In retrospect I can see that there has been constant influences upon my work from my very early years. Namely, the landscape that I grew up with before the age of 10 had a profound effect upon my feeling life. At that time the moods of the hills and skies of northern England turned me into a lifelong romantic. Simultaneously, although my family had no artistic influence– There was no art–but there was a lot of music from Rachmaninov to Gilbert and Sullivan. Added to this serious and whimsical what’s the influence of good humour, listening to Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine whose books I was fascinated by both the drawings and the humour. I was also keen gymnast which I now know has influenced my later work through a consciousness of bodily movements and gesture in mark making. The outcome of all these influences were expression through drawing, cartooning and photography.
Later School Years
During my teens we lived in Wiltshire and I became aware of a different kind of connection with the landscape, revolving around ancient history, but still linked with Romanticism reinforced in my teens by reading Thomas Hardy novels. My painting at school was seriously moody contrasted at the same time with the playful pursuit of ideas and quirky humour from Spike Milligan. This aspect of my use of art quite obviously led to an illustration career much later in life.
For the first time I was surrounded by artists and began to know little about art. My drawing began to evolve but I also discovered pottery and fell in love with it. Looking back I realise that the appeal for me was in the physical capturing of movement and gesture through a material form. The tactility and sounds of wet clay growing in space were totally magical. After art college I pursued pottery throughout teacher training and teaching in secondary school and art college for 17 years.
While teaching in secondary school I became aware that Clay had a much wider potential for children and myself than pottery – ceramics is the broader term that includes sculptural and craft uses of Clay. With the children my teaching became more like illustration in clay! For my own work I was dramatically influenced by a good friend ceramicist who made the landscapes in clay. That was a turning point for my own work.
During those years I also built my own pottery studio and developed a reputation, good enough to become a lecturer in ceramics at the local art college. There I encountered so many fantastic visiting lecturers that my world and understanding expanded and deepened.
And yet… that hidden illustrator inside me manifested itself was my first book for an educational publisher using my other interest in humorous drawing– Suitable for children’s books.
My family and I moved to Australia for a new start and career. I worked for a year with the Australian flying arts school, flying all over Queensland tutoring ceramics to outback Arts communities. The unique Australian landscape , the rugged harshness and intense colour added something to both my ceramics and my drawing. Simultaneously I began to illustrate children’s books for a living and had to leave ceramics behind for some years.
Back in the UK
I had to start building up my career in illustration from scratch again. I also realised the need to learn computer techniques in work and in Business. Inevitably, using a graphics tablet, colouring with Photoshop opened new Visual possibilities in drawing, colouring and photography.
Soon after returning I was asked to take up some of my previous teaching on the ceramics course and in addition had to learn – In order to teach students – 3D Computer modelling and animation using Cinema 4D and naturally there was a crossover with some of my illustration work.
I have entered a phase of rediscovery and cohering all my influences and interests in order to find new ways of working in illustration and in Clay. Influences such as gestural mark making, three-dimensional surfaces, photography, and so on, are finding new outlets in the way I work and I will soon be releasing images for a new project.