Carim Nahaboo's passion for illustration goes hand-in-hand with his fascination of the natural world. He has become recognised for his own unique style and a particular focus on the lesser-admired subjects, insects.
For our latest film HERE, we took a walk with Carim to learn more about his art and connection with nature.
Words by Carim Nahaboo | @carim_nahaboo
Stills by Sim Warren | @simwarren
Can you tell us about the journey that led you to become a natural history illustrator?
I've been fascinated by all aspects of the natural world since I can remember first holding a pencil. The act of drawing has always been a way for me to explore what I was seeing around me and what I learnt about through wildlife documentaries, books and film, so illustrating grew from this love of looking at things in minute detail. I think illustrations themselves can have an important role in showing the beauty of certain species which would otherwise be overlooked or feared. I want to be able to get across some of my fascinations in my work, but also try and allow a brief moment for others to see something from a non-human perspective, because although some species may seem gruesome or harmful to us, they all have incredible adaptations and fill niches in ecosystems that we couldn't make up! There is always something changing and new to learn about when we look at the natural world, and this drives a constant passion in me to explore it through illustration.
You have a particular interest in invertebrates, what attracts you to illustrate these creatures?
I think a huge part of this is their sheer diversity and importance. There are just so many invertebrate species, even on our own doorsteps, that it's hard to ever get bored of what can be found. I've been asked to illustrate several species which I had never come across before, and seeing them for the first time is like finding a creature from a fantasy film (one of them, a weevil that attaches living lichens and moss to itself as camouflage!). They all have such intricate sculptural anatomy which lends itself perfectly to illustration, as well as having alien habits when it comes to metamorphosis, breeding, hunting and feeding. Their lives and activities underpin virtually all ecosystems and really do build the foundations of what goes on a macro level. I've also been asked to illustrate newly discovered species before they've been named, which is a reminder that there are still so many more species to be discovered despite invertebrates already being the most numerous animals on the planet.
In the film, Ruth speaks of the importance of the seasonal cycles in nature. How are they play in your work and to your life?
Insects are heavily dependant on seasonal changes, almost like clockwork certain species will appear and disappear throughout the year, some only showing up for a short time. These changes influence me as I'm always surprised and almost relieved when I come across certain things for the first time each year. For example, the Stag Beetle is only around for a few weeks, usually during late May and early June, but this all depends on the weather. They were once known as Billywitches in folklore due to their appearance on overcast, humid, stormy evenings, and that's exactly what they need. It's like a form of magic going on around us all the time, and we just have to tune ourselves in - I'll go out every evening for weeks looking and listening for their whirring wings, and when the conditions are just right, they appear and it's truly spectacular.
Insects are often species-specific when it comes to plants, which has almost subconsciously helped me to learn a lot about native flora and notice when certain things are changing. I am often out and about looking at what wildlife can be found and I take a lot of photos of anything interesting I see which feeds into inspiration and sometimes directly into my illustrations.
We have heard about how essential biodiversity is to the planet, what is your view on this?
I think biodiversity IS our planet, and it's what makes everything function correctly. Everything is in a delicate balance, and unfortunately, a lot of the things supporting these finely woven networks have already been lost or damaged to a point where they can't recover. One of the main obstacles I come across is people being disgusted by insects and asking questions like 'what is the point of a wasp?' It's this distancing from nature which we as a species have got so used to, that we almost see ourselves as something outside of nature. Instead of asking what the point of something is in relation to us, we just need to realise that every species has adapted to fill an important role, whether or not that has any direct benefit to us shouldn't factor into that importance.
What does the outdoors mean to your own mental wellbeing?
Working in central London much of the time makes me crave the outdoors. without realising it I think it's so common for us to get bogged down or stressed by the decisions we have to make every day, the commute, and the same old scenery. I've never felt very comfortable in city settings, and it can sometimes be the fascination with insects that acts as a form of escapism because I can watch them go about their lives and just forget, for a few minutes, the to-do list and the worries of everyday life. It's like being able to breathe again and relax properly as soon as I can go for a walk through my local forest, or go for hikes on a weekend away. Being outdoors lets my mind slow down and focus on what's real, at the end of the day. There are so many superficial things which we hang so much importance on that it's easy for them to become the cause of depression and anxiety, and nature can certainly help me to regain a focus on the things which actually matter.