I was born in Middlesex, England in 1967 and grew up in London, with a rather disrupted childhood, being moved from place to place by my family, and experiencing a delightful array of run down 70’s comprehensive schools. It was the sort of education where you caught the PE teacher drinking lager in the corridor and the Maths teacher threw the wooden board rubber at your head if you didn’t listen. I didn’t listen.
As a child, I spent a huge amount of time on roller skates; I probably didn’t take them off for an entire decade. When not on wheels I was drawing pictures (in the fabulous medium of biro). I mainly drew animals and ‘80’s pop stars, often during Maths. Debbie Harry and Adam Ant were favorite subjects, as were cats and dogs. I had an amazing memory for colours, adults would ask my opinion and I could pick out a paint colour to match the sofa back home without needing a reference swatch.
I knew I wanted to be an artist, but this was discouraged firmly by the adults around me. This was the 1980’s: Careers advice for girls was “Do you want to be a nurse or a secretary dear?” I was told to learn to type, I did and I must say it has always come in handy…
A break from art
I worked in a wildly varying array of unsuitable jobs for the next 10 years. Then I took a break to have a baby. This gave me time to assess my life and I knew I could never go back to the 9 to 5. As I sat and fed my baby I wondered what happened to the child who wanted to be an artist…
On holiday in Cornwall I was fascinated with some pen and wash watercolours I saw in a little gallery. Why hadn’t the pen run? (Dumb question, it was waterproof pen!) How did you get all those blended effects? I went into a local art shop in Truro and purchased a set of paints.
Learning to paint
When I got home I found some local courses with Christopher Ryland, botanical artist and watercolourist extraordinaire who lives in my home town. I explained that I intended to be a professional artist and would like him to teach me, looking back, he probably thought I was nuts. In the beginning I was frustrated, my drawing was worse than when I was 14! A friend who is an art teacher told me not to worry, if I could do it once, it would come back, and she was right.
I am lucky enough to live in the same town as Gainsborough’s House, childhood home of the artist and now museum and thriving print workshop. So I took some courses there too, learning traditional printmaking and making contacts. For fun I also made mosaics, something I had done as a hobby for years. Whilst trying lots of different art media, I discovered I had a real affinity to watercolours; techniques others struggled with I seemed to just pick up, my instinct for colour was still strong, I don’t ever remember being taught how colour works, it just seemed to be in my genetic code, perhaps passed on from the several artists on my father’s side of the family.
I thought about teaching others to paint, about being an artist full-time, but was lacking in confidence. Then something happened, and I became with no warning, that scourge of the Tory party: a single mother. Like most other single mothers I certainly hadn’t planned a future of struggling and poverty but that is what I got and it was time to make the best of things, I had literally nothing whatsoever to lose. Plenty of people told me I was being delusional, selfish, and should get a ‘proper’ job. Luckily I have never listened to other people.
I threw myself into teaching art classes, and learning from other artists, I gradually started to feel at home in this new world, picking up everything from basic computer graphics to framing. I accepted anything that came my way from community projects to illustration work to demonstrations. I was still working from my spare room and painting on the dining room table amongst the homework and ironing. I exhibited whenever and wherever I could, scolding my mother when she sneaked into exhibitions and bought my stuff under a fake name.
My own studio
For years I read articles about artists working in huge and luxurious studios my gills turning geen with envy, how much better my life would be with a studio! At this stage I had decided to move in with my new partner, and we were looking at houses, nothing seemed suitable, then we found our current home. He felt it was the house for us, but I was less keen, especially as there was no room suitable for studio use. In the end I was persuaded that we could put a studio in the garden. However, quotations for even basic brick-built buildings were out of our budget range and it seemed my dream would not come true. I sulked a bit. Then we found a company selling high-quality wooden buildings and I finally got my studio! I never take it for granted and am endlessly grateful to my partner who literally built it from the ground up with his own hands.
I live with my partner and teenage daughter in Suffolk and work from my garden studio with Gimlet the rescue cat for company. I teach a regular range of art classes and courses, mainly in Watercolour. I am a published illustrator and write art business and tuition articles online and occasionally for magazines. I have a busy exhibiting and demonstrating schedule, my work is also available in several local shops and galleries.
I am eternally grateful to all the supportive friends, generous professional artists, fantastic students and exceptional local businesses who continue to enable me to do the job I dreamed of as a child.