“Wild Lives” Comics Project

THE STORY

In March 2019 I whisked myself away from the bright lights of Edinburgh and headed west for a month-long artists’ residency in the peninsula of Morvern.

Arranged by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Ardtornish Estate, the residency offered access to the Rahoy Hills Wildlife Reserve, a large and rugged patch of wilderness encompassing ancient woodland, moorland, mountains and lochs and all the beasties that thrive within.

(It was a truly wonderful and therapeutic experience, and I’ll now forever highly recommend a stint in nature for anyone who needs to clear their head.)

View of Rahoy Hills, from Aoineadh Mor

View of Rahoy Hills, from Aoineadh Mor

For the next four weeks I explored the reserve and from my cottage began studying its inhabitants: red deer, wildcats, golden eagles, sea eagles, otters, pine martens, badgers, moles and bats (and many more mammals, birds, invertebrates and reptiles).

Already a zoology enthusiast and conservationist, I was keen to learn as much as possible about my country’s native species, and that I did. There were unfathomable differences; how a bat detects its prey using echolocation is a totally alien concept, and striking similarities; the single-purpose “rooms” that a mole constructs in its burrow are a bit more familiar. I was surrounded by fascinating creatures who lived their lives in different but surprisingly similar ways to your average human.

Panels from “Moonlight Sonar-ta”, which follows the nocturnal hunting techniques of a Pipistrelle Bat

Panels from “Moonlight Sonar-ta”, which follows the nocturnal hunting techniques of a Pipistrelle Bat

I was adamant that my time spent in Rahoy Hills resulted in something that could educate others on the importance of wildlife conservation. I also wanted to tell stories, because by giving people a brief insight into these animals’ lives on an individual level I believed I could deliver a greater understanding of our country’s native animals and encourage a desire to help protect them.

I also wanted my work to be welcoming and accessible to all - young people and children in particular, and those who might not consider themselves art or nature lovers. For these reasons I knew that comics, as an engaging visual method of storytelling that spans age groups and interests, was the perfect medium.

...And that’s how Wild Lives came to be.

Panels from “Stripeout”, which explores the threats to the Scottish Wildcat population

Panels from “Stripeout”, which explores the threats to the Scottish Wildcat population

The Book

Wild Lives is a collection of six comics, each blending fiction and fact together to explore the diet, habitat, lifecycle or conservation status of a specific animal.

Eurasian otters, European moles, golden eagles, pipistrelle bats, Scottish wildcats and Eurasian Wolves all feature in the book, allowing the reader a glimpse into their lives. Some, I’ll admit, are heavily embellished (unless an otter-hosted cooking show has been broadcast since the time of writing), but it’s all part of the fun, innit?

Panels from “On a Wing”, which centres on a growing Golden Eagle family

Panels from “On a Wing”, which centres on a growing Golden Eagle family

The comics are accompanied by a semi-scientific profile for each animal, with additional facts and of course, cute illustrations.

As well as educating and entertaining readers of all ages, the book aims to incite empathy towards our furry, feathered, scaled, and exoskeleton-ed friends, and endorse the conservation of our natural spaces, for the benefit of all species for years to come.

The “Wild Lives” Kickstarter was successfully funded on 15th October 2019, and is now available to purchase here