gulls attacks. One of the other guests saw one actually get taken, which was a bit upsetting…

We ended up at Crab Bay where I spent the majority of the morning observing puffins bringing in the morning’s catch.

Click on images below to see the busy little birds hard at work!

 

Sketches © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

Our penultimate day, and I wanted to soak up as much time with the seals at South Haven as I could. At low tide I wandered back down to the jetty, and found plenty out sunning their speckles. As well as sketching, I experimented with taking some photos through my trusty binoculars this time- lining up my phone camera with one of the holes at the right zoom level so as not to be blurry took a bit of practice, but I did manage to get a few decent ones! All in the name of reference material!

 

Click below sketchpages to see seal observations larger.

 

© 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

After dinner, E, his parents and I all wandered back down to Crab Bay to visit the puffins once more. They were very inquisitive this particular evening, one came up to investigate and peck at my bag straps, another came within two feet of me and gazed at me curiously for a few seconds, “And who are you, then?”

Then it happened- probably the crowning moment of the entire trip. A PUFFIN SIDLED UP AND SAT ON MY LEG! It wandered around me for a little while, and without warning hopped up and settled on my calf! I was surprised for such a little bird how heavy it was perching there (and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was going to be used as a toilet… luckily not!)

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Credit- photo © by Mike Turtle 2019

From this distance I could see every feather, every line, and every speckle on the red lid of the puffin’s eye (part of the “summer coat” which blooms with colour during the mating season and fades during the winter’s travels.) Being that close to a wild animal was indescribable… to practically be able to hear its heartbeat next to your own makes everything else slow down, and as you look the creature in the eye it’s like you give each other the little nod- “This great big rock that we’re sharing is pretty incredible, isn’t it?”

As the sun began to set, as if by magic, the puffins all seemed to shuffle rapidly away from us with the same urgency as if they were late for a meeting. They gathered in small groups, rubbing their beaks together (billing), head-bobbing and making little grunting sounds not unlike hiccups! One turned half towards me away from his little gathering, giving me a sideways glance which gave me the distinct impression I was being talked about!

IMG_20190609_204511901 ( LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

I wonder if the animals of Skokholm hold their own “Human Log” to discuss the people they’ve seen that day?

Day Seven- The last sunrise on Spy Rock

IMG_20190609_051500010 (LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

We wanted to make the most of our last day, so we hauled ourselves out of bed at 4:30AM to climb Spy Rock! From this point we could see the sun rise over the whole island, lighting up each tiny flower with a fiery glow all the way out to sea.

After watching another moth trap being opened (another spectacle moth was hiding inside!) we explored some of the nooks and crannies we hadn’t covered in our daily walks around the cliffs. After bothering the slow worms under the corrugated iron sheeting outside the red shed (we found eleven!) we popped into some of the remaining hides we hadn’t visited yet.

We watched a scrap unfold from the hide at South Haven as two seals had a slapping match over a particularly comfortable rock… The first and more aggressive of the seals wouldn’t share the space, and was very angry when a wave knocked him into the water! The second seal who had been trying to sneak on when the first wasn’t looking quickly jumped aboard, giving his rival a taste of his own medicine as they batted at each other with their flippers.

IMG_20190609_152635839_HDR (LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

A scramble up and down the “hairy” walk around Frank’s point revealed the great black-backed gull food waste disposal – we found a pile of Shearwater carcasses all hidden behind a boulder, wings still intact. Definitely deserving of their nickname, “The lions of Skokholm” – I’m just glad I’m too big to carry off and eat!

As evening approached, I made two last visits to Crab Bay and South Haven to begin saying goodbye to all my new friends, with varying reactions. The puffins inspected my clothes, one hopping up onto my leg, another pecked my bum! I loudly proclaimed my love for the seals down at South Haven which was met by a resounding “WoOooOOO!” call from one…

Click below to see observations from Crab Bay and South Haven hides larger!

 

 

Fair winds homeward-bound

It was difficult to say goodbye on the last morning. As we waited in the harbour for the boat to take us back to mainland, the seals gathered as if to see us off- and as a little drizzle came down we all looked a little speckly!

We were lucky to have a particularly smooth crossing, but I couldn’t help shedding a few tears as I watched the island fade away into the distance. The opportunity to be outside from sunrise til sundown, with a wonderful little community made me increasingly sad as we returned to ‘civilisation’.  So much feels like it’s missing from modern life in our quest for improvement and perfection- we isolate ourselves from the world, each other and even ourselves, and what even for?

As I begun this diary as a way to learn more about life on a very special island, so it continues- I’m in the process of using my first-hand experience to begin a new project about puffins, to add to my portfolio along with the short poem-story I produced for North Somerset Arts Week called “Seal Song” (more on that next time!)

So this week in Skokholm continues to remind me, as Tolkien said-

“It is brought home to me; it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”

 

From my own reference drawings and photos- some preliminary gouache and pencil studies ready for this impending puffin project! Click to see larger. 

(If any of you come across this- a huge thank you to the wardens Richard and Giselle, the volunteers Jenni and Ishbel, and all of my fellow guests for such a wonderful, special week!)

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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.

Movement in Murmurations- Exploring patterns in the natural world through classical music

Good afternoon, lovely ones! Hope your weeks are all going well!

Last time, I told you the tale of a little house martin chick and my once-in-a-lifetime drawing experience with her. (If you didn’t get to read it yet, just have a quick scroll, you’ll find it beneath this post – “A Precious Thing”.) A quick update- she had her first flying lessons indoors, and has since been fully re-released back into the wild! She’s probably off on her own adventures by now, using those new fully-grown wings!

Around a month ago I found out about the SWLA exhibition held through the Mall Galleries in London – Wildlife Artist of the Year. I’m afraid I was a little over-optimistic in planning something to enter for the competition this year, but I’m slowly going to be developing my research over the coming months, ready for next year’s competition.

Completely by chance, and neatly linking into the house martin’s story since last time, I wanted to follow a bird theme for this competition. I so often draw mammals that birds weren’t really getting the recognition they deserved, and as well as wanting to try something a bit different, they were on my mind anyway due to my work earlier this year on the RPSB’s Big Garden Birdwatch at nursery.  Although the final artwork for the SWLA competition is far from fruition, I thought I would share some of my process up until now- as I really believe it could be something special!

The co-ordinator of a drawing event I attended a couple of years ago referred to the way I drew as “lyrical” – that I described not only my reference material but also the music I listened to at the time. I had been listening quite a lot to Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie” Overture over a week’s period while working on a separate project, and one evening after reading the brief for the SWLA competition, the song and an earlier memory of some starlings grouped and swirling over a park in Wales (a murmuration) paired up in my mind.  I got thinking about how patterns in some classical music fit so perfectly within nature- and decided to do a little research.

As many things in nature are, I discovered that the pattern of a murmuration occurs through mathematics (more specifically in this case- mathematical chaos; where very small changes have a huge impact within the larger system) as every slight movement by each bird within a murmuration is amplified by all the other birds flying directly around it, creating the waves and rippling effects. The few times in my life I had seen a murmuration, I couldn’t help but conjure up a mental picture of a musical score, with all the birds within the pattern as individual notes within an orchestra, acting individually but also within the larger pattern of the whole. How could I replicate this in a drawing? As an experiment and something outside of my comfort zone a little, I decided to listen to some classical music and try drawing lines to describe what I was hearing. The drawings below are based on the aforementioned Rossini overture- “The Thieving Magpie”, or “La Gazza Ladra”. (You could try listening to it as you look at the following experiments- see if you can spot where the patterns came from!)

Murmuration ink sketches (Low Res) signed © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg

Step One – Feeling the music out!

The lines and marks that came out of this initial exercise follow the pitch and movement of the music.

After that, I followed the lines I’d drawn with tiny dots, or tiny birds, to bring the “murmuration” to life. The process was a little daunting at first, especially as the pen and ink I was using has a tendency to “blob” a bit! (Although after the first ten minutes, I actually quite liked the imperfection of the ink blobs!)

Murmuration ink sketches 1 (Low Res) signed © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration .jpg
Adding in the starlings, the beginnings of weaving each line together

As I attempted to follow the music in shape, I also tried to match the volume to the weight of the line I drew. As I begun to add the starlings in, I followed the same pattern- with more birds in the thicker areas, and just a scattering in the wispy lines. (I would like to try removing the lines to see what shapes I’m left with here, but that’s something for later!)

Murmuration ink sketches (Low Res) signed © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
And now, for the crescendo…!

As the speed and volume of the song built towards its end, so did the patterns… the spiral that begins at the left hand side of this page came from the final minute of the overture. Filling this space with birds was probably the best part of the whole exercise, and although it doesn’t ring completely true to how starlings might fly in real life, I’m sure there’s elements of this wild drawing that I can expand upon for the final artwork! After all, every bird in this spiral is attempting to fly as close as it possibly can to its neighbour: the ripple created at the bottom of the murmuration becomes less tense, and more and more amplified as it moves outwards- the same theory to how a real murmuration works!

I look forward to the next few months developing this idea and sharing updates on my progress along the way- it’s something a bit different to what I usually do, but that’s the most exciting part!

Next time, I’ll be writing a little about my progress on my silent book concept for a different competition (yes, finally! It’s been a while, but as promised, I’m getting round to it!) and how I’ve been developing a human character who has all the grace and appetite of a young seal!

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.

 

A precious thing!

Dear readers,

Happy July! I hope that wherever you are, you get the chance to have at least one icecream in the sunshine in the coming weeks! (If you’ve already had one… Get another for yourself and a friend so they can enjoy a treat and your overwhelming generosity!)

I’ve got so much to tell you about, I have been writing furiously about projects I’ve been working on over the past couple of months (including an update on the silent book concept I first mentioned at the end of last year!)

At the moment they’re all sat waiting for final edits in my “drafts” folder, but my aim is to release one every two- three weeks now (as I haven’t been very good with keeping up with my blog posts yet this year!)  – I’ve got a few crackers to share!

Something incredible happened this weekend, though, that before I could release any of my previous writing I HAD to share with you; before I burst with excitement, love and gratitude. A once in a lifetime experience, both fascinating and humbling.

For about a month I’ve been pretty down in the dumps after recovering from a particularly nasty flu bug. You know the type: the kind that karate-chops you to your knees and sends you packing to bed, and when you try to get up and make an effort to do something productive (to break the seemingly endless tedium of feeling teary and sore and sorry for yourself) it all goes a bit pear-shaped, your concentration is at 0% and the whole horrid cycle starts again. The sort that you’re sure is just hanging in there until you do one too many things in your week again, and re-releases all your favourite smash hits (like your amazing manly chesty cough that lends your impression of Tom Jones an extra something) and you just know it’s about to claw it’s way back to full strength again.

I went to visit my partner and his parents in order to hopefully throw this bug off once and for all; with fresh air, exercise and to see some animals.

And see some animals I did.

My partner’s father had taken in a house martin chick which was the only survivor from a flooded nest. He hadn’t suspected it to be alive much longer, but after over a week of feeding it with tweezers it had transformed into a plump little creature, with open, clear eyes and adult feathers just beginning to develop. I witnessed her many mealtimes and even had a go at feeding her, which was beautiful in itself- the food preparation “station” was next to her makeshift nest, and as we cut up the food into manageable pieces for her to swallow, she would cheep incredibly loudly and flap her tiny wings in excitement.

I asked one evening if I might be able to draw her. We brought her makeshift nest to the table, and the lamp my partner’s father used to keep her warm at night was used for a bit of extra light. As soon as I opened my sketchbook, she began to cheep, watching my every move with her tiny, beady eyes. She was around a foot away from me, and I could see every little detail on her tiny body; the youngster fluff clinging to the top of her head like large eyebrows, her perfect little wings and tail, with juvenile feathers coming through. I have never seen eyes so small or intense, each one no bigger than an individual blackberry pip, watching me with unbroken concentration, trying to work out if my pencils were food or not.

With music coming from the next room, I recognised an Irish folk song cover, the tune to which I learnt from the “Song of the Sea” film by Cartoon Saloon. I can’t speak Irish, but I know the title is “Dúlamán”, and even if I can’t understand the lyrics at present I know what the words should sound like, so I always have a good crack at singing along. As I drew I instinctively started humming and mumbling along, quietly so as not to frighten the little creature sat inches away from me.

And, in the way that she only ever did before when she was full and sleepy, the chick stopped cheeping. She looked me square in the eye as I sang, almost as though she was listening. I carried on drawing, but I barely looked down at my paper. Those tiny eyes held my gaze so ferociously I didn’t dare. In those precious moments I could almost see her first flights, her migrations, perhaps further than I might ever get in all my years in her first three or four. She sat silently until the song had finished, then almost as though she had been paused, she began cheeping and watching my paper again.

I have never stared for quite so long into the eyes of a wild creature before, but there was something in that sitting that is what every art tutor or teacher in the land tries to convey when they say they prefer you to draw from first-hand experiences, from life. There was energy rumbling through that little chick’s whole being that I never would have understood just from a photograph. Someone told me once that my work can be quite “lyrical”- if I listen to music as I draw, some of it in translated into the lines I use. Singing to that little creature allowed me to record just a tiny ounce of that experience into my favourite sketchbook.

All at once, that one intense, three minute eye-lock has cured me better than any flu medicine ever could.

Housemartin final 72DPI © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
A beautiful creature. © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

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.

 

 

Vår: The coming of Spring!

Hello kind readers, and the happiest of Easters to you all!

It’s the warmest day of the year so far today, and aren’t we glad to have the warmth of the sun back after what feels like an age! On my walk this morning I closed my eyes for just a second to take a deep breath, and the scent of green freshness, spring flowers and sunshine is well and truly in the air! (Just try it, even if you’re on your way to work at a job you don’t like much, I guarantee it will make you smile!) It’s amazing how much difference a little warmth can make to everyone’s mood: every single person I walked past today beamed at me and wished me a “Good Morning”- it’s days like this that we live for!

I thought I’d start this post with a little follow-up on the topics I covered in March’s blog: when I get excited about new projects that are starting I sometimes forget to tie up the ones that came before!

First, a quick, but very positive note about the Twitter Art Exhibit some of you might remember me mentioning a couple of times since Christmas. This is an exhibition of postcard-sized artwork, held in a different location each year, to raise money for different charities. This year it was held in Moss, Norway, to raise money for Home-Start Moss, a charity which offers support to the young families residing in Norway that need it most. The exhibition had lots of coverage all over, but particularly in Norway, where it even had a short five minute slot on the national news! The latest update I read stated that they had raised 35.050NOK (Norwegian Krone) , translating to a whopping $4368!!

As well as this obvious success for the exhibition itself, I celebrated a personal victory, as my postcard, titled “North Star”, sold! In fact, I included a screenshot of the original tweet below from the founder of the exhibition informing me that my card sold to a “lovely family in Moss with small children”. I actually had a little cry when I first read this. The first year after uni is always the toughest, I was warned, and while lots of good things have been happening since I graduated, I’ve always had that little niggle at the back of my mind saying the “What Ifs?” – the what if I sink as an illustrator? What if no-one actually will want my work? What if I can’t support myself by doing the thing I love (and not be able to prove everyone who said it’d be too hard, or not a viable career, wrong?)

It was a small step, but a huge thing for me to receive this message. It proved that I really do have a potential audience, and people really do want my work… and, most importantly, a piece of my artwork has brought happiness to a family, who now have a postcard-sized artwork of a little polar bear in their house somewhere. The main reason I wanted to become an illustrator was to bring a touch of magic and happiness to children and parents alike, and I’m doing it! Slowly, granted… but I can do it! 🙂

David Sandum tweet

A quick update on Portishead’s North Somerset Arts exhibition, too:

I mentioned last time that the North Somerset Arts Week strives to highlight creatives in the region, a celebration of all their hard work and the beautiful things they make, and that our dates would be the 1st to the 10th of May.

I can happily confirm after our last meeting that the brochures for the event have now been printed!! The cover looks like this (particularly helpful if you’re local and were hoping to grab one and check out some of the things that are happening, this is what it looks like) :

NSA brochure cover 2015

(You can pick one up in most shops in the North Somerset area- just ask for a North Somerset Arts catalogue!)

We also have a page just for our Portishead group, “St. Peter’s” (named after the church we’re holding our exhibition in) – we’ll have a bit of everything in our show, as we all practice different mediums: everything from photography to ceramics, jewellery to painting and illustration, so it should be really interesting! (Avid readers might notice a certain Skogkatt three images along!)

NSA brochure Portishead cluster

This show is approaching fast, and we’re all getting really excited! We have a facebook page for our little group too: https://www.facebook.com/NSAWPortishead2015 – please take a little look, perhaps give us a like, and watch out for beautiful artistic updates! From me: here’s a little snippet of one of the new paintings I’m working on for this show, based on the character of Curlyshanks, a huge Newfoundland dog!

Newfoundland sketches for NSA signed for blog

Sketches for NSA signed
Final painting sketched out, accompanied by some preparatory sketches!

Previous readers might remember me mentioning a local gallery I’ve got some work in at the moment, called the Blue Room. I’ve been beavering away on some new things to take in there (mainly prints next time- I’ll update you next month on my progress with cutting window mounts, hopefully I’ll have mastered it!)

Here’s a little example of one of my greetings card artworks that are now stocked at the Blue Room, a little sparrow fellow:

Little Sparrow bird for blog signed

They’re mostly all like this, a very small original painting, dried thoroughly then framed in the window of a card which folds three times. (The window is cut in the middle ‘panel’ of the card, and the panel on the left is folded in and stuck down to protect the painting inside, while the right panel is left swinging free, to let the buyer write their personalised message inside!)

Bird cards image 1

Eagle-eyed spotters might have seen the new greetings card artwork portfolio link in the tab at the top- keep an eye on this, it’s filling up! I’m hoping to send some of these designs off to some companies in due course to see if there’s any interest from them too. Organising them for you readers first will put me in a much easier position when it comes to choosing which pieces to send them!

As for the next month, most of my time will be taken up by these three ventures. However, as I may have mentioned before in brief, I’ll be attending the book fair at Olympia next week, and will be taking an Erik-related portfolio along with me… Here’s hoping I can put myself one step closer to achieving one of my dreams, to illustrate children’s books!

Thankyou, as always, to everyone who reads and looks at my progress- I couldn’t do it without your support!! Keep your eyes peeled on the blog over the next few months, as in my “spare time” (haha!) I’m planning to open an online shop where you’ll be able to buy artwork, prints, cards, and other handmade delights: I’ll post up details as soon as it’s finalised!

– The AutumnHobbit

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