Hello and welcome to my Sunday Recommendation. Thanks for joining me. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, stumble upon engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music. This is my chance to bring you carefully curated reviews of all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday.
If it’s folk, or independent, or about wildlife, nature or Orkney, I may love it, and so may you.
Secrets of a Devon Wood – Jo Brown
Jo Brown is a professional illustrator with a degree in illustration from Falmouth College. She started a nature journal with detailed illustrations of her finds using pen and ink and markers. As she completed it, page by page, her social media following grew until she shared a video of the notebook and it became an Internet sensation. It’s currently had 1.1 million views on Twitter alone. I’ve really enjoyed seeing her journal grow and with it her following. The more people we have who spend their time engaging with the natural world, the more likely we are to survive as a species.
Here’s Jo in a film by BBC Inside Out South West walking through the woods, making a find and completing a page in the journal.
I’m delighted that Jo’s got an agent, got a book deal and now Secrets of a Devon Wood – My Nature Journal is out in glorious hardback as an exact facsimile of her notebook. Each page is complete with jewel-like treasures of illustrations, breathless commentary and scientific observations. It’s a marvellous object.
Using a lined notebook for the journal is a masterstroke and having off-white pages allows subtle use of white pencil to bring out the intensity of the images without being swamped by the whiteness of the paper.
Every time I open it I smile and want to be out there seeing something as interesting. It’s beautifully observed and composed to make best use of the format. I love how the images go off the page and creep over the central crease as this gives them a lifelike quality, as if they are escaping from the page. I also love the idiosyncratic choice of species. It’s the discovery of a Pirate Spider egg sac, a parasitic fungus growing on an underground truffle or a fungus new to science growing on a spider which mark it out as a truly unique personal work. It’s an insight into Jo’s life rather than an overtly and intentionally commercial work.
It’s a beautiful piece of work. I’ll be fascinated to see how Jo’s career evolves and what else comes from these bright and vigorous illustrations.
That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more recommendations of things you might adore next Sunday. In the meantime, I wish you a great week. Keep safe, everyone.