Tag Archives: Inktober

Eire, Seaspray and Seal Girls – A Silent Book Project Update!

Hello again! Here’s hoping your February has been a lovely one!

Following on from my excitable first post of the year (all about meeting and drawing a vole!) there’s a lot I want to share with you!

Firstly, a proper recap on the final months of last year:

-Back in September I joined my Portishead Arts buddies for another exhibition- definitely the best yet! The highlight had to be the sale of one of my absolute favourite artworks to date- “Hook”!

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“Hook”, Gouache and coloured pencil. (I had such fun experimenting with movement and colour on this one!) © 2017/18 Carina Roberts Illustration

The lovely customers in question bought “Hook” for their new child-to-be, to hang in the nursery.  It’s an indescribable feeling to see something you created make someone so happy!

-I participated in my first outdoor event in October, Made in North Somerset – aside from torrential downpours throughout half of the day it was really pretty lovely- with a surprisingly determined turnout of visitors!

-The highlight of the last months of 2018, though, has to be a round trip to Dublin and Anglesey that my partner and I took. We crossed from Dublin Port to Holyhead on the penultimate morning of our adventure – my first time on a ferry since I was around 5 years old! The journey started very early in the morning, and we watched dawn break over the skyline of Dublin out in a bracing wind. It was lovely and warm inside the ferry but I was having a whale of a time out on the deck, being buffeted about and staving off my impending queasiness!

 

 

Sadly I didn’t get round to that much drawing while we were away (as per usual, we were marching about all over the place too much!) but I took a lot of reference photos!

The whole time we were away, I was thinking about “Cara” – my silent book project about the seal girl.  During the past year it’s been one of those projects I’ve constantly had on my mind, but haven’t really gotten round to writing a proper update on. Well, this is that update! Since I wrote about “Capturing animal behaviours in human form”, I’ve been working on fleshing out the world of the story, as well as breathing more life into the characters themselves. Let me fill you in!

 

Building a world, exploring the land

 

 

Howth, Anglesey and Dublin- ink studies of coastal views!

Selkie legends are told in the Orkney Islands (north of Scotland) and in communities all the way down the UK’s rugged coastline to Ireland. That is to say, although each society  would claim the idea of a seal who can shed its skin and walk on land as a human as its own, it’s really more of a widespread folk tale along our shores. I wasn’t, therefore, looking to recreate one particular area in which to set the story – the West Coast of Ireland, for example- but I was building a world based on all the settlements whose cultures have been shaped by their connection to the sea. To speak through the environment of this story, I have to make it recognisable, even nostalgic for those who have grown up among these surroundings, and capture part of the culture to explain them to those who haven’t.

A bit of a meaty aim, really.

In terms of research, though, this couldn’t have been more fun! I’ve carried my camera and my sketchbook around the UK and beyond wherever I go, and take as many notes and drawings as possible! (This ties in neatly with one of my main drawing goals from the past couple of years- GET BETTER AT DRAWING BUILDINGS!)

Those who are avid readers of this blog might remember my “Kernow” project– drawings of Cornwall from a surprise trip we took for my Mum’s birthday- completed for this purpose exactly!

 

 

In the same way that drawing from my experiences of Marazion, Penzance and St. Ives helped me to remember all the little nooks we’d discovered along the way, I realised that it was going to take lots and LOTS of drawings to build up a gradual picture of a coastal location, to create a convincing setting for the story.

Also around this time was when I rediscovered the work of one of my absolute favourite illustrators, Raymond Briggs, and began to take notes about his storytelling. (Incidentally, I watched an amazing documentary called “Raymond Briggs: Snowmen, Bogeymen and Milkmen” – if you have even the slightest interest in Mr. Briggs or his work, I urge you to take a look!) A couple of his books feature very few, if any words – the narrative is unfurled through animation-like sequences of smaller images.

The Snowman - Raymond Briggs

I started having a go at some sequential narrative inspired by how Briggs tells his stories.

Jowder's Hallway (Final) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“The Hallway” – a short sequential narrative exploring a character’s movement through their home. (Reference- cottage in Marazion, Cornwall) © 2017/18 Carina Roberts Illustration

With his processes in mind, and in order to make use of all those reference photos I’d taken in Dublin, Anglesey and elsewhere too, I challenged myself during Inktober this year to draw a short journey that could somehow inspire, or fit into, the story of Cara.

 

“The Bike Ride” – Quink ink, white pencil, calligraphy ink.

The resulting month’s drawings (above) introduced a typical weatherbeaten, salt-sprayed village recovering from a coastal storm. Only one figure really features throughout the whole sequence- unintentional when I begun the drawings, but useful to realise partway through the challenge, as I started to think of the project as a 31 “frame” glimpse through the eyes of someone who travels through it every day. This sequence became a way to introduce both of my main characters- like in a photo album, each image represents some memory to the little lad Ronan of the day he found an injured seal. As I worked on his physical appearance in tandem with this sequence, I thought about how I could symbolise elements of his personality in these little thumbnails.

For example, the sea is pivotal to setting the scene of the story, but having it feature in so many of the images could suggest that this little boy thinks about it a lot – does water calm him when he’s had a bad day? Or could he even see the sea as a threat, something he’s afraid of perhaps? And the aforementioned lack of other characters featuring throughout the panels- does he prefer to be alone, or does he simply live in quite an isolated community? Could he even be lonely?

This explosion of questions revealed a whole new side to the characters I was designing- particularly this little chap. Understanding more about his personality meant that I could now go all-out to design a character to match!

 

Traits embodied- character design progression over the last year

Over the course of the previous few months, Ronan has been emerging slowly, shyly- a thoughtful young fellow, quite the opposite to the exuberant seal-girl he befriends.

(Below- some of my first sketches deciding on Ronan’s appearance!)

Ronan sketch 72DPI © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Ronan” – An early sketch and reference point. Woolly hair, salt-stiffened but carefully kept. © 2017/18 Carina Roberts Illustration
Ronan sketch - Coat 72DPI © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Ronan’s Coat” – Experimenting with a big layer of clothing a shy child can hide behind and inside… © 2017/18 Carina Roberts Illustration
Ronan's Home Final (Low Res) © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“A quick rest” © 2017/18 Carina Roberts Illustration
Ronan and Cara 72DPI © 2017 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Meeting the locals” – Ronan’s method of rescuing an injured seal. (Also, a quick impression of how a native might react to a seal in the middle of town!) © 2017/18 Carina Roberts Illustration

Something I’ve really enjoyed planning is how I can portray characters without any of the clues that might come from dialogue- this is a wordless picture book, after all! When developing both Ronan and Cara, this has forced me to concentrate my efforts on their expressions and body language almost exclusively to show their complimentary personalities.

I rediscovered the classic series “Camberwick Green” and its sibling programme “Trumpton” back in October 2018 when I wasn’t feeling well. Interestingly, I observed that throughout both programmes, mouths are really only visible on characters that are speaking loudly or shouting- a lot of the story is told through their gestures and expressions instead!

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Captain Snort of Pippin Fort- his mouth is often visible as he shouts at his troops!
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Concentration… Mickey Murphy the baker’s mouth is rarely seen, he’s too busy to be talking!

 

(Left- “Ronan’s jumper” – experimenting with textures and patterns inspired by the Aran wool shops in Dublin. Right- building on sequences of movement, and subtle expression which can still say a lot!)

Ronan expression sheet FV (LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
“Early expression sheet” – Planning subtle emotional responses of Ronan. Some expressions are missing- for the boy who feels deeply, but doesn’t always show it…     © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

“Camberwick Green” became an important influence in character development- and not just for Ronan! The energetic, animated gesticulations of some of the busier characters gave me a great deal of inspiration in how to portray Cara’s personality through her movements. As a reminder from my previous post, this was how she began:

“… 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 with, I had worked on aligning Cara’s seal and human counterparts- for example carrying through her colouring as a young seal, replacing her whiskers and mottled fur with hairy eyebrows and freckles. Very quickly though, I realised that something was missing- in a lot of traditional depictions of the selkie which I’d looked at in my early research, the human aspect ended up being willowy, slim; with none of the substance and weight of a seal.

So I’ve been studying heavier, rounder and stronger body shapes, to unite Cara in both of her skins!

Cara simplified sketch (LR) © 2018:19 Carina Roberts Illustration
“Seated” – An early digital sketch to work out simple shapes to include in Cara’s form. © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration
Cara character sketches (levels, neatened - FV LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration.jpg
Experimenting with rounder shapes- how might borrowed, loose clothing fall around Cara’s seal-like form?  (Beginning to explore textures) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration
Cara lineup (LR) © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration
How can Cara’s gestures occupy space, in order to demonstrate her exuberant personality? (Continuing exploration of borrowed clothing.) “Cara studies” – 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration

 

(Above- (Left) Inquistive exploration of a new environment- how would a seal react to household objects? (Right) “Patchwork Bundle” – Exploring textures, form and bright colours. © 2018/19 Carina Roberts Illustration

What Does A Seal Dream? LR © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration
“What Does a Seal Dream?” © 2019 Carina Roberts Illustration       Bright colours reveal Cara’s sunny personality with no explanation needed!

 

My mind has been bursting waiting to share this work with you! I’m so, so happy with how this concept is developing- another update will be along later in the year! In the mean-time, please never forget the importance of your more personal projects- when your heart and soul goes into something, it really shows!

Next time, I’ll be discussing the design process for some new dog-themed Mother’s Day greetings cards I’ve produced this year!

Until then, all the very best of wishes,

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.

Speedy Gonzales!!

This is the shortest post I’ve ever written, but it’s just a “NEW THINGS” alert:

I’m almost finished updating my work Facebook page- which is exclusively for sharing artwork. There’s still some things to sort out, but I’ll be sharing all my Inktober efforts on it. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/CarinaRobertsIllustration/timeline

Please take a look, and give it a like if you 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.