Inkubate @ Harbour Lights, 29th March – 24th April 2019

Join me on Friday 29th March from 7pm to celebrate the opening night of an exhibition of new ink and watercolour illustrations inspired by my garden, chickens, eggs, the creative process and self exploration…

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Live painting at The Art House Cafe, 6/11/18

I was invited to paint a table at The Art House in Southampton last night along with another local artist, Dave Hubble. It was also a chance for me to deliver a recent commission to the cafe – a series of butterfly and caterpillar watercolours that are being used for the different reward tiers on their Patreon page.

I had so much fun painting the table with a really colourful bird themed design using acrylics and glitter! It gave me lots of energy and ideas for future illustrations and made me want to get back in to acrylic painting. (I had to use it so much during my A-Levels that I’ve been avoiding it up until now!). Thinking back to yesterday’s blog post I’d love the Harbour Lights Exhibition to be a celebration of discovery and the contrasts that come with being highly senstive. Big, bold, bright studies of colourful birds with more delicate eggs and feathers.


Introvert, artist and highly sensitive person…

I have recently found out (but probably known on some level my whole life) that I am an introvert and a highly sensitive person. It’s been a revolutionary discovery, makes a lot of sense and something I find totally fascinating. I wanted to write about this because it’s not something that many people know or talk about and I’m sure it’s pretty common for highly creative people to be introverted and sensitive.

In short, you feel and are aware of everything at once, all of the time. It can be completely overwhelming but also a huge positive, especially when it comes to making artwork and researching. I’ve also put this awareness and sensitively to use when it comes to teaching and networking as it makes me a good listener with the ability to empathise with students in order to understand how they learn best. I notice changes in atmosphere very easily and know when someone needs help or doesn’t understand what I’m trying to communicate. The downside is that I can find lots of things more tiring that most people would but I’m trying to learn lots about self care so that I can minimize the effects on my own wellbeing. Generally having more awareness is helping me to maintain good energy levels and means that I know when I need some alone time to recharge.

One of the best resources I’ve found over the last month is a podcast called ‘Introvert Dear’ founded by Jenn Granneman. Jenn and the co-hosts discuss all sorts of subjects related to being an introvert and highly sensitive person including self care, travelling, creativity, alone time, writing and relationships. It has been incredible to listen to people talk about these subjects and their feelings in a way that I can completely understand. This whole process has felt a bit like ‘coming out’ – I’m learning so much about myself and other people too! I see the traits of being a highly sensitive person as qualities that I can use to my advantage rather than negative behaviours that I should change. Certain aspects can be quite debilitating but I’m learning which situations overwhelm me and how I can look after myself when I feel over stimulated. Generally I’m doing well but there are periods where I don’t notice the ‘bottle being shaken up’ before it’s too late and I have to let it all out or I get completely exhausted.

Having a good routine is a big help – getting up early, taking the dog for a walk, dedicated studio days for making art, blogging or admin, teaching, spending time in the garden, baking, cooking etc.

I used to meditate more regularly than I do now but find it hard to fit it in to my day, remember to do it or have the motivation to do so. Perhaps it would be better to go to a meditation class once a week or someting? I suppose the worst thing to do is beat myself up when I don’t stick to a routine because that undoes all the good work!

My new awareness of what it is to be an introvert and highly sensitive person is informing and inspiring lots of new creative ideas which I’d love to show at an exhibition I have confirmed for March/April 2019 at the Harbour Lights Cinema in Southampton. The subjects and themes I’m considering so far are eggs, feathers, cracks, sensitivity, incubation, introversion, perfection and imperfection. I have previously looked at eggs for my project about the Westwood Nature Reserve and my Dad’s egg collection and after going back through some old sketchbooks and blog posts I realised that this is something I’d like to explore further.


Koestler Trust Exhibition at the South Bank Centre

On Sunday 4th November I caught the last day of the Koestler Trust Exhibition at the South Bank Centre in London. It’s my third year in a row and I am always amazed at the talent, creativity and originality of the artworks. All pieces are made by prisoners, youth offenders or mental health patients and it’s wonderful to see how these people are using art to express their emotions, experience, interests, passions and opinions. It is an emotional experience seeing first hand how time, materials, tuition, support and opportunity can ‘bring out’ such incredible paintings, drawings, prints, crafts, sculptures and recordings and in turn improve prisoners or patients mental health and wellbeing. We were given a fantastic tour by an ex-offender called Christopher who was so engaging, funny and warm. He has an obvious love of art and really believes in what creativity can do for the soul. His fresh interpretation of the selected works and choice of language made the tour accessible for everyone.

Christopher said that this piece, which was the most colourful and vibrant in the exhibition, is a reflection of all prisoners love of nature. Apparently inmates are always transfixed by nature documentaries (especially those narrated by David Attenborough like Blue Planet) because it’s something that everyone misses. He said ‘we’re all human’ and no matter what your past is we can’t escape the fact that we are all animals and we all have a connection with one another and the natural world. His particular favourite was a show about Meerkats! Nature and art are something can brings us all back to the same place. Documentaries transport inmates to another world outside of the prison or hospital walls – a temporary escape.

I’m Still Here

A drawing by a mother of her with her children because she misses them so much. I loved this piece – such a beautiful use of pastels to give us an insight into one of her most treasured memories. The marks are sensitive, bold and dynamic. It’s drawn in quite a child-like naive style. So emotive.

A collaborative piece by a group of young people. The many faces of mental health disorders, split personality, schizophrenia, anger, paranoia…A showcase of these young people’s creativity, skill, teamwork and original ideas. I thought this would be a fantastic image to show the medical humanities students in February. An example of 3D characters but also characters that communicate/represent different health topics.

One of my favourite pieces from the exhibition – there is so much integrity in the mark making and the soft colours and contours are evocative of sand dunes or the human body. Again, an intimate and sensitive piece of art.

I’d love to try using embroidery hoops to create artwork for my exhibition in April. Perhaps with typography, birds or eggs on them using embroidery stitches and felting techniques.

I thought this piece would be a great example for a future workshop – photocopying the same drawing 25 times and then using different styles and media to manipulate the image in a sort of metamorphosis.

Another idea for a workshop? Abstracting part of a scene and keeping the main focus realistic. I love the simple unrealistic colours and shapes of the tree in contrast with the squirrel.

Back to Blogging…

It’s been a while since I’ve used this blog as a way to record my ideas about current projects or future workshops and I’ve missed it! I find writing the perfect way to ‘incubate’ ideas, air out any worries and get to grips with creative decisions I need to make. I’m not even sure that anyone will be reading this which makes it a little easier as I’m sort of just using this like a journal (with the hope that someone may read it and feel motivated or inspired by what I discuss or might want to get in touch to chat about their ideas or similar project).

Over the last few months I’ve started a new job as a Part time Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, which I love! The team are fantastic and so far I’ve lead a couple of workshops which have been really sucessful. My research last year looking at creative blocks as well as the month long creative block challenge have been so useful in informing the way I teach the first year Illustration students. Getting students to loosen up and explore their own drawing style by using a wide variety of materials and experimenting with mark making exercises, collage, printmaking and painting is essential at the beginning of the course. I’m discovering how important it is to reassure students that it’s ok to get things wrong, to experiment and have a go without worrying about what it looks like. It’s only by this process that we discover new and exciting methods, marks, ideas and images.

I regularly struggle with a feeling of ‘creative block’ unless I have a looming deadline or exhibition to work towards. Like the students I also worry about ‘getting it right’ and whether it will look good. Once I’m sat in the studio and I’ve dedicated a certain amount of time to creating I can motivate myself to make something and experiment…however it seems like my creative juices flow in bursts rather than steadily from day to day – perhaps this is just how I work? But I’d like it feel more natural. Writing helps to keep my ideas and energy going so I’m hoping that, by keeping this blog up to date with a post each week, I will see a difference in my productivity and generally feel like there’s not such a big hurdle to jump over before I’m able to get drawing. Perhaps the incubation periods will get shorter or I’ll feel more creative because I’m writing more anyway.

I’ve got some commissions to complete over the next couple of weeks as well as a few workshops to run too. The drawing and watercolour classes are both halloween/day of the dead/death themed and I’ve got those organised. An on going project and something which I keep thinking about/am finding a challenge is a competition entry for the House of Illustration & Folio Society Book Illustration Competition to redesign a front cover and three chapter illustrations for Howl’s Moving Castle. I really enjoyed reading the book – it’s totally surreal and highly visual so I’ve got lots of ideas but not entirely sure how to execute them. I’ve got plenty of time (it’s not due until January) but I keep putting lots of pressure on myself with thoughts of ‘I should be spending more time on this’, ‘I don’t know how to tackle this’ or ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to produce an illustration that reflects what it in my mind’. All of these thoughts are very negative and stressful so I need to take the pressure off and enjoy the process – otherwise I’m being a total hypocrite in regards to my teaching work! Looking back through my website gallery today has given me some inspiration. Last year I was interested in the magic of nature and the effect it has on our wellbeing. I made a few illustrations in this style and this is certainly something I could apply to the work I produce for this competition. The main obstacle is that I don’t draw human characters very often and I’m much more comfortable drawing animals. I dont know whether to play to my strengths or push myself and do something different to the norm.

Evening Workshops in 2018: Drawing, Watercolours, Papercutting and Sewing

‘Lighten Up’: A Solo Exhibition at the Harbour Lights Cinema, Southampton, January 2018

So excited to have 37! pieces of work up at the Habour Lights Picture House Cinema in Southampton for the whole of January…including 11 brand new pieces.

Originals and prints are available to purchase, just contact me by emailing to place and order.

See the full online gallery here.

Major Project: ‘True Story’, Exhibtion @ Mettricks Woolston Waterside from 31/7/17

I am very pleased to announce that a solo exhibition of my major project is up at Mettricks Woolston Waterside until the end of September when it will move to Mettricks Guildhall. You can see all the illustrations for the show in the Daff Gallery as well as pictures of the limited edition box sets of prints and posters that are available to purchase now.

Major Project: I have a plan!

I’m off to Copenhagen for a week on Monday for a break before I crack on with my major project final piece.

I wanted to get everything decided upon before I left, including the box which I will contain all the illustrated cards in. I ordered these from The Wooden Box Mill however when they arrived I felt as though they’d be too big and bulky for the prints. I want the packs of prints to be much more compact and look hand made so I ordered some A5 ‘Brown Vintage Card Boxes’ from ebay which I think will work much better. My plans is to make the packaging look like a vintage parcel. I ordered a ‘Daff Illustration’ stamp from Vista Print and have loads of postage stamps from the 1950’s. I may make a belly band or label for the box to give details of what’s inside the box and include the RSPB in aid of logo.

When I get back from holiday I will be concentrating on the illustrations for ‘True Story’ – 10 watercolour and ink pieces for an exhibition at Mettricks Woolston Waterside starting on 31st July 2017 for 6-8 weeks and then moving to Mettricks Guildhall for 6-8 weeks. I will use a similar method to creating work for the ‘Summer of Love’ exhibition: order frames, prep paper and news clippings, design compositions and then make a start on each piece. I’ll have over a month to get everything done which should be plenty of time. I will getting the little limited edition boxes of prints ready for the exhibitions too.

I also like the idea of string tie envelopes which could have something printed on the front or a belly band. My decision between envelopes or boxes rests on whether or not I have time to include anything else with the prints of ‘True Story’, like a bird spotter and stickers etc.

Major Project: I’m back!

It’s been a while since my last blog post as I’ve been trying to sort through my ideas for the next stage of this project by writing ideas on countless pieces of paper and doing some experimentation pieces in sketchbooks to work out the style and format of my new illustrations. I’ve also updated this website with new illustrations (thanks to Grish Art for putting it all together for me).

I’ve slowed things down a little after a couple of hectic months producing a whole new body of work for a solo exhibition at Portsmouth Guildhall called ‘A Summer of Love’. This gave me the opportunity to focus on a theme and produce work that showcased my style. The show is on until 21st June and has been featured on the CCI and Strong Island websites.

So here’s a short description of what my Major Project will be:

A series of watercolour and ink illustrations which celebrate the variety of birds living in The Westwood that, when hung together in any combination, form a ‘birdscape’. Miniature prints of these illustrations on cards will create an ‘ever-changing birdscape’ contained within a box. This project hopes to inspire people to appreciate their nearby nature that so often gets taken for granted. A percentage of sales from products, prints and originals will go towards the RSBP.

The plan (maximum target):

1a) An exhibition of ‘Birds of the Westwood’ at a venue in Southampton in July and an online portfolio

1b) ‘Birds of The Westwood’ box of cards in an edition of 20 – an ‘Everchanging Birdscape’ for sale online and in the café (including ‘in aid of RSPB’ logo)

2) ‘A Summer of Love’ Exhibition @ Portsmouth Guildhall and an online portfolio.

3) ‘Butterflies of The Westwood’ (Large illustrations for Hampshire Open Studios exhibition in August)

I also have a number of commissions to complete over the coming months too, including a large painting for a cafe in Southampton…more information coming soon!


‘Making Nature: How we see animals’

I have lots of reading to get through but I couldn’t resist these (below)…The bottom three I bought at the Wellcome Collection when I visited their exhibition ‘Making Nature: How we see animals’ (left).

The exhibition shows how we have recorded and classified animals throughout recent history and given a hierarchy of importance to certain creatures over others. The methods of hunting animals, stuffing them or using them for their fur, feathers or skin was seen a way to engage with their worlds…but now we know that this has contributed to many animals being on an endangered list!

Putting animals into zoos is one way of learning about them, however, there is still a degree of separation – a belief that we are the most important species and giving attention to those animals we feel are more interesting, exotic and rare. Surely it is better to immerse yourself in animals natural habitats with as little impact as possible? Really looking at every creature with the same awe and curiosity. This way we are able to see ourselves as animals too avoiding the temptation to value one creature over the other just because they are more colourful or scarce.

What next?

For my next series of illustrations I came to the conclusion that I would need to put a limit on the number of birds I draw because I have seen so many in the Westwood in the past 5 months. I also don’t want to give any importance to certain species over others. I want this to be a true account of the birds that I saw on one walk through the woods. Taking inspiration from my previous ‘creative un-block’ challenge, ‘Blockvember’ I will set myself a few limitations in order to help me come to decisions:

– One day, one walk, 10 birds, 10 wild flowers.

– One magazine from the 1950’s called ‘True Story’. 10 clippings. 10 adverts for products. I enjoyed using adverts and stories from the old newspaper in my work for ‘A Summer of Love’ so have decided to continue this style.

– A more stylised way of working, this experiment below shows the kind of illustrations I’d like to create and use a bit of 50’s typography too.

The idea behind using these adverts for products related to the fact that the land next to The Westwood, which is now part of the nature reserve, used to be a landfill site in the 50’s – 80’s. This juxtaposition of consumerism and nature is present to challenge the audience: ‘If animals don’t need these products to be happy or healthy why should we?’ Still to this day companies tell us that we need this make up, cleaning product or hair spray to be a happy, successful and loved human.I believe that the closer the relationship we have with nature, the less we feel we need to be happy. Nature can inspire us to be more creative and satisfied with less. Since the closure of the landfill site in the 80’s nature has reclaimed the area and masked what lies beneath. If we stop interfering with wildlife and their habits the world would eventually heal itself…but we still have a long way to go when most of the world still buys into consumerism and capitalism.