Since my illustration ‘Hare and Hay Bales’ appeared on the cover of Itchen Valley Forum magazine last August, I’m enjoying a busy year of interesting and challenging commissions. Not just within my home county, but further afield too. I usually work on a fairly small scale as I create my limited edition prints of Hampshire wildlife. Buyers like to collect my illustrations in series and cluster them together on their walls. But lately I have taken on some exciting large-scale projects for a broad range of clients.
Close to home
I work from my home studio in Four Marks, in the north east of Hampshire. The country lanes lined with hedgerows, field margins and woodland provide much of the inspiration behind my work. Skylarks are the soundtrack to morning walks with my dog, together with the friendly toot of steam engines of the Mid-Hants Railway.
In February I was approached by the Festival Committee to create artwork for a village sign. They asked me to include three key landmarks: a heritage signpost, Swelling Hill Pond and The Watercress Line. I also had to represent the hilly nature of the village. (Many years ago locals joked of going ‘over the Alps’ to get to Four Marks.) As the work progressed, the brewery, ‘Triple f’, was included as a direction on the sign. Installation is due this month and hopefully villagers and visitors alike will share my pride in the village.
Across the border
Over in Berkshire I was commissioned by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust to create a two metre-long panel for The Discovery Centre. Tucked away in Thatcham is a wildlife oasis of lakes, internationally important reedbeds, a community orchard and a lakeside visitor centre. The panel is a low-tech ‘lift-the-flaps’ illustration helping children and families to discover the local wildlife in a fun and interactive way. Here I wanted to convey the natural rhythms of the landscape – a cross-section of a bank, pond and lake.
A centre-piece in the Nene Valley
My largest commission is a series of three wall murals for the new Nene Wetlands Visitor Centre in Northamptonshire with work spanning six-metres by three metre walls. The first mural is a map showing the wildlife and heritage of the Nene Valley. The second shows the activities people can enjoy, from picnicking and bird watching, to fishing and canoeing. The third mural invites viewers to get closer to the wetland wildlife.
My first department store
The visitor centre murals then led to another commission from the neighbouring Rushden Lakes shopping centre. The new House of Fraser will be installing two bespoke murals that I have created for the children’s changing rooms. The aim is to inspire families to visit the wildlife next door.
With all of the large-scale work I have tried to keep it simple, focusing on clear lines and bold colours, characteristics of my smaller-scale work. Paul Thurlby, the illustrator behind the National Treasures summer campaign for John Lewis nationwide has observed, ‘illustration is really there to catch your eye, so you have to make it as simple as possible.’ I’ve tried to do this too.
Hampshire Open Studios
Back in Hampshire, August is the month that hundreds of artists across the county are gearing up for Hampshire Open Studios. We’re all busy finishing work, spring-cleaning our workspaces and displaying our wares in preparation for opening our doors to the visiting public. This week-long event from 19th to 28th. To find out what’s on view and to plan your own trail pick up a free HOS brochure available in galleries, shops, cafés and libraries.
I will be opening The Stores in Four Marks from Friday 25th August up to and including Bank Holiday, 10-4.30pm. This year, new work includes wildlife along the River Itchen and a series of ‘Four Seasons along The Watercress Line’.
To find out more please visit www.rachelhudsonillustration.com