It's October! Which means it's time for all our favourite love-to-hate (or is that hate-to-love?) month of daily drawing challenges!
If you've been with me since I founded Also the Bison in 2016 you might remember that I took part in Inktober as a way of generating ideas while I got ready to launch my business (or, to put it another way, to keep myself occupied while I waited for my first batch of silk scarves to be printed). I've tried to participate in one form or another every year since then, with limited success.
A bison from October 2016
This year I'm determined to make it all the way through again! I think it's a really great way to see how far my drawing skills have come, especially by using the medium of ink which I find much trickier than watercolour. I'm very reliant on colour in my work so reducing my art down to just black ink focusses me on shadow, tone and detail and I hope will help me grow as an artist!
In October 2017 I experimented with coloured inks
- why I chose to paint every illustration on one sheet of paper remains a mystery.
I've always gone my own way with prompts, and tried to focus on illustrating a subject that I'm particularly interested in at the time. This is especially important now as there is some controversy over the behaviour of the artist who founded Inktober (you can read about that here). This year I've written out my prompt list so you can join in if you want, or just hold me to account if I get behind!
So, why bugs? One reason is that bugs have been one of the central themes of my work since the beginning. The Honeybee print was one of my first range of ten prints that I launched and the Butterfly print has become my calling card (oh! you're the girl with the butterflies). I've come a long way since illustrating these designs and I'm eager to revisit them.
A moth from October 2016
A Small Emperor Moth: Day 2 October 2020
The other reason I want to focus on insects is that I've been thinking about them a lot! I am currently reading The Heyday of Natural History by Lynn Barber (which I would thoroughly recommend) and I've been thinking about how my own fascination with natural history and exploring the world around us has been inspired and informed by early naturalists. My work has always been heavily inspired by museums and illustrations in old books and taxidermy, most of which we have early naturalists to thank for.
An antique Lepidoptera display in Whitby Museum
The reason why we have so many of these displays is that early naturalists, Victorian and Georgian enthusiasts spent every spare minute of their day combing the countryside for new species. Although large expeditions like Darwin's voyage on The Beagle were beyond the scope of the average naturalist, categorising insects was a hobby open to everyone. It was one of the few things in that period that transcended age and class, factory workers combed their surroundings for moths at night just as the middle class would catch caddisflies on the coast. Not only were they collecting their own specimens, they eagerly wrote to each other up and down the country and used the newly established penny post to send each other their latest finds, kind of like how we would trade pokemon cards today.
A Scarab Beetle: Day 1 October 2020
I've been so inspired by this. There's a lot of dark parts of history, especially in the Georgian and Victorian eras and it's wonderful to find a relatively innocent glimpse of joy in people's everyday lives. It just goes to show we're not so different.
I would love to start up my own Entomology Club and send out an illustrated specimen every month, as a surprise parcel of joy to look forward to, whether that be in the format of a postcard or a pin or something else. What do you think? Would this be something you'd be interested in? What would you like to see? I'd love to know your thoughts!