The illustration of Caroline Parkinson

Illustration, caricatures, sketches, and comics

August 9, 2017
by Caroline

Beneath The Clouds- An introduction to Heian Japan


I’ve been blogging about my new online comic for a while. The characters and the plot have been established, and our protagonists have embarked on a road trip. 

But what’s Heian Japan, and why do I keep harking on about it? After all, everyone knows what historical Japan looks like- samurai, katanas, geisha and sushi.

Well, not exactly. Most of those tropes are from the Sengoku period or the Edo period, which are much later. 

Samurai…well, they were around, but they weren’t called samurai, and they wore tachi, a longer, heavier sword than a katana, designed for fighting on horseback. These proto-samurai’s speciality was mounted archery. The tradition of horse archery is still alive in modern Japan and you can find videos of it on Youtube.

Heian Japan ran from roughly 780 to 1160 and is seen as a golden age of Japanese culture. It produced arguably the first novel, Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji, and one of the most famous ancient diaries, Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book. The authors worked as ladies-in-waiting to rival empresses. There’s a snide reference in Murasaki’s diary criticizing Sei’s writing as “presumptuous” and “full of imperfections”, and a small but active modern Sei/Murasaki slash fiction fan base.

The Heian period is also known for the art of writing poetry, the founding of the modern city of Kyoto (Heian Kyo) and the beautiful costumes worn by high ranking court ladies.

The Comic

I was introduced to Heian culture as a teenager by Liza Dalby’s novel The Tale of Murasaki, and read as many books written and based in the period as I could get my hands on. Several years later, on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, I wondered what it would be like to make the same journey a thousand years before. Eventually that thought became a comic book.

I’m unsure as to what I find so attractive about Heian culture. The majority of the surviving writing from that time from that time is an odd mixture of high culture, ennui, high school social drama,  and rather shocking glimpses of a world where life could definitely contain far worse things than boredom (many of the diaries relate the horror of seeing corpses piled in the streets during a carriage journey). Perhaps, as an artist, it’s a glimpse into a world where art was central to people’s lives.

At least, the rich, literate 1% of people whose thoughts survived to the present day.


July 23, 2017
by Caroline

Coventry- and katanas

I’m behind on my update schedule, forgive me, it’s been a busy month! I hope that you didn’t mind looking at sketches of my family’s cute dog for over a week.

-The first news item is that I’m currently developing a quick figure sketching class. I’m doing a free test run as part of Sketch Coventry’s next meet up. It is at 10:30 at 12th August at The Herbert Gallery Cafe and will last roughly three hours. Regular urban sketching will be taking place as normal in the afternoon. If you’re in Coventry and fancy learning some tips and tricks about quick figure drawing, check it out! 


– I was also employed to support Coventry’s 2021 bid for City Of Culture by drawing the Coventry skyline over the course of one day. The sketches were combined with quotes from Coventry citizens and combined into an art piece. There’s a picture of a section below. The circular car park on top of Coventry Market and I have sort of a relationship: one day I’m going to draw it and it’s going to look GOOD, dammit.


You can find more about the project, and Coventry’s City of Culture bid, at

-Finally, I’ve now started working on Chapter 4 of my Heian Japan webcomic Beneath The Clouds. It updates Mondays and Wednesdays (currently on Chapter 2, I like to keep at least a twenty page buffer) You can find it here:

I’ve attached a sneak preview of Chapter 3’s cover below. Those who would like to learn more about Japanese history can check out the History of Japan podcast here. That’s a tachi, not a katana, by the way, it just made a better title.






June 28, 2017
by Caroline

Sketches from Hadrian’s Wall walk, coast to coast in 7 days

wallsmall viewhills  pylons wall§ sheep wallcrags 

vinotemple         vindolanda


A sample of sketches from my Hadrian’s Wall walk. As you can see we had spectacular weather, but any future walkers bear in mind it can snow in June according to one of our hosts!

Easyish terrain, a clearly way marked route, lots of spring lambs, and honesty boxes of chocolate, crisps, tea, juice ect made this 80-ish miles a joy to walk. Would recommend for anyone interested in history and/or looking for an easy introduction to long distance walking. Don’t rely on the prevailing east wind, book accommodation ahead and make time to visit the spectacular museums.