Saturday, 21 July 2018
Rebranding Myself on my 10 Year Anniversary
Those who have been following me for a long time, will have watched the unfolding of quite a few changes in my work. When I first started this blog, almost exactly 10 years ago, I was working as a full-time picture book illustrator. I had just finished the artwork for Dragon's Dinner. I was at the peak of my time in children's publishing, winning awards and performing at major festivals like Hay and Edinburgh. I had no plans for things to change and could not have imagined what the coming years would bring.
It was during that year, I was invited to join Urban Sketchers and become a correspondent. Again, I could not have known how important that invitation would be for my future adventures. It almost immediately took me to Lisbon, for my first Urban Sketchers Symposium then, the following year, I was invited to run a workshop in Santa Domingo!
I had always found the isolation of studio work frustrating - I am a people person - so the international travels which urban sketching brought, really opened out my life. I got extraordinary opportunities to work alongside artists from all around the globe. Who would have thought I could wind up sketching on the Sugarloaf mountain in Brazil!
10 years on, I find myself in an entirely new place. Okay, I am still based in my lovely attic studio in Sheffield, but I no longer illustrate picture books. My new creative life has two very different facets. The urban sketching has evolved into my research-sketching work, which still occasionally takes me off on adventures overseas. Anyone who has been looking in lately will know all about my research work in Australia.
One of the key things which I absolutely love about this work is the fact that it is not studio-based. Every day is different, because I am working with different people in different places, learning new things. I have just begun work on a couple of new projects with York University and it gives me a huge buzz to be around such clever and interesting people, sucking up knowledge as I paint.
The other new development has been my textiles work, which came absolutely out of the blue. Actually, the seed was planted by a chat with researchers at York University a couple of years ago. We were putting in a bid for a sketching project and they asked me to think about how I might create a single piece of artwork, which could illustrate key elements from my research sketchbooks. I didn't like the idea of re-drawing my sketches as illustrations (even though that would seem the obvious thing to do, given my illustration background). I got the idea that changing medium, stitching the artwork rather than drawing, would be more fun and a more creative experience for me.
Unfortunately, we didn't get the funding for that project, but that little seed had already grown roots and I couldn't shift it. I decided to explore the idea anyway and, my goodness, what an exciting plant it is developing into! The early textiles pieces were based on specific sketches, with me trying out the new language of stitch and exploring different ways of using it. When I was funded for a 2-month residency at Orchard Square, I felt for the first time that this was more than just play, that it was a legitimate path of work for me.
It is ironic that I began my artistic journey with a degree in Printed Textiles at Middlesex University, way back in the 1980s. I never worked as a textile designer then: the textiles industry in Britain was on its knees when I graduated and my path was already bending towards illustration. It's funny how things work out.
The textiles work has now evolved away from the sketches and, on my 10-year blog anniversary, I am enjoying two thoroughly rewarding, but very different avenues of work. It might seem odd to be following two such disparate paths at once, but it feels good, and the shift back and forth keeps both things fresh. I suppose it's similar to the way I used to shift back and forth between my book illustrations and my sketchbooks. They were very different too and I needed the contrast to keep my creativity from going stale. Does that make sense?
The more observant amongst you might have noticed a subtle difference in the blog today. Ten years on, I have realised that the label 'illustrator' is no longer the best way to describe myself. So I have re-named the blog An Artist's Life for Me! I feel that better encompasses the new and exciting things I am doing.
What a journey. Thank you so much for coming along on the ride. I hope it has been interesting for you, Gentle Reader, and continues to be so. I wonder what the next 10 years hold in store?