SHIFT Creative Direction

It has been a long time since my last post at the beginning of the pandemic. April 2020 I was hoping to be emerging from 4 years of caring for my young son through his treatment for Leukaemia but what happened was the whole world was stopped in it’s tracks. It was strange that after we had essentially been in lockdown for so long, shielding my son before we knew what that meant, we had to carry on for a couple more years.

So what has been the effect creatively? I find myself writing this feeling like I don’t fit in one place or another, but then I have never felt like I’ve fitted. I straddle between creative and social worlds – my interests in art, nature, business, people, creativity, wellbeing, community, home, travel all keep me engaged, learning, fulfilled, happy, but I still couldn’t explain exactly where I fit. Maybe no-one truly fits but I am definitely searching for something and whilst it can sometimes feel close it is also elusive and tantalisingly out of reach.

Without wanting to be unbearably positive, our journey as a family over recent years has brought us through the hardest times and into a much better place. I’m not sure if it is to do with attitude or luck or hard work but somehow we have managed to steady the ship and find ourselves in a much calmer situation. All around the world can feel overwhelming but in our small part of the world daily life is currently a lot better than it has been.

My question is always, what is the effect of this on my creativity and output as an artist. I find myself in a strange place creatively and that’s part of the reason for writing this post as I try to work out a way through.

In April 2016 I started drawing tiny vessels; pots, bowls, vases, beakers, lots of shapes and simple patterned decoration for the surface. I remember so clearly when I started these drawings because it’s not something I have ever drawn before and I was sitting with my son and partner waiting for my son’s regularly check up and lumber puncture at Addenbrookes Hospital. The drawings kept me calm but I had no further thought about them and certainly wasn’t thinking that I would take them any further.

In July 2021 I installed a kiln and an electric wheel in my studio and threw my first clay pot on the wheel. I really don’t know how it all happened but I wasn’t finding my usual creative outlet of painting as urgent. I was trying not to panic and think about creative block but kept myself open to pursuing any creative urge. That urge was towards clay, ceramics, pottery and from the moment I touched the clay, threw my first pot and took it out of the kiln I have become obsessed. There is something about the calming touch of clay and water and the grounding sensation of sitting at the wheel that has not only helped me through the past couple of years but has become my new direction.

Inspired by the book ‘Art and Fear – observations on the perils and pleasures of art making’ and the idea of 10,000 hours of practice to reach some kind of mastery I set myself a creative challenge – the 1000 Vessel Project. My thought was that after producing 1000 vessels I would either love it or hate it and will have put the time in to learn the skills and developed my practice. To date I am up to 360/1000 and am still totally in love with the material, process and learning.

I have now set up a community pottery at my studio in Raveningham where I run the annual Raveningham Sculpture Trail. Each week I run sessions with people handbuilding, throwing, experimenting with glaze, decoration and generally having a lovely time. Alongside this I have been teaching students at the University of East Anglia as part of a wellbeing festival, giving one to one sessions to individuals including children from the local Children’s Home, young unaccompanied asylum seekers and supporting professional artists by sharing my studio space.

This has all been am amazing journey and I am happiest when I am in the pottery but I can feel another SHIFT coming. I have been so focused on making and learning and curating and teaching that I have slipped out of exhibiting. This year I will have my work in the Raveningham and Bayfield Sculpture Trails as well as the Post Room in Norwich, CraftCo in Southwold and Octagon gallery in Diss. I also have a solo exhibition planned for 2025 in North Norfolk where I plan to show my 1000 Vessel Project but I haven’t shown my work anywhere new for a while. It feels uncomfortable which is what makes me think I am now avoiding something, my thoughts are either chill in a hammock or push myself towards something new…. The hammock feels like the path of least resistance but I have this tickly feeling that won’t go away, I think it is another creative SHIFT – time to get the work out and about.

Thanks for reading and I hope to start posting more regularly with insights into my creative journey.

Coping Strategies

This is part of a self help leaflet or book that I have been thinking about writing for a long time to share the coping strategies I found through my son’s 4 year odyssey through Leukaemia, Anxiety and PTSD. We are in close contact with the charity Children with Cancer UK who are doing incredible work to improve childhood cancer treatments and find new cures. We have raised £10,000 for them since 2018 through the Creative Odyssey and Henry’s Odyssey and I was encouraged to write about our coping strategies for their website to help families supporting children through cancer. It will be going on line next week so I thought it would be good to share my thoughts through my blog too as we all need to have a good stack of coping strategies to get through the current Covid-19 situation together.


My son, Henry, was 7 years old when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, he is now 11 and has been off treatment for 1 year. He is in remission and has good odds for staying cancer free, long may it stay that way.

It has always been very difficult to explain the life altering effect of having your child diagnosed with cancer. People tend to respond with shock, distress, sadness and then often tell you how strong you are and how they wouldn’t be able to cope. Unfortunately, as we find ourselves 3 weeks into the Covid19 pandemic there are too many similarities to the ‘new normal’ of a childhood cancer diagnosis. People are getting an insight into a way of life that becomes normal for many families battling cancer and was a way of life that we were ready to leave well and truly behind!!

On treatment restrictions for us included: avoiding crowded places (theatre, cinema, busy shops), avoiding public transport (no buses, trains, planes), permission to travel from our hospital in advance (even to go to visit grandparents 3 hours away), not being able to leave the country for the duration of treatment, lots of stints of isolation in hospital and at home, having a bag packed at all times for emergency hospital visits, cancelling special events at last minute due to health issues (birthdays, christmas, holidays), giving up my PGCE training and work to become a carer, not visiting our regular family holiday campsite in wales for duration of treatment as it was too far from a hospital, not being able to play with friends if they had symptoms of a cold. All of these were alongside a rollercoaster of life threatening health issues and side effects from chemotherapy and steroids, regular hospital visits and keeping on top of a gruelling medication plan. When Henry finished his treatment in March 2019 we found that we had transitioned from cancer related physical health issues to helping him through extreme separation anxiety and panic attacks. Most of 2019 was spent very gently and persistently encouraging and supporting Hen, making him feel safe again and building his confidence to re-engage with the world.

It was hard, no doubt, but what we learnt as a family was to take each day as it comes, look for the silver linings in the simple things, not dwell on the things we couldn’t do and find ways to make the best of our new situation without thinking too much about the future. A tricky balancing act but mostly we managed to adapt to our ‘new normal’ with some days better than others. Having come through treatment, and end of treatment, I can see now the incredible resilience and empathy that Henry has learnt through his experience. I truly believe that these characteristics will help Henry through his life when dealing with difficult situations. I have learnt that I can get through the hardest of times even when it feels impossible and as a family we have coping strategies and a deep understanding of the importance of appreciating each day. For families that have recently received a diagnosis and are adjusting to life on treatment alongside life in lockdown this has become the ‘new normal’ (an annoying phrase but can also be helpful). I totally understand how incredibly hard the situation is but I really want to let you know that you can do this. It will probably be the hardest thing you have ever done but taking it one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time, things will change, time will pass and the nightmare will become a distant memory.

Henry, his Dad and I would really like to share the things that helped us through in the hope that they may help you and your family too. By counting every tiny achievement each day they will eventually add up to you being able to do more than you ever imagined.

Here is our list of tried and tested approaches to managing worries at difficult and stressful times. We tried lots of things and these were the ones that worked best in different situations.

Counted Breathing

Henry’s number one tip for helping to calm down is doing counted breathing. There are a number of different techniques but the one that I taught him is breathing in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11. Having done it consistently with him over time when he has needed help he is now able to automatically think about his breathing and focus on it to help himself calm down. For myself I have always found counted breathing really tricky but recently found that breathing along to my own mantra has worked better so instead of counting I use words i.e. breathing in and thinking ‘health, happiness’ breathing and out and thinking ‘love, creativity, fun’ Obviously you can use whichever words work for you personally. You can also access counted breathing and guided meditations for adults and kids on the Headspace App


This calming technique was taught to us by the fantastic Beverley Pearce from and is a powerful method of calming yourself or someone else. It helps to heal, strengthen and empower our minds and bodies. Henry will ask me to be havened if he is feeling very very stressed. We both sit on chairs facing each other with his knees tucked inside my knees and I very gently stroke both cheeks with my hands from his nose to his ear saying calming “I have got you. You are completely and utterly safe.” This helps to regulate his breathing and calms down the flow of adrenalin. After a few rounds I then stroke his arms from the top of his shoulder to his elbow repeating the same calming words. I think that it is important to realise that after having had a panic attack or very high anxiety you can feel completely exhausted for a couple of hours. If you can then watching a gentle film or having a sleep will help with recovery. Twice Henry has recognised me being very tense and has offered to Haven me, it was very relaxing, although I think the reason I was stressed was because he was winding me up!!!


Sitting outside in the woods or garden and closing your eyes for just a few moments can calm the senses as you start to really listen. You might hear distant traffic, birds, the wind through the trees… we used to listen and then list what we could hear. It’s amazing how much more you hear if you close your eyes. We also bought a white noise machine which Hen listens to at bedtime, he likes the sound of a crackline fire or babbling brook. There are also guided meditations at or you can make them up or read them. We used ‘Relax Kids – Aladdin’s Magic Carpet and other fairytale meditations for children’ by Marneta Viegas.

Identifying the worry

Sometimes for all of us it was helpful to try to identify the worry, give it a number out of 10 and try to give it a name. This was particularly useful at home when things weren’t going well and by sharing our level of worry we could understand a bit more why we were behaving in different ways and by understanding each other more we could be kinder to each other. We made a ‘Worry Scale’ with 10 as the most worried and 1 as not at all worried. It was a good way to start the day or check in at various points. Henry’s Dad doesn’t talk about his feelings as much so it was useful for us all to put our numbers on the worry scale and try to talk about our feelings. Some worries are huge and real, like Henry’s cancer or Covid-19, sometimes worries are a product of us imaging the worst possible scenario. In this case we found it useful to ground ourselves in the present by using our senses and spotting 5 things that are blue, 4 things that are green, 3 things that are yellow, 2 things that are red and 1 thing that is purple. It distracts your brain from the worry and gives it a chance to calm down and notice the present instead of thinking about what might happen.

Grandad’s poetry

Henry’s Grandad Mal used to read poetry to Henry’s Mum and Auntie Laura at bedtime when they were little. He also read to Henry at various times during Henry’s hospital stays and while we stayed with them during treatment. In March 2020 he has started recording some of his favourite poems and has uploaded them onto Soundcloud where they can be downloaded for free. They are lovely and calming to listen to at bedtime or anytime when things feel a bit too much.

Headphone moments and handcream

As we all know the focus on your child during cancer treatment becomes like tunnel vision. I think it has to in order to get through, but having even a couple of minutes break from thinking about the practical, physical and emotional needs of your child, as well as the intense fears that can creep in, is really important. We often find an incredible strength and resilience kicks in but to the detriment of our own health and wellbeing. After talking to the psychologist at our hospital I realised that I needed to find a few minutes in the day to switch off and I found it almost impossible. I started by getting some headphones and trying to listen to one entire song by one of my favourite musicians all the way through. I found it pretty shocking that even though a tune may only be a few minutes long I needed to pause it a couple of times to check Henry was ok. I worked on building up the amount of uninterrupted time to one whole song, then two and just that brief moment felt restorative. Combined with that I found that keeping a tube of a favourite hand cream (Molten Brown – luxury!!) in my bag meant that if I was finding things difficult I could wash my hands and then use the hand cream and take a moment to breathe in the aroma. This has become something I can do anywhere if I need a moment to relax and take a breath. Exercise –

IMG_3717For Henry’s Dad exercise became his physical and emotional support through trauma. He found it really important to get outside, see his friends at the running club and to feel like things were normal by keeping a good routine. Henry too benefitted from keeping physical as the Vincristine affected his knee joints so he was unable to walk for a short time, we knew how important it was to try to keep up his strength and stamina gently through walking and then when he was stronger and his Hickman line had been taken out lots of swimming and cycling. Hen was given a lightweight bike from Cyclists Fighting Cancer and it has really helped strengthen his joints and improve his stamina.

Art and Creativity

I am going to expand on this with my next blog but I strongly believe in the powerful therapeutic properties of creativity for everyone regardless of what artistic skill they think they may or may not have. I teach art classes to children and adults and emphasise to everyone that the end result really doesn’t matter. The process of making is the thing that should be fun, enjoyable and relaxing. Henry has always loved building Lego and loves drawing too. He has also enjoyed making clay or saltdough pinch pots or creatures, this has strengthened his hands and joints as an extra benefit. My sister made hundreds of colourful wool pompoms to help her through grief and trauma and ended up turning it into an art installation as part of a


Henry has always liked having his feet rubbed gently at bedtime. I was trying to think of ways to help him find deep relaxation as his body was on high alert so much of the time and so I took him to a reflexologist for a short session. I wasn’t sure how he would respond, particularly after experiencing so many horrible procedures lying on a hospital bed, but he absolutely loved it. When we left the therapy centre he said he felt like he was walking on a cloud! I felt that a weekly reflexology session was a good way of teaching his body how to fully relax again after the end of cancer treatment and that everything was ok. I have continued to give him a foot massage every evening at bedtime using a lavender foot balm which I find relaxing too.

Pets as Therapy

IMG_3386This may not be an easy solution but getting Kobi as a therapy dog for Henry was one of the best decisions we made. Kobi is a Jack Russell crossed with a Chihuahu and is the kindest little dog I’ve ever met. Just looking into his face and stroking him has helped Hen calm down and when we were in isolation in hospital talking to Henry’s Dad and seeing Kobi on facetime really helped make things feel ok. For the first few weeks it was challenging as I had to keep everything clean while we were toilet training but the positives outweighed that short amount of time and he has proved more than his weight in gold! We also got a fish tank as we enjoyed visiting the fish in hospital so much. I thought this could be a good home schooling project too but in the end the fish have definitely ended up being my therapy as I find them so relaxing to watch, I didn’t know I could love a tank full of fish so much!!

IMG_4333I really hope you find some of these ideas useful and please do forward my blog to anyone who you think might be struggling. I have used lots of these strategies to get Henry, Dave and I through some extremely hard times, we also tried lots that didn’t work for us. I think that when it comes to managing anxiety there unfortunately isn’t a magic wand for impatient people like me, but I have learnt that practising these coping strategies daily, even when you don’t feel like it, means that they are there to help weather the various storms that life throws at us all.

Take care and be kind to yourself xxx

Working Around The Edges and Finding Myself 2019

Looking back at my previous blog posts my writing seems to flow and my thoughts seem organised. They are generally positive in the hardest of situations and my visual creative output alongside makes me feel fulfilled despite the challenges of daily life. 2019 has been a very different and very strange story and I really don’t quite know where we are or where we are going…

All that I keep thinking is that I am ‘working around the edges’, following a strong tradition of female artists who juggle their creative work around caring for family. Anyone who knows me well knows that I always have my office/studio in my backpack. It’s heavy but always has my laptop, diary, sketchbook, linoprint or stitch projects. This year I have curated and managed the Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail for it’s 6th year, all the design work, admin and communications have been done from a space in my son’s school on my laptop as his PTSD and separation anxiety following his lengthy treatment for Leukaemia mean he won’t stay at school without me. I believe that the best thing for his current and future happiness and success mean getting him reintegrated properly with his peers at school. He is doing well but the progress is slower than I would like, I am impatient at the best of times and want us all to be able to get on with our lives and move forward positively.

This is literally what ‘working around the edges’ looks like… all of my work this year has been created either in school or hospitals on my lap using any chair/corner/space I can find. It has meant a lot less painting as I need dedicated time in the studio to do that but I have been developing sketches and drawings so that when I can get into the studio I have sketchbooks and ideas to work from.

I have to remember how hard our journey has been and how important creativity has been to all of us to get through so many things. Whether it’s finding our way around hospitals by following the artworks on the walls, listening to music on the journeys to and from hospital or doing stitchwort while I wait for Hen to come round from multiple anaesthetics. Working with other artists in exhibitions I have curated in Raveningham and Norwich Theatre Royal have given me a connection with other creatives that is crucial to my wellbeing. Being an artist can be a solitary pursuit, being a carer has multiplied this solitude and I find the duality of enjoying time by myself and craving creative connections with others often means that I swing between the two often wanting the opposite and not being in the moment – it’s all too much or not enough.

Finding Myself Again – Who am I, what do I do and why?

I feel I am at an interesting crossroads in my life as I can see the possibility of beginning to start to re-engage with myself after years of what I like to call ‘extreme parenting’! Thinking about what I do and why, I started writing a list of moments in my life that have  stayed with me in an attempt to work out what common threads there are and what I can carry forward in my art and life. I found quite quickly that some of the key moments were related to seeing artworks and installations for the first time, I find it difficult to express in words the feelings that those moments evoke as the words I come up with often feel inadequate or that they don’t fit with the immensity of the feeling which for me is purely visual but I am going to try. I have put links where I can to video or articles with more info about the artists and their works. In no particular order:

Sheila Hicks
Sheila Hicks Installation at Venice Biennale 2017 

Walking up to Sheila Hicks’s installation at the Biennale 2 years ago filled me with a sense of awe, joy, positivity as I felt the pure energy of the colours that towered above me and the softness of the circular forms felt warm and inviting. I stood in front of the installation taking it all in and slowly noticing how the work was not only in front of the architecture but was also at some points entering the building through cracks in the ancient stone walls which the artist had filled with colour and fibres. If I need a moment of joyful reflection I take myself back to the work in my mind’s eye.

Carpet Moth
Petrit Halilaj Carpet Moths at Venice Biennale 2017

Petrit Halilaj’s installation of gigantic moths made of carpet with a single bare, bright bulb, was a work of absolute joy, ingenuity, humour, history.

I made a little box of the images sent for Henry’s Odyssey fundraiser 2018, so many of the tiny artworks sent lifted my spirits and I keep them close and look through them when I need an emotional lift.


Georges Rouault  paintings of religious icons and landscapes at the Pompidou Centre, Paris. 1998

Jennie Fifield  – Ice skaters in a sink at the Fringe at the Factory in Norwich 2006. I don’t have a photo but remember the installation so clearly, it was a resin sheet that looked like a sheet of ice fitted in one of the sinks in the factory. There were wintery paper trees and ice skating figures if you looked into the sink. What I particularly loved was that the exhibition feature around 100 artists and groups with a huge range of painting, sculpture, film, installations, sound and this tiny, magical, imaginative piece could easily be overlooked but the artist had created an entire peaceful world in it’s own place and time alongside the visual and actual noise of the huge exhibition.

Rochechouart kids workshop in response to Richard Long installation – I was visiting the exhibition at Rochechouart and afterwards went for a walk around the grounds of the chateau and watched a group of young children with their teacher as they collected pine cones and used them to create a drawn line through the grounds. They worked together but independently searching for pine cones and then bringing them together to create the piece of land art inspired by Long.

Juliet Arnott – Installation in Salthouse chapel. Juliet worked in the chapel over the summer and slowly created a subtle immersive installation that seamlessly combined the natural decay of the chapel and with freshly woven windows and arches. The piece had a gentle impact on the space and became a celebration of a lost corner of the Churchyard. 2006

Maman Bilbao
Louise Bourgeois, Maman, Bilbao, 2019

Mona Hatoum
Mona Hatoum Installation at Newlyn Art Gallery 1996


So what is it that brings together these seemingly disparate artists/artworks/installations/projects? They have all resonated deeply with me in some way. COLOUR. SCALE. SPACE. SERIES. NATURE. QUIET. PEACE.

Winter and My Creative Manifesto

My 9 year old son Henry finishes treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia March 9th 2019. We still have a winter to get through but I am thinking gently about the change at end of treatment. Lots of people have told me that I will probably find it very difficult but I am not sure what that looks like… I am trying to put things in place to help the transition. Often I find the extremeness of the situation and the adrenalin gets me through things that if I stopped and thought about them would feel beyond impossible. I think that after having lived a life in such a traumatic state for such a long time adjusting to ‘normal’ life will be one of the hardest things. A friend told me that often people returning from war stop off somewhere else before returning home to decompress. I need to decompress somewhere, somehow, my studio is my sanctuary and maybe that’s the place to just be, where I can have time by myself to really think and process. Stepping between a world of childhood cancer and day to day life does feel like living in two very different worlds. I often find it really hard to adjust to walking round the supermarket after a trip to Addenbrookes, thoughts of Hen’s treatment, the other people we meet and the terrible journeys that they are supporting their children through make both places feel like a dream/nightmare. The winter scares me now, I think we will be hibernating, keeping our heads down to hopefully get through it without too much time in hospital. Last winter was very hard with lots of time in hospital, Henry needed to get to N&N with a temperature during the heavy snow, it was terrifying. The little girl who was poorly in the next bed at Addenbrookes in 2016 died in February, everything felt like it was crashing in. Sometimes when I drop Hen off at school I look at all the kids running around and think about her and the children in hospital fighting for their lives right now as I write this. They should be collecting conkers, running to school, laughing with their friends.

Last winter I spent a lot of time stitching. I looked for some images from my Instagram feed and realised that I set it up in March 2016, the beginning of Hen’s 3 years of treatment after 3 months of intensive chemo. Looking through the images I have posted between then and now felt so uplifting, joyful and positive. Full of Exhibitions, Drawing, Painting, Stitching and Walking – My Instagram. I noticed many things but particularly that around this time, Sept/Oct 2016, 2017 and 2018 I start stitching! I hadn’t realised it was a habit linked to the seasons. In 2016 I needed to make tiny stitched hearts, I can see now that I was mending my heart with stitch, thread and colour. I started with the broken heart on the left when we thought we might lose Hen, a star for each of us.

Heart Stitching 2017.png

I then started making scrappy little birds, something I am feeling an urge to today again this winter…

Stitched Bird 2017.png

I have started this Winters stitching with this cross stitch for my sister. Counted cross stitch is my meditative creative practice, it’s a bit like doing a sudoko puzzle with thread! I can pick it up and put it down without much thought, which is useful for long waits in hospital when there is too much going on to concentrate on reading a book.

Yarthkin 2018.jpg

So what has this got to do with a Creative Manifesto?

Autumn and Winter are a real time of reflection for me after the busy Spring and Summer of Exhibitions and Workshops. I look forward to getting in the studio or out on the marshes to draw. This year with the approach of EOT (End Of Treatment) I feel like I really need to keep my focus and steer myself through what could be a joyful but difficult time as we really take stock of what we have come through. In order to do this I am going to give myself the time and space to create what I need to create, take the pressure off painting for exhibitions and just make what I need to make. Stitching, Printmaking, Drawing, Painting and alongside this really think about what I do and why. Question my practice, challenge my assumptions, change direction, experiment, play and use all of this to develop my own Creative Manifesto as a means to keep me on track and help me through hard times both creative and emotional. I am really looking forward to it!


Eileen Cooper, first female Keeper of RA

2018 has started for me with an inspiring exhibition at Diss Corn Hall in Norfolk. Last year I went to a Print in Action day with my family which was being run by a printmaking friend, Annette Rolston, at her workshops in Diss, Designermakers21. It was fantastic with a mixed exhibition of master printmakers in the Corn Hall opposite, Henry Moore, David Hockney etc. and then demonstrations by professional local printmakers using a variety of approaches: linoprint, drypoint, stencil, woodblock. We were able to ‘have a go’ and all felt the satisfaction that printmaking gives, it is such a contemplative creative process, for me it feels much calmer and more considered than drawing and painting. Having produced some interesting pieces we had to rush back home to receive delivery of a life-size rhinoceros sculpture made from scrap metal for the Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail 2017… another story!

When Annette called me a few months ago to ask if I would take part in this years ‘Print in Action’ day my immediate response was yes… for me it ticked all the boxes of including good professional artists, displaying work to a high standard and being inclusive and accessible to the public. I will be demonstrating my keyblock linoprints, which are then hand coloured with watercolour, on Saturday 10th February at the Corn Hall. As an added bonus Annette called a couple of weeks ago to invite me to put works into a mixed exhibition of prints alongside a solo exhibition of prints and sculpture by Eileen Cooper RA in the main gallery at the Corn Hall. I jumped at the chance and so found myself at the PV a couple of nights ago, I didn’t realise there was a film and conversation with Eileen as part of the PV. The film was so inspiring, it featured footage of the artist in her studio, showing how she overcame particular technical challenges such as registering linoprints of life-size figures as well as watching her paintings in progress. I was struck by the amount of working and reworking her paintings took. Entire parts of the painting would be painted out and repainted to put figures into different poses, all to ensure that the lines were just right and that the overall composition was the best it could be. She also talked about her creation of a series of sculptures, with the help of studio technicians Eileen was able to create paper cut out sculptures in bronze. There are some on show at the Corn Hall and it was interesting to see all the decisions involved to create the patina and colour that she required.

On practical terms the evening was fantastic for me as a painter, printmaker but something else has been running through my mind in a much clearer way than it ever has before. Eileen is the first female Keeper (boss) of the Royal Academy in it’s 250 year history. She has held the post for 6 years and having just retired from the position has, thankfully, handed it on to another powerful woman artist, Paula Rego. A question was asked about who Eileen’s female role models were at art school in the 1970s and she said that there just weren’t any, the art world then was so steeped in patriarchy and women had only just been allowed to enter the Life Drawing rooms let alone establish a tradition of female artists. I was born in 1974 in a rural Norfolk village and didn’t know any painters as I was growing up, my art education at high school was poor to non-existent and I sometimes wonder how I came to be a painter at all!* I have always had a sense of the art world being a male domain and even recently looking through the art monograph books at Foyles the balance seems to be about 80/20 representing men. When I was at Falmouth Art College I wrote a dissertation on the lack of women artists at the National Gallery and the representation of women in the gallery through the male painters eye. I have visited the Venice Biennale for many years and one of the most striking installations for me was the Guerrilla Girls at the entrance to the Italian Pavilion, including their famous ‘Advantages of being a Woman Artist’

Guerilla Girls

I think what I feel is anger and hope. Anger that childcare and housekeeping are still things that my contemporary male artists don’t have to contend with in the same way as female artists but hope that at this year’s biennale there was a large representation of fabulous women artists in their 70’s and 80’s. (I will never forget Sheila Hicks’s epic textile installation in the Arsenale.) Hope that I can follow their hard won paths. Essentially I no longer feel that the male dominated Norwich School of Painters – Arnesby Brown, Crome, Cotman, Seago – really is my inheritance, despite the fact we walk, draw and paint in the same landscape. I really am ploughing my own furrow and following my creative drive single mindedly. I am excited to see where it takes me…

*I am fortunate that both of my parents are creative, they have instilled in me and my sister a relentless work ethic and drive to pursue our creative visions regardless of the day to day practicalities. This sense of endurance and focus is in my core even though life  can pull me away from it. I always return to what I know and love in the studio and make sure I visit the galleries and artists works that inspire me.