How do you describe what you do?
I'm an artist, illustrator and creative content consultant. I run my business from my home in Wivenhoe and my studio at Colchester MakerSpace. I am also co-owner and creative director of indie publishers Dunlin Press.
I create work for myself, exploring themes of transience, nature and fragility. I make illustrations and images for others, taking on illustrative commissions for companies, publications and websites. I also advise companies and individuals on how to present themselves within a creative context and how to make words, pictures and other content work for them. Oh yes… and I design, edit and make books for Dunlin Press.
How did you get started in illustration?
I have pretty much always drawn pictures and made marks. The only period when I didn't create images was when I was at University studying Art History after my foundation at Chelsea Art College. After that brief hiatus, normal service resumed. I've been exhibiting and selling paintings, prints, drawings, cards and stationery ever since.
My business started properly in 2012 when I started selling screen-printed stationery and art online. I was working as an editor at the time and I had a lot of experience with big brands and styling so it was great to kick off a small 'brand' of my own. I devoted myself to be a full-time illustrator and creative content consultant in 2015 and I haven't looked back.
What makes your work and/or process unique?
As an artist it's my line. I believe all artists have a unique line that makes them stand out.
My process is varied. I work with POSCA pens, pigment ink fine-line pens and watercolour plus Japanese calligraphy brushes with pen and ink. I also dabble in a bit of lino cuts and screen-printing.
The thing that I believe unites all these various techniques I play with is a very powerful sense of gentleness and delicacy. I really want my art and illustration to be a celebration of the quiet, of the gentle, that delicate pause, a moment or that silent breath you take when you notice something beautiful or poignant however small. People are always surprised at this when they meet me - apparently there is a bit of a juxtaposition of my work and the way I come across (I'm always more than a little offended by this observation).
What would your top tip(s) be for anyone considering taking up art/illustration?
Go for it! Take advice from those in the know but be true to yourself and your practice. Keep drawing, keep looking, keep learning. Be open to ideas and remember to explore and have fun. Most importantly, honour and respect yourself and your work and pay the same courtesy to others.
What piece of work or project are you most proud of?
I'm really pleased with how my current work is taking shape but I'd say it was still in the 'discovery and wonder' stage at the moment.
I suppose one of the most recent projects I'm proud of The Orphaned Spaces project - an on-going body of work that I'm collaborating on with my Dunlin Press co-founder (and husband) MW Bewick.
Part of the project is a book, also called The Orphaned Spaces, that we published last year. The book is an illustrated exploration of overlooked areas of natural beauty – edge-lands, ex-industrial, derelict and brownfield sites, and the, sometimes rare, flora and fauna that is found there. It’s a rumination on life, loss and time, through the prism of liminal spaces captured in moments between dilapidation and regeneration. It features my brush sketches, fine line illustrations, wild plant pressings and my botanical photography. We also made a hand-made box set of the book hand-stitching elements with prints and postcards. We are also due to launch a little concertina booklet as a continuation of this collaboration soon.
When you have the dreaded creative block, where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I've given up on trying to force new ideas - it never works for me. I always get the fear when I'm finishing up a project that it will be my last but it never is.
So between projects I'm actually very boring. I bird-watch, I read interesting books and articles, check out exhibitions, grow house plants, I cook great vegetarian meals, I go for walks around Wivenhoe, tend to my garden and I clean my studio. I also listen to a lot of music. These processes re-set my head and I find the ideas come naturally.
What other artist or maker do you admire and why?
There are so many and I have phases with artists and writers. Constant sources of inspiration are pretty obvious: Henry Moore and Picasso's drawings, Tracey Emin sketches and prints, Andy Warhol's ink illustrations, EVERYTHING by Matisse - in fact, I'm off to the south of France soon to check out his chapel - and it's their line always that has me returning to them time and again.
I am currently obsessed with Japanese ceramic artist Jun Kaneko and the still life Dutch painter Henk Helmantel. The former's simple beauty and playful skill is something I aspire to and the latter's gentle grace and lightness of touch is exquisite. Both artists have qualities that I am working towards.
Jeremy Deller is a god to me. I am in awe of his playfulness (it's so important to be playful) and his humanity. I wish I was as direct, simple and as clever as him.
Any books or exhibitions and events coming up you can recommend?
Henry Moore's Animals by W. J. Strachan is a constant companion - his animal drawings are beautiful. I'm currently reading, and getting A LOT of inspiration from Modern Nature by Derek Jarman - a thoughtful, poignant and compelling mediation on humanity, nature, art and life.
I enjoyed Firstsite's Problems with Modern Life by Magda Archer recently. I love the wide-ranging nature of shows at both Firstsite and Minories. I'm also looking forward to the Roman River Music festival (I'm a woman of a certain age).
Why is Colchester Makerspace important to you/or and your work?
It is so important. I can't overestimate the positive effect it's had on me and my work. I LOVE my little studio at MakerSpace - it's a fantastic place to work. It's become my second home and I have grown so much since being part of it. I could get emotional about it to tell you the truth. I believe the creative, and supportive, environment has greatly contributed to my artistic development. It has been so good for me as an artist and for me as a person to get to know MakerSpace members and organisers. Everyone's work, and respectful and thoughtful conduct, is an inspiration on so many levels. Joining has not only brought a greater connection to Colchester's creative scene but to the town as a whole. Shout out to Cafe Saison too - they make me smile every time I'm in and they do damn fine coffee.