Endings and Beginnings


Wow. What a week. It’s been a week of endings and hopefully the start of new things. The young women’s youth group at which I volunteer is closing at Easter due to changes in the way it is funded (it’s a bit convoluted, but no need for that here). However, there is going to be a consultation for all the young people and some of the youth workers in the area this week, to let the young people decide how they want to move things forward, and how the youth services will look in the near future. So, it’s sad that our youth group is closing, but exciting that there are new possibilities and opportunities opening up ahead.

With this news kicking around in the back of my mind, yesterday my daughter and I visited our local 3 Store to get an upgrade on my old phone, which has been playing up recently. In the store there is an amazing mural on the back wall, composed of photographs of random funky stuff – there’s a dalek, a pair of stars ‘n’ stripes platform shoes, some loveheart sweeties, a close up of a dog with its nose pushed up against the camera… you get the picture. Every time we visit this shop, we sit and look at the pictures and find new things we’ve never noticed before. This time we asked the sales assistant about it, and asked if we could take a photograph of it. I could feel the seeds of an idea germinating; I could use this format and take it home to my local community, to the young people for whom the services are changing and to the other groups who use the local community centre. Each person could create their own square. People can take a photo of some aspect of our area – either positive or negative, maybe both – and send it to me to be printed and then mounted alongside all the other contributions on boards or large canvasses. Who doesn’t carry a smartphone these days? Or, for the more artistic, draw, paint, collage a square. Social commentary. So now I need to sell the idea to my employers, find some funding and get to work. I even know roughly where to put the finished piece.

This week in my home studio I have been busy on my illustrations for my Documented Life Project folder. I must admit that towards the end of the week they have been doodles rather than drawings; it’s been a busy week at work and my brain has needed to zone out at the end of the day, but that’s okay. I like to revisit my little squares and random shapes from time to time. They’re like familiar friends who come to see me when I’m too exhausted to think straight.

I’ve sent back the February sketchbook to Ben, and I’m now waiting for my book to come back from Louise. I’ve had a taster of some of her additions on social media, and am now eagerly looking forward to seeing them in the flesh. I love the beginning of the month, getting a new book, seeing the additions for the first time, giving yourself time to digest the other person’s work, formulating your own response…and so the cycle of growth and change continues, just like the seasons.




Abstracts and Illustrations

Another busy week in the home studio…

I have been following the TEA Sketchbook Circle exhibition and workshops closely onFacebook and Twitter; it looks like everyone had a ball and some really inspiring work was produced. Having looked at comments on the Facebook forum on the run up to the event, I think Google Maps was a bit misleading in its instructions; I’m not sure the journey would have been as convoluted and arduous as it led me to believe. Still, there’s always next year, and there will no doubt be further events to attend.

I am ready to send my February sketchbook, and receive my own book back with Louise’s first additions; I’ve seen a sneak peek on Twitter and am eagerly anticipating it’s arrival soon!

I have had a productive week in my little corner studio; I am busy with my Documented Life Project folder and am enjoying getting back to basics and doing some more illustrative work. I love to draw at the end of the day – at any time of day actually, but sadly my working hours and duties sometimes interfere with my urge to record the world around me. I’m fortunate enough to work part time, and in an environment where creativity is valued and encouraged, but in a busy Early Years setting it’s not always possible or appropriate to spend time drawing. The focus is always the children and their learning journey, and following their interests in as creative a way as possible. My drawings and art work are my oasis in the vast sea of work, dogs and the responsibility of single parenthood – and this simple outlet of self-expression helps me manage the stresses of daily life and maintain a positive outlook. As I sit and draw, I feel the day’s tensions fade away, and my brain empties and slows down.

This week I have also been cutting down old pieces of work and turning them into something new; either backgrounds for the pages in my DLP folder, or the start of an entirely new piece of work. I am currently exploring the properties and possibilities of the humble tissue paper; I love using basic supplies and turning them into something beautiful. I love the transparency of tissue paper when it is glued, and the way it bleeds onto absorbent paper when wetted down, and I have been exploring all of these possibilities this week. I have used pieces of old paintings and pasted vibrant layers onto them to create abstract collages. I love to work in this way, with no predefined idea of what I am trying to achieve, moving pieces around until I find a composition I like, and then gluing it down. Although I enjoy producing more illustrative work too, it’s sometimes easy to get bogged down in detail and tied up in the message you are trying to convey; my collage work is the antidote – simple, uncomplicated, wordless, and, probably for those reasons, strangely effective.

This week the Guardian featured a glimpse into the sketchbooks of Grayson Perry; the pages were colourful and joyous and completely inspirational. I am motivated anew to keep working in my sketchbooks and notebooks, to keep trying new things, to keep encouraging and sharing my passion for drawing and making with my daughter, and to make art together, to keep being an advocate for the arts and creativity in education, to keep joining in and to keep sharing my journey.

Busy Days


This week has been one of exciting new challenges and beginnings.

Firstly, I have found (through one of my followers) and signed up for the Documented Life Project; this project is about art journaling, and I’ve been enjoying documenting and doodling some of the elements of my daily life. It’s fascinating how the dull humdrum details take on new interest when I start to record them in my sketchbook; it’s also a very therapeutic thing to do at the end of the day, and helps me to unwind and let my brain relax and empty, rather like pulling the plug out in the bath. At the moment it feels very different from my ‘usual’ sort of thing, but it’s a challenge which I’m enjoying; documenting aspects of my life gives me the opportunity to use a more illustrative style as opposed to my usual more abstract, organic way of working.

Secondly, my daughter, my mum and I put on our thermal layers and braved the February cold to go out urban sketching at the Sketch Coventry event this weekend. Getting out of the comfort of my home studio and drawing out in public was quite a big thing for me; I have done it before, but it’s not something I’ve ever felt very comfortable with. This time, however, I found I didn’t particularly care; people walked past and glanced over at us, but didn’t pay us any particular attention, and I found it easier to just get out my sketchbook and get on with it. I think it’s probably a confidence thing; my confidence in myself and in my artistic abilities has grown enormously over the past couple of years, to the point where I now happily tell people that I am an artist first and foremost (albeit with a day job to pay the rent). I’m not overwhelmingly pleased with my sketches, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and fully intend to repeat it, both at other urban sketching events and on my own. And after all, in the words of Picasso, unless your painting goes wrong, it will be no good.

February Reflections


It’s been a week of reflection, reinterpretation, reinvention, remaking. It’s been stop-start. I’ve had to apply my artistic ingenuity to the problem of responding to work which is nothing like my own. I have been musing over whether to attempt a more sparse, minimalist style, like that in my February book; it is, after all, not a bad thing to get outside your comfort zone and try something new.

I have solved the problem (I think) by drawing out the elements which interested me in Ben’s images – lines, shapes, neutral colour – and incorporating them into my own work. Line and shape are elements I regularly use, and I have responded to the muted colours with some pieces made in recycled paper collage; I am fascinated by found paper materials – old books, packing materials, textured papers, wallpaper samples and the like. Then I decided to throw caution to the wind and made some pages incorporating bold and bright elements to counterbalance the neutral colours. I have also had some help from my daughter, who is fascinated by the Sketchbook Circle experience and loves it when we receive new work through the post. She was very proud to make a contribution to this month’s work!

I’m excited to have some events coming up in the next few weeks too – my daughter and I are planning to go to the Sketch Coventry event next weekend, and I’m also booked onto the Practice Imperfect event at the School of Art in Birmingham. I’m very much looking forward to meeting up with other artist educators, getting some new ideas, taking my own practice in new directions, and making new connections.