Tag Archives: Books

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.




Disruption and peace- A snow adventure!

Good evening, lovely ones!

As amber snow and ice warnings sweep the country for the second time this month, I thought it was time for an “emergency broadcast”, as it were, that interrupts my normal posting schedule.

Instead of this being a panicky message of impending doom, however, this is an excited short post about some serious inspiration that is going to open up a whole new way of keeping sketchbooks and conducting research for me which I wanted to share!

I was recently in one of my favourite places in the world to be- in a large bookshop, in a comfy seat, browsing through lots and lots of different books. I found a particularly special one which I couldn’t just leave behind…

It’s called “Explorers’ Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure” and features the notes, sketches and paintings of a great number of explorers, detailing the essence of what made their trips into the unknown so brilliant. There are drawings from explorers who sat dangerously close to volcanoes, sketching and painting their lava patterns; journals exploring whole civilisations previously undocumented, and flora and fauna from the first voyages to new lands (including some of the first ever drawings made on a deep sea dive!)

For a person like me, whose young self was frightened of so many things, this book would’ve been amazing when I was young- to transport me to places I never felt I could reach. Now, as I grow older, I love it even more; it reminds me how far I’ve come since then, how now I feel more confidence to seek out things which frighten me to conquer, as well as a colossal burst of inspiration for projects to seek out in the future.

It got me thinking; the whole concept of a explorer’s journal is a fantastic lesson for any illustrator or artist- drawing on location, especially in challenging conditions, reveals so much more than drawing retrospectively through photographs. It not only teaches you to be less precious about things that you put in your sketchbook, but forces you to make notes in a different way to how you normally might.

Taking inspiration from some of the explorers I’ve been reading about, I ventured out into the freezing conditions today for a short ‘expedition’, to draw in the blizzard-like conditions which have been storming about. The bitter chill of the wind forced me to keep my very thick gloves on, which made it a lot harder to get the range of movement in my hands which I’m used to. The cold acted as a great pressure not to care too much about getting things perfect, and just concentrate more on gesture and movement.

Snow Diary p1 (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
Hedge and hill and snowy tracks
Snow Diary p2 (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
Blasting snow flurries (top, middle) ; the old barn (bottom)
Snow Diary p3 (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
Brave figures venturing out in the midst of the cold!
Snow Diary 4 (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
Determined parent with some very excited children!

I’m not yet ready to settle on one subject to study for the rest of my life yet (like one particular animal or place), but the whole concept of exploring shown through the accounts of these incredible men and women opens up a world of new possibilities. As I near a deadline particularly important to me it was good for a moment just to step back for a few hours, look at things from a slightly new angle, and think dreamily about the great many things I’ve yet to study and understand in my artwork.

After all, even if it’s true that I now won’t be the first person up Everest, or under the sea- nobody will, or ever again see those things through my eyes. And that’s a little bit exciting.

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.




Winter Fairs, First Frosts and The Grey People

Hello, and a Merry December to you all!

I’d like to start this post with a little story and observation that is particularly relevant at this time of year, I feel. When I was on the train a couple of weeks ago, returning from a trip to Hull during the wild weather, I was gratefully munching down my ham sandwich and peering out of the window at the ever-darkening landscapes flashing past. At every station, a handful of people would get on, wedging themselves into seats and cuddling in tight into their layers of clothing to try and thaw from the chill wind. Evidently, they were cold, and tired, and just wanted to get home- I understand. But a couple of them seemed to be saturated in this grey cloud, staring through my smiles and nods of acknowledgement and away again.

I’ve experienced this before, a few times, with a few characters really standing out in my memory as totally “grey” – one man I encountered on the bus a few months ago being the example that my memory will always jump to. He was the sort of character you just wanted to go and hug, and tell him that everything was going to be okay- life seemed to have sucked all the colour and joy from his bones, leaving his eyes dull and his mouth downturned. At this time of year, I always think of one of my very favourite stories of all time, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge. I always couldn’t help but feel sorry for the greedy old miser described in the tale. I remember a feeling of curiosity rather than despair or hatred the first time I heard the story: he was cold and unfeeling, yes, but why? I would wager that through the given descriptions of his youth, loneliness would be one of the largest reasons for Scrooge intially finding solace in his money and business, which would later cut him off from his peers, and also his heart.

Now, by no means will I, or can I, ever pass judgement on strangers I meet in the street- every soul has a thousand unspoken problems and worries that may glaze their eyes and leave them lost and unsure, and a little grey around the edges. We will all experience a period of this greyness, where life seems dull, repetitive and not heading in the direction we’d hoped. Money will be a worry for all of us at some point too, unless you’re incredibly lucky. But, I have realised, my greatest fear is that this will creep slowly, irreversibly into a heart and strip a person of all their character, all their passion and loves in life, until they lose all their colour permanently. People remember Scrooge for his tightfistedness, but I remember him for his indifference- his withered soul devoid of love for anything or anyone.

This Christmas, please help me in my main life’s aim- to prevent the onset of “total greyness” in everybody you encounter, including strangers. Please smile, be kind and generous in spirit- and you can help keep hearts warm, and the world more loved.

On that note, I’m overjoyed to announce that I’m currently still adding to a catalogue of greetings cards for “Thortful”, a new web-based “marketplace” which will officially launch in the New Year, which centres around a philosophy of making people happy- both creators and customers!

My cards will finally be available online!! They’re all animal-based, as with a great proportion of my work this year! The site is now live before its official launch, if you’d like a sneaky peek please follow this link to view my current collection!

In my last post, I mentioned a Christmas Fair I was participating in on the 5th of December. I’m pleased to say that it was a success- a step up from last year, and I received lots of lovely comments and compliments as well as making a fair few sales! Here’s some of the highlights in pictures:

5-12-15 Greetings cards photoPrince of Snow at craft fair5:12:15 Christmas Fair Stall Photo

As you can see from some of these images, bears have kept cropping up throughout my practice for a good while now. Any of you that look at my Facebook site as well as this blog will have seen a specific album dedicated to this study, which contains a few snippets of a personal project I’m working on (and one I am determined will be published!) My next post in January will contain a few little teasers of artwork that have been developing my ideas, as well as a short writeup of my influences so far.

I think all that remains is for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas (and a God Jul to all of my Norwegian friends celebrating today!) – spend these special days with all your dearest ones, laughing and making merry. Presence will always trump presents, after all.

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.

The London Book Fair 2015: Notes on an adventure

Hello again, lovely readers!!

Apologies in advance as this post will be pretty text-heavy, but it’s something a little special too: I attended the annual London Book Fair last week, and felt it deserved a piece of writing all to itself. I typed up my notes on the train, and it evolved into an article of sorts: a writeup which I hope might aid any students or recent graduates who are considering going in the future! I know all too well that it’s easy to be overwhelmed the first time attending a big event like this, but I know you can all do it!

A quick overview, first: here is the main hall of the Book Fair, which takes place in Olympia, Kensington: 

Olympia Book Fair 2015 for blog

The price is really pretty good considering what you can get for your money: a ticket will set you back £30, but it allows you to enter 100% of the seminars that are held on a range of subjects for free: including tech, crowd funding, publishing, literacy, authorship, illustration, and many more. It also allows you access to hundreds of business’ stands: people that could prove to be useful contacts in the future, as well as a great research facility if you’re looking to explore who does what in a particular field. If you want to, you can pay extra for specialist conferences that are advertised on the fair’s website, but it’s by no means compulsory. Most of the events that happen over the 3 days are included in the ticket price.

I attended this year with an author friend of mine; we got up pretty early indeed to make the most of our time (it was dark when we set off!) We were in the building by about 10:30 on the Tuesday morning, after dropping our things off at a BNB (a recommendation for anyone who has a long travel is to book one night in a cheap hotel or BNB- go with a friend, and share a twin room, you’ll be able to split the cost: we ended up paying only £27 each for the room.)

As to what happened over the two days we spent there, I’ve compiled the best bits of my notes for a write-up of three of my favourite free seminars, as well as a top 8 general tips I noted down to help new visitors to make the most of their time there. I hope this is helpful to all of you, particularly the first timers for next year!

The Seminars: My highlights!

The talks sketch for LBF blog post final

“How the conversation between publishers and authors go: a conference” – This was a discussion between a panel of four top publishers and authors, about their experiences with the industry: how they got started, about specific books which brought them success, etc etc. They also discussed issues of censorship: particularly from the authors’ perspective, about that conundrum of whether you should change your writing to fit what publishers want, or whether you should keep your vision of work how you imagined, and just find the publisher who fits it. (Particularly interesting as one of the authors here was Melvin Burgess, one of the pioneers of the Young Adult genre of fiction as we know it today. He deals with a lot of controversial issues in his writing, specifically drugs and sex, from a young person’s perspective. One of the most interesting things with this was, Klaus Flugge, founder of Andersen Press, took him on even though there wasn’t really a genre for his particular style of writing at the time. Of course, Burgess received a LOT of criticism about the way he spoke about such controversy, particularly from adults who agreed that while the topics needed to be addressed, they perhaps didn’t know how talk about them with their own children: considering their direct confrontation to be threatening, or potentially harmful. However, Burgess confirmed that he had received shining reviews from his actual readership: he sold thousands and thousands of these books to the young people themselves, who liked the directness of his approach: a “real education”. This whole conversation was very applicable to the illustration market in the current climate; how certain things are forbidden from being shown in picture books: alcohol, cigarettes, and even sweets to name but a few examples, as some people are worried that their depiction may cause harm to impressionable children.

“Reading for pleasure- Illiteracy” “Read On, Get On” – 

“It is your attitude to reading that releases your potential.” A talk about the failing level of literacy in England, how so many people have been affected as a result, both children and adults: and how the initiative, “Read On, Get On”, (set up to help everyone who needs some support to develop their literacy), helps to open up opportunities for them in the future. The campaign currently has the support of around 12 different charities, as well as backing from the government and famous authors/illustrators/academics. To find out more, look up “Read On, Get On” / #ReadOnGetOn on Twitter, or look up the National Reading Strategy. (A topic very close to my heart- I’ve always loved reading, and want to bring this joy and power to others!)

“LBF Illustrators afternoon”

For any aspiring or practicing illustrators, this is one of the most helpful and informative of the seminars that the London Book Fair has to offer, and it runs every year! They  have a few different representatives from different publishing companies (this year, Scholastic and Bonnier Publishing, an imprint of Templar) who introduce themselves and their positions within the company (e.g. Creative Director for Under 6s, Designer, etc etc.) The assisting book fair staff will then come around with small coloured cards, a different colour appropriated to each different creative director/designer/representative, and issue you with a time slot for whoever you want to see. It works rather smoothly, as each meeting is timed to ensure everyone gets an equal opportunity to show off some work and ask questions, and the short slots mean that you don’t really have a chance to trip over your words. I had around an hour spare before my meeting started, so I made notes covering all the different questions or points I wanted to ask, and only showed the pieces of my portfolio that I wanted the most feedback on/thought would be most suited to the client. A fantastic opportunity to learn some names and get your foot in the door- once you’ve met someone in person, it’s easier to send them an email or letter with a proper introduction that they will actually read!

Top tips for the fair in general: survival and success!

 Survival tips sketch for blog final

1) JUST GO. If you think that you might find the experience helpful, or have any inkling you might want to go, don’t make up excuses as to why you can’t, just do it! Money can always be saved, arrangements can be made well enough in advance as to not be an issue.You won’t regret it!

2) Try and experience as much as you can while you’re there.

Don’t kill yourself doing it, but try and fit in as much into your days as you possibly can. Look at the programme beforehand, pick out a few talks you think you’ll find most interesting (if you’re like me you might have to be more selective from this list when you actually get there, as there are simply not enough hours in the day!) Don’t keep to a rigid schedule necessarily, be flexible! If you get into a conversation with someone which means you might miss one of your talks, don’t worry! You have no idea how much you might learn, or what opportunities you could gain from the interaction!

3) Take a notebook:

The most useful bit of kit you can take, aside from your ticket, is a notebook and pen. (Several pens, in case the first pen leaks all its ink into your bag.) Take it to the seminars, scribble as the speakers talk. If you have a conversation with someone and swap cards, summarise your conversation in the book. You could even copy their contact details into the book, then even if you lose a business card you don’t need to panic or kick yourself about a lost opportunity. You can plan meetings, questions you want to ask, and exactly what work you want to show. If certain meetings don’t go as well as you’d hoped, you can think about why you weren’t happy with the outcome and make notes for next time.

4) Don’t try and blinker your choice of talks and seminars to those just directly concerned with your field/profession.

 For example, I attended a few talks that were concerned with authorship/reading, which you could argue aren’t DIRECTLY related to illustration (although they are linked) – but all the information is transferrable. You might even get chatting to someone you can collaborate with!

5) Leave time to have a wander around!

Again, try not to overcram your day and wear yourself out while still experiencing as much as you can. Since we were up at 4 in the morning on the Tuesday morning, we only had a certain amount of energy to spend, and a certain amount of attention for sitting through seminars in warm rooms without falling asleep. Wandering around stretches your legs, and reveals a world of new opportunities you might forget you have: particularly if you work from home, it’s easy sometimes to feel isolated and limited to a small list of routes for your illustrations to take. Having the sheer magnitude of options for your work sprawled out like this in front of you can be terrifying for even the hardiest of veteran illustrators; just try to think of everything you see as a possible job in the future, every company a possible employer, and it will INSPIRE you, not scare you!

6) The heads of companies, the creative directors and founders, are only people too, the same as you!

It’s sometimes easy to forget, when you’re firing off samples, projects and book proposals left right and centre that a real person will actually look at them. In bigger corporations, no matter if you write a letter, send a hard copy or try and speak to someone in person, it will often feel that there is an invisible wall between you and that mythical beast known as the Creative Director; and it’s impossible to be HEARD by anyone who could make a decision on your work. The editors I met during this trip, I can confirm, were real people, flesh and blood, and they were actually quite lovely! Don’t be afraid of the high-ups, just put yourself forward to speak to them at any chance you get: it’ll make you feel better that you took the step and proved to yourself that you could do it! Besides, I always think it’s a lot easier to convince someone IN PERSON that you’re a worthy use of their time and resources, and to forge a successful business relationship! I was told a few months in advance of my trip not to apologise for anything, and to remain confident (at least to the naked eye!) – I.e. if there was any overly authoritative figures scattered about, then I’d be in the best position to stand my ground and prove myself as a young illustrator. Keeping this at the back of my mind throughout every meeting actually helped a lot!

7) Take a friend!

* A friend who has an interest in the fair, but not necessarily all the same things as you. Arrive together, then split up for a few hours. If you both attend different talks, you’ll have twice the notes. When you get chatting to people, you can big them up as well as yourself, and note down potential clients for them, and request the same of them. If a meeting doesn’t go as well as you hoped it would, you have someone to give you a hug and set you back on track again. And, as mentioned previously, it could make hotels a lot cheaper!

8) Be brave, and remember to smile!!

When you book your ticket for the book fair, you fill in your name and a couple of details about you and your business on the website, which they translate into your printable, foldable pass, which slots neatly into a plastic wallet they provide when you arrive. This little piece of paper is BRILLIANT, because it’ll tell people who you are and your field of interest/expertise before you even talk to them! Many conversations I had came from someone looking at my badge and seeing “illustrator” on there!

Being brave is taking that first five steps into the building, remember that. By not turning and running away from a huge hall filled with people, you are a step closer to achieving your dream!

Anyone who reads this blog who knows me personally will be very aware that I cannot go an hour without smiling at someone or about something. I am very pleased to announce that during this adventure to old London town, I managed to get two people to smile at me on the tube (two!) and in the halls of Olympia, in the two days of the fair, my smiling actually started several very interesting conversations with some really lovely people, who may also prove to be interesting contacts over the coming months. I stick wholeheartedly to my belief that smiling at people not only makes you feel better, it makes you approachable and accessible to them. Teamed with your badge at the London Book Fair, people will soon be running to speak to you!

I hope this has been an interesting read, and something a little different! It’s actually been one of the quickest posts to write, how about that! I wish you all the success in your coming month before I get around to writing again, and enjoy some of this gorgeous early summer sunshine! Trust in everything you do. If you approach all with a positive attitude and bravery, who knows what tomorrow might bring!

– 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.