Rachel Hudson’s passion for the marine wildlife found around the British Isles imbues her illustrations with character and joy

Words Serena Shores

Brightening the pages of children’s books and nature magazines the lively, colourful work of illustrator Rachel Hudson goes through many detailed processes to distil down the essence of the seashore wildlife about which she is so passionate. ‘I cannot imagine how many hours I have spent on a sandy beach or rocky shore with a sketch book on my lap and the scent of salty air and rotting seaweed in my lungs!’ laughs Rachel, who is based in Hampshire. ‘I find I’m magnetically drawn to the coast; it is a place for contemplation and embracing life and there is nowhere I’d rather spend my time.’

The loose, observational sketches Rachel makes outdoors help her start to determine composition before she returns to her ‘messy’ work bench in her studio where print-making and mark-making adds texture and depth to the design. ‘I’m drawn to coastal landscapes and shoreline birds in particular,’ she says. ‘Watching wading and flocking birds in their natural environment informs my preparatory work, bringing character and movement into it before I sit at my ‘clean’ desk and use my drawing tablet and PC to bring it all together.’

The end result is a transformation into simple, dynamic shapes, all filtered through her minimal realist style, which capture not only the characteristics of her subjects but most importantly, a sense of time and place.

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Rachel and her family spend many hours wandering through Lymington and Pennington Marshes and visiting Hurst Point, overlooking the Isle of Wight. They are regulars at the coastlines of neighbouring counties, West Sussex and Dorset too, and she has also produced seasonal family trails and display boards for rock pools and bird hides for the rangers at Hengistbury Head in Dorset.

‘I love collaborating on projects that help people connect with nature,’ explains Rachel. ‘Seeing terns dive-bombing the water, spoonbills mooching through the shallows, or clockwork sanderling running along the water’s edge, the ebb and flow of the tide – I want my love of form and motion to evoke that insistent squeak of an oystercatcher or the bubbling call of the curlew, a species sadly at risk.’ In that sense, Rachel certainly inspires a true appreciation of the living seashore in all who see her artwork.

Browse Rachel’s range of prints and cards at her online Etsy shop, accessed via rachelhudsonillustration.com. Cards cost £2.75 each, while small, framed prints start at £20, going up to £40 for larger examples. In her home county of Hampshire, her work is also on sale at Bookends of Emsworth, Sea Sky Design in Hamble-le-Rice and the Allen Gallery in Winchester. See her website for more stockists around the country.

Keep updated on Rachel’s new designs and collaborative projects by following her on Instagram at @rhudsonillustration.

To discover more artists, head to our People section or pick up a copy of the magazine.