The Digital Corncrake

Another experiment with a graphics tablet
Another experiment with a graphics tablet

It was a foul day yesterday, so what better opportunity to stay in and play with the graphics tablet I was lent at the start of the year. Working with a stylus and having to negotiate photoshop made for a frustrating challenge, but I was encouraged by the tremendous scope for chopping and changing made possible with digital artwork. My first attempt was a wheatear standing in the clover, but feeling unsatisfied with the end product, I was able to transplant the clover into a second picture (above), using the same colours to blend the lines of the surgery so that you can’t now see them.

Sketching out the shapes and forms is surprisingly difficult, and working in a world without texture takes some getting used to. It is interesting to think that most people would disregard a picture drawn on a computer because it flies in the face of tradition and seems almost like “cheating”. In reality, this was far harder and more creatively demanding than producing the same image on paper with paintbrushes. Whether or not you like the picture, believe me when I say that it was bloody difficult.

I’ve been quite inspired by new techniques over the past few years, and encouraged by various artist friends, I’ve toyed with the idea of lino cutting and screen printing. The end result of this digital experiment has something of the effect I’ve been looking for, and it reminds me of some of the New Naturalist covers illustrated by Robert Gillmor. I’m feeling my way with this very tentatively, but I think there is scope for some good fun here.

As far as the subject matter goes, I was working with the loose idea for a front cover for an imagined “New Naturalist” guide to the Outer Hebrides. With a hotly anticipated trip to North Uist on the horizon later in the spring, I can’t help looking back to that hebridean blend of irises and corncrakes which provided the backdrop to a fantastic holiday on Tiree in 2013.


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