Tag Archives: Drawing

Happy New Year- Vive la Vole!

Happy New Year to each and all! If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you gave and received some lovely things!

I know this isn’t the post I had planned to release next, (a silent book project update is almost ready!) but during the past few days a fire that has long been dwindling in me has roared up in the grate- I feel more well, and feel as though I have more energy than I have in months- so I had to make the most of it! (And this is one of those short, sweet posts that’s just bursting to get out!)

One small part of why I’ve been feeling so fantastic is because I have a new hero- a wildlife artist called John Busby. I received a book of his called “Lines from Nature” as a present – please, please seek it out if you have any even slight interest in animals, nature or drawing!

Not only are the artworks in this book technically brilliant and full to the brim of character, they are also observed completely from life- this dedicated man braved all weathers and environments to make drawings again and again, in order to truly understand his subjects.

Shortly after getting sucked completely into this gift, I was lucky enough to meet a vole close up – my partner’s Dad sometimes finds the little tykes in the kitchen, and he’ll keep them for an extra day or two if he knows we’re visiting so I can draw them. (And a five star treatment they get too, sometimes with added Radio 4 if he’s working nearby!)

Glimpses of a Vole 29-12-18 (Web) © 2018:19 Carina Roberts Illustration

 

The vole was very timid the first time I went in- I gently put a small handful of peanuts into the vivarium and sat waiting, as still as I could be. He darted to and fro collecting, giving me a suspicious eye as he ran between the food and his nest made from moss and woodland detritus. I had to be very quick to get him down on paper, but not move so violently as to startle him. When there were no more peanuts, he dived back inside and that was that.

Glimpses of a Vole 1-1-19 (Web) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

The second time, three days later, I tried sprinkling some sunflower hearts out for him instead of peanuts- a bit of variety, and a little experiment to see if he behaved any differently. Now, maybe I caught him at a different “cycle” in his day, or maybe he felt like he knew me a little better (I’d like to think that the latter is true, but it’s very unlikely!) – whatever it was, this snack really brought him out of his shell. Instead of hoarding them away like the peanuts, he came out to nibble them in full view! (In fact, at points, it was almost as though he was posing!)

And what a little character he was, gazing over one shoulder at me! You know when a dog scratches its head with back leg? It may surprise you to hear that voles do it too! After solving the itch his head had a very sweet little ruffled patch right in the centre of his forehead (see above drawing!)

Two fairly short (no more than 30 minutes each) drawing sessions later, I had really started to break the ice with this little fellow. It was such a fresh flash of excitement to draw completely in the moment like that- something I hadn’t done for a while, or at least not properly. In day-to-day life there are always time constraints, your mind wanders and feels guilty for things you should be doing, that a bit of live scribbling somehow isn’t as important. But it is, it REALLY is.

There is a lot, a LOT to learn here for me. Yes, I can think, I can plan (that’s part of who I am) but I also have to embrace the moment- not all is perfect in life, or in artwork. Sometimes the unplanned scrambles up steep hills and through driving rain will be more fun, and teach you more than the interactions and parties you spend your life rehearsing.

Equally, I can spend hours upon hours at my desk, perfecting my next artwork or deliberating for hours over the phrasing of a message to this or that particular client, but most valuable can be the quick observations I can make just because I took a sketchbook somewhere to draw from life. Instinctive, honest sketches- which can speak in less words than I can,

I

CAN

DO

THIS!

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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.

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.

 

 

 

Kernow- A visual diary!

Happy New Year all!

What a wild and stormy start to 2018! Here’s hoping you’re warm and dry, and haven’t been affected by the wind and rain too badly!

I wonder how many people out there started this year (or any new year!) feeling a little anxious? A whole 365 new days stretching out from here to what feels like eternity, full of expectations, resolutions and challenges- a certain desperation in feeling you HAVE to do something new and exciting this year while still fulfilling all of your previous commitments? I’m sure it’s most of us!

In the past feelings like this have overwhelmed me- there’s so much that I want to do, that I’ll take on too much at once, and feel bad because I didn’t finish everything I wanted to. Now, I’m trying my best every new year to think of something specific to focus on for the coming months in order to better my practice (and myself) to really target my weaknesses!

For example, I’ve never really liked drawing buildings. As a child, animals, humans and landscapes always caught my attention- they seemed to offer so much more in terms of colour, texture and movement to work with. As my love and skill for drawing more organic subjects grew, the frustrations with drawing buildings just multiplied. Perspectives of streets confused me, windows and bricks just always came out looking so … boring. Much like you can often tell an artists’ mood by looking at their artwork, you could tell a lot of my relationship with drawing buildings from my project work – a hope, a desperation to make it look perfect, then a flat, dull finished piece where I’d once again given up.

A couple of years ago, on a resolution-making day, I thought a lot about drawing buildings. I thought about my university course, and my wonderful tutors who had always seemed to know how to help me out of my comfort zone into something I was really passionate about. It’s been at the back of my mind ever since- when I went to Dublin and Edinburgh I took hundreds of pictures to help me study oddly shaped and colourful buildings, and dedicated a section of my external hard drive to artists who had drawn or painted them.

In Rain - Ludwig Bemelmans
Ludwig Bemelmans – from “Madeline” – “In Rain…”

I discovered two key things during this ongoing study.

a) My buildings didn’t have to be architecturally perfect. Not every window, door and brick had to be identical- in fact, the more I embraced the different shapes as opposed to getting bogged down in the detail, the more improvement I noticed.

b) The interest in buildings for me doesn’t necessarily lie in how they look… Their relationship to outside effects- eg. age, weather, daily routines happening around them is where their appeal lies.

In November of last year, my brother and I organised a surprise trip to Cornwall for my Mum’s birthday. Despite my previous studies, I realised during this visit that I’d never completed a project solely based around buildings. So, over the next couple of months, I documented our journeys around Marazion, Penzance and St. Ives through the buildings we came across, as often as I could completing a piece per day as a warm-up. One of my official New Year’s resolutions was to complete this project, and this post is designed to share it with you!

Kernow- A Visual Diary – © 2017/2018 Carina Roberts Illustration

The King's Arms (signed) 72DPI © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“The King’s Arms” – Marazion

 

St. Ives Street (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“St. Ives Street” – St. Ives
St. Ives Street 2 - Elderly couple © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“St Ives Street 2 – The Climb” – St. Ives
St. Ives Fishmonger (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“Fishmonger” – St. Ives
St. Ives Day (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“Daily Route” – St. Ives
Marazion High Street (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“High Street” – Marazion
St. Ives Street III Final (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“St. Ives Street 3”
Marazion High Street - Night Final (low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Night” – Marazion
St. Ives Street 4 Final (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“St. Ives Street 4” – St. Ives
Cornish Pub sketch final (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“The Sloop Inn” – St. Ives
Penzance Harbour (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Penzance Harbour” – Penzance
Penzance Pub (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Penzance Pub” – Penzance
Market Place- St. Ives (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Market Place” – St. Ives
Marazion street painting (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Marazion Street” – Marazion
Jowder's Cottage (Low Res) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Jowders Morning” – Marazion
Washing Day Final Artwork (72DPI) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Washing Day” – St. Ives
Beach Garden Final Artwork (72DPI) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Beach Garden” – St. Ives
Marazion Dusk Final Artwork (72DPI) © 2018 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Dusk” – Marazion

 

I’m slowly improving in my building painting- in that I’ve learned a huge amount about why I always hated them as subject matter, and how I can apply the skills I’ve enjoyed in illustrating other things to making them interesting to me!

As you can see from some of these pages, I’m also actively doing a lot more work with different types of lighting (which has also scared me in the past) – another of my resolutions this year! There’s a post I would like to write soon about a very showery walk I went on recently up quite a steep hill- the patches of cloud and sunlight dancing across the blustery sky made for some really impressive lighting, which is my next challenge to have a go at painting since finishing this mini-project!

There’s a lot to look forward to this year, and a lot of work to be done… But that’s how I like it!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

“Cara”- Capturing animal behaviours in human form

Cara sleeping © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

Hello my lovelies!

It’s been a while again, hasn’t it? This particular post has been a long time coming, but as it concerns a very special project I couldn’t rush it!

As I mentioned back in August, this time I’ll be discussing the development of a human character with all the grace of a seal, in a story I’m devloping which draws upon one of my favourite Irish legends. This project will eventually be put forward as an entry for a competition, so I’m not going to share much of the finished work until it’s all submitted. I can, however, share with you my process thus far of how this character has developed!

A little to begin with for those who haven’t yet understood the Irish legend I’m referring to.

The Selkie was a mythical creature who lived as a seal in the water, who by shedding its blubbery skin on land, would become human. Most of the stories I had read about Selkies had been sad, mostly where female Selkies had come ashore to have their skins hidden by possessive men who wanted to marry them for their beauty. If the skins were not found, the Selkie would remain trapped on land and could never return to the ocean.

Poor seals!

One thing I always found a little strange about the classic depiction of all the lady Selkies was their grace and poise on land. Of course, they may have been journeying out of the water every week to practice walking on land for all I know, but it got me thinking; how might a Selkie be who had never been out of the water before? Would they know how to walk down a flight of stairs, or sleep in a bed?

I wanted to create a human character with all of the heart, soul and playfulness of a seal. Clumsy, comical on land, unbelievably graceful in water. Cheeky, intelligent, sometimes greedy; inquisitive, sometimes shy and others very aggressive!

To begin this journey, I had to plunge headfirst into the realm of the seal.

The Seal Study

Seal behaviour sketches (Low Res) signed © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration .jpg
Seals drawn from BBC’s “Wild Ireland”.

Despite being one of my most favourite animals, I had never seen a seal in real life before setting out on this project. I’d seen sea lions at the zoo when I was younger, but they just weren’t the same (and also not native to UK or Irish waters.) In this case, the study of a seal’s behaviour was my first step in creating this very special character.

I did some research, discovering that one of the best times to see seals on land was during their breeding season, beginning round about September. One of the best places in the UK to track them down was apparently in West Pembrokeshire, on and around Skomer island. So, my partner and I made the trek across, to discover that the boat (due to bad weather) was not running that day. The crossing for Skomer is very near a National Trust walk around the Marloes Peninsula which we decided to do instead, to see if we could spot any of the elusive grey seals we were after from the cliff edges.

We were not disappointed.

Marloes Seals 2 (Detail 2) (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
Mother seal, making her way into the cold Pembrokeshire ocean. © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
Marloes Seals (Detail) (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
Waiting for the wave to pass… © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

Marloes Seals 1 (72DPI) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

Seal sketches- Pembrokeshire (Low Res) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
Young seal pup still sporting its “lanugo”, (fluffy white baby coat) dragging itself across the sand to visit an older relative.

After this experience, I was looking everywhere for more seal inspiration to draw from. The first sketchbook I started for this project is absolutely bursting with hundreds of seals- from life, books, television, anywhere they could be found.

Seals eating plan
Did you know, a seal commonly has 3-6 pairs of eyebrows? © Artwork 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

I began to look for detail in each seal that I could use to start drafting a closely linked human character. The huge, liquid eyes, dark facial markings, and fluffed out, podgy, strong bodies of the animals I was studying were all things that seemed important to help draw the comparison between the two.

Cara seal expression sheet final (Low Res) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“Cara” – Exploring her human form. © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
Cara detail portrait (Low Res) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“Cara Portrait” – Dark whiskers on the seal pup’s face become a maze of freckles and thick eyebrows.  © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

After plenty of initial scribbling to begin to understand how Cara, as I named her, would translate into her more human guise, my next step was to explore how her movement might register as comically un-human. The natural starting point was to teach her how to walk.

Cara learns to walk (Low Res) signed © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“Cara learns to walk” – Sketch page. Trying to keep the low gravity and toddling, unsteady gait of a much younger child was my aim in “teaching” Cara to walk as a person. © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

Every action Cara undertakes as a person initially has to look deliberate, determined and a little clumsy, to match the seal inside. Despite being a book concept, I have begun to plan certain spreads in my first dummy version of this story as you might a hand-drawn animation- exploring movement by movement how best to present a particular scene and different ways she might tackle them. As a method of working this hadn’t been planned from the start- but for a character with such unusual movements it’s far becoming my favourite!

Cara meal sketch detail (Low Res) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“The Meal” – detail from a sketchbook page. “Her freckled face peering inquisitvely over the bowl’s rim.” © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration

One sequence I’m planning at the moment involves Cara’s first meal as a human. This would be the first instance where she would encounter crockery, cutlery, sitting down to eat (as well as table manners!) I’ve heard it said by many veteran illustrators that the best images depict the split second before something happens. Drawing close to frame by frame has helped me to determine the moment between intrigue and face-first feasting within this scene!

This is going to be a long journey, but one I feel really excited about. I’m still planning the first dummy draft of the full book, but each page of this is surrounded with notes- notes of research and reference material that will help make this world more real, as well as different, possibly more effective alternative spreads that I can trial alongside the one in this first draft. Like a comedy routine, it takes a lot of work and rehearsal to find the perfect joke- and to find the most effective ways to present the lovable, clumsy, and kind-hearted soul that is Cara.

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Next time I’ll be sharing a visual diary from a recent trip to Cornwall- a mini-project I undertook to tackle some of my illustrative worries head on!

Thanks for reading!

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.

 

 

Inktober 2016- Personalities of British Wildlife!

Good evening, lovely readers!

I’m delighted to announce that, for the first year since attempting the challenge, I have successfully completed Inktober!

For those of you who have never heard of it, Inktober is a simple concept- one sketch or artwork must be completed for every day of October, in an ink based medium… Whether it be an inky painting or even just a biro sketch, the whole idea is to keep up artistic momentum throughout the month, and to perhaps take the opportunity to dabble in a new medium. Inktober is called a challenge for a reason, though- it’s tricky to do a drawing every day on top of everything else that’s going on in life, particularly one that you’re proud of and happy to share with the world! I’ve struggled in the past but this year I was adamant that I would finish the challenge, with 31 drawings I was really happy with.

After going to an exhibition of Quentin Blake’s work earlier this year in Cardiff Museum, it’s been at the back of my mind to try working with bottled ink and a scratchy pen again. When I was younger I was very interested in calligraphy, receiving a small kit as a birthday present with a fine-nibbed fancy pen, different coloured bottled inks and smooth parchment paper. As I was searching for materials to use in this challenge, I came across them again at the back of my shelf, and decided it was high time for them to shine once more!

I think that part of the reason that I’ve struggled in the past is because I was always trying to think of a separate theme every day- after a couple of weeks, to keep spewing out an entire concept from scratch every day, AND complete all the other work I wanted and needed to get done, AND keep up with everything else always got a little too much for me to handle, so I would abandon the challenge.

This year, I decided on a different approach to make it work- to decide on, and stick to one theme that could run throughout, to transform it into a project I was really immersed in. Those who have followed my work over time will recognise my passion for nature and natural history, (many of my more recent characters and projects centring around animals) and I was very keen for this challenge to follow suit. In the end, I decided to spend this October exploring the characters of our best-loved British wildlife; my favourites can be found below! (The full 31 drawing-long shebang can be found here, in the album of “Inktober 2016”.)

Inktober Day 1 - Fat Robin signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Day One- I tried to make sure that this exercise was never just about drawing a robin, instead I would try to truly see a robin for all it is- for its symbolism and significance, its character and personality in the grand scheme of our wonderful wildlife.
Inktober Day 2- Hedgehog signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Day Two- The hedgehog’s spikes were by far my favourite thing about this sketch- the scratchy pen I had on hand lent itself well to lots of quick little marks.
Inktober Day 5- Three British Owls signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Day Five- A trio of the wisest birds in the land. Their eyes always give the impression that they’ve seen everything.
Inktober Day 7- A Quartet of Edible mushrooms signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Day Seven- A little part of me danced for joy sketching this one… I’ve always had a huge interest in plants and fungi, maybe because when I was smaller I wanted to become a witch who made fancy brews from weird and wonderful ingredients. Either that, or a knight. Or a pirate.  I would have been happy with any of the above. Here are a collection of four edible mushrooms.
Day 14- Common Frog signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Day Fourteen- I’ve always struggled a little more with smooth-skinned creatures, as the lines you need to create a smooth as opposed to a furry body have to be a lot more clear and decisive. That said, I really enjoyed drawing these Common Frogs, and loved drawing in more fluid lines.
Day 17- Grey Seal Pup signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Ilustration.jpg
Day Seventeen- Grey Seal Pups. Cheeky, playful, stuffed full of charm and character- look at those liquid eyes! I remembered a particular video I once saw while drawing these little chaps which featured a seal in Ireland waiting patiently outside a fish and chip shop for an offering while completely blocking the road up.
Day 20- Badger signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Day Twenty- I’ve always loved the shambling way that badgers walk, not to mention their beautiful facial markings. I remember reading a story as a young child about how the badger got his stripes… He was marked as a thief with two blacks stripes after stealing a swan’s white feathers to fix his stained coat. On the contrary, badgers are usually depicted as more shy, kind creatures in most of our folk tales and popular fiction, a character which I preferred to coax out of this drawing.
Day 22- Shrewd signed © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Day Twenty-two. Shrewd. Shrewsbury. Shrewish. How-do-you-shrew. Pleasingly round, comical creatures, deceptively vicious. Solely carnivores too, apparently.

After this challenge had just ended, I had another opportunity to study the character of some Great British wildlife in the flesh, when I had the exciting privilege to meet a young wood mouse. My partner’s father is a talented photographer who also delights in natural subjects, and he had come across this young mouse one rainy, cold evening thinking it was dead… When he noticed it breathing, however, he brought it inside to the vivarium he often photographs caterpillars in to keep it warm and safe while it recovered (and take some pictures, of course!) He was convinced it was fairly young as it was very tame, and more inquisitive than anxious about human presence. A once in a lifetime opportunity for drawing- I was sat only inches away from the little creature as it gazed at me through huge, blackberry pip eyes. After a couple of trips back to its little nest of dry leaves to squiggle around, the mouse sat so still I was able to do a full colour sketch on the spot… In fact, it was so relaxed that it started to fall asleep!

Frankie Mouse © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
First introduction- little mouse comes to say hello! It was fascinating to watch its quick, decisive movements, and see how fast it breathes- it’s easy to forget that a mouse’s life is lived at twice, even three or four times the speed of ours… We must seem so lumbering and slow to them!
Frankie Mouse Sketchbook Page 2 © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
At one point, little mouse returned to its nest of dry leaves to peep out at me, leaving one large ear poking out of the gaps.
Frankie Mouse sketch sheet 3 © 2016 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Little mouse stayed still for so long in the end that I managed to draw a full colour sketch in addition to lots of movement studies. A fine life model indeed!

You never know where you’ll find your next little source of inspiration, never shut your eyes or ears to the possibilities!

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 Preparations: The adventures of William the mouse!

Hello, hej, hallo and bonjour to all you wonderful readers!

It’s that time again- there’s a change coming in the air, a chill at night that’s heralding the end of summer… Time to stock up on fluffy jumpers and hot chocolate! (And a pair of new wellies. Or a canoe. With today’s rain I’m thinking of the latter.)

I’ve had a busy couple of months, no change there: and a busy week so far, designing and deciding on work for promotional packs to send out into the big wide world, to some carefully selected corporate greetings card and book publishing companies- fingers crossed that with a lot of patience (and only a hint of bloody mindedness!) I can land myself a beast of a contract!

As my desk looks like a wintry north wind has blown through it with all the furious drawing, reworking and painting, this month’s blog post will be about my process from beginning to end of one particular favourite design, a vignette artwork entitled “Fall.” As with a lot of my artwork that I end up using for greetings cards ranges, it sparked into life as a little poem, which I’ve included in “Story Corner” for you all to enjoy- concerning the particular problems of a chubby little harvest mouse named William.

Step one: Research and initial sketches.

Ye can’t create a good artwork without sturdy foundations.

I like to try and complete my research and initial sketches in tandem: that is to say, when I see something particularly interesting during the research process, it will spark a little light on in my brain which I’ll quickly scribble down. This is why you may have heard the stories about a lot of writers keeping a notebook by their bed: it’s the same for illustrators, you have to grab that fluttery little chaffinch of an idea before it flits back into the thickets of your subconscious. I suppose the most important thing to remember is to never switch off, and to always be armed with a sketchbook and a sharp pencil. You never know when something is going to inspire you- so keep your eyes peeled at all times!

Since a lot of my artwork is inspired by nature and animals, I find that taking a walk with my sketchbook is the best research I can do for new material. It can also help if you have creative friends who are similarly inspired: making a promise to meet someone for a drawing session on a specific day will help you to keep to your schedule, and be less likely to fall victim to the “Oh, but it’s raining!” / “Just 5 more minutes in bed…” demons. Just last week I went scurrying about Margam Park with an old illustrator friend to draw some of the animals and scenery, we were out for a good few hours and it was very fruitful!

Goats

Sparrows at Margam Park

I was actually reading an article about Harvest Mice when I started scribbling down my first initial sketches for “Fall”- a photo showed a particularly small mouse frozen in between two plant heads, camouflaged and attempting not to catch a predator’s prying eyes. I surrounded this sketch with small notes about what was working and what could be better- trying to understand how the little creature must be feeling. (This is when the first little spark popped into my head for his little poem mentioned at the beginning of this post.)

 %22Fall%22 initial sketch

I always try to keep separate sketchbooks for research and designs- as well as making things easier to find later on, (it’s easier, for example, to find a harvest mouse sketch in a book of animal drawings than it is to find it in a sketchbook labelled “Research Book 1”) it’s quite difficult to draw something out again when it’s on a previous page in one sketchbook. Drawing out an initial sketch into a new book surrounded by blank space gives me a lot more room to make notes and circle specific elements of a starting point, and psychologically I feel better knowing that I have the rest of a double page, blank, to begin working up the idea. Try it- you’ll notice a big difference!

Initial sketches and development

Now, this is the fun part- the development stage is a lovely time during the design process where you’re never too precious over making your work look clean or finished: the freedom of which usually results in more natural and interesting linework and squiggles!

Once I’d drawn out my initial sketch and made some notes, I started working the design up in pencil sketches (and photocopying my initial sketch to work over the top in a different colour, to make the mouse fatter!)

This is how your design will evolve- by drawing it out several times, you will try adding or taking away or changing elements that your brain will throw out- for example, I added some extra grass fronds, and then took them away as they served to be more of a distraction for the eye; I tried bending the wheat stalks underneath the fatter mouse’s weight; and changing the placement of his feet to suggest weight and desperation- a real sense that he was clutching on with all of his might, in a split second to begin falling off.

 Initial sketches 2

This stage usually takes the longest for me to feel happy with- the final form of the design can sometimes take a fair while to materialise with trying out all the possibilities, but I can feel when it’s ready.

Introducing colour

When I’m happy with the black and white form of my design, it’s time to start exploring colour! Similarly to developing the sketch in black and white, the colouring process can take a little while to get right, but it’s definitely worth the wait!

You will probably have had thoughts about colour palettes for your design during the process already: but if not, have a think about all the things you want to convey with your image. Is the subject happy, peaceful or commiserating? Is it depicting a warm or a cold location?

As I work mainly from nature, I will usually work with seasonal colour palettes. (You wouldn’t believe the difference the weather and temperature make on my choice of colours!) For “Fall”, I was working from the glorious weather we were having last week: warm sunshine, with a hint of briskness in the cold nights beginning to creep in; a lot of warm oranges, golds and browns. If I was to use these colours undiluted in the final design, though, it would be very difficult for the eye to process: too much of any one colour can be a bit swamping!

I slowly introduced little touches of blues and greens in the wheat to help make the oranges look warmer and even more pleasing to the eye, and suggest a lot of things that we associate with autumn: the last of the warm weather, lots of good food from a harvest which makes us feel happily fat and sleepy, and a glow of happiness spreading from our toes to our noses.

William the mouse first colour test

Final design finished

Right up to the final design, I am still making little notes about how to improve, or reminders of particular processes to remember during the creation of the final artwork. I’ll always draw out my composition sketchy in the final artwork first- to retain some of the freedom of the development stage to trick myself into not feeling daunted by the task of completing the final image. I’ll begin to mark in fur, dark areas and details with a hard pencil that won’t smudge underneath the washes of watercolour and ink (my favourite is a now very stubby Mars Lumograph ‘H’ pencil) and begin to work up the colour, from light to dark: here beginning with a rich orange-yellow, and moving onto the browns, greens and blues in the shadows.

SAMSUNG CSC

The last thing I’ll ever do in an artwork (ceremonial, perhaps- like breathing life into a new creation!) will be to paint the darkest layer onto the eyes. From there I can scan the artwork once dry, have prints and cards manufactured, and fix the original into a frame too, if I want to sell it.

From one starting point can stem many possible artworks, remember:

Mouse nest

This design idea came from William the chubster’s initial sketches too- his partner Teasel, who may have encouraged him to stockpile his food instead of eating it all in one go, squished happily into her newly woven nest. I’m currently working on the colour scheme to shift this nest scene from warm autumn to frosty cold winter for an upcoming craft fair. (Keep an eye out for the finished design under “Greetings Cards” in the bar above, and on my Facebook page!)

As it’ll be in October, I want my stand to show a progression into the colder months, using warmer colours and leaves at one end, and leafless twigs with lots of blue hues and Christmassy items at the other. My preparations and designs for this will be included in next month’s update!

Until then: never stop thinking, drawing and painting, my friends: it’s what keeps you alive!

– 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.