I have always had a great passion for wildlife even from the age of five I was writing and illustrating my first set of animal books, usually creating the character''s from plastercine and scraps of fabric. Later at the age of seven I adopted my first pet rabbit, which opened the floodgates for an ever-growing menagerie of birds and animals including my beloved dog Loopy whom has been the inspiration (and very patient model) for many years of paintings and picture books. Throughout my teenage years I did a lot of sculpting and studied photography which has proved invaluable throughout, as I have had many commissioned photo shoots from private portraits to live concerts. After leaving school though, I began a career in portrait painting, which I continued for the next twelve years. During this time I met my partner, Steve who is a saxophonist and session musician and whom has been a tremendous help in every aspect of my work over the years. More recently I have been concentrating on writing and illustrating my own books. I have always had a good imagination so it seemed a natural progression to move towards story and picture books. I have found this a great way to develop my painting skills too!
I live on the doorstep of the Peak District, which is a great source of inspiration for me. I love days out gathering reference especially early mornings or late summer evenings. I have a great many influences and '' art heroes'' from the old masters to the modern day illustrators. For me there is a lot to be learned by observing a diverse range of artists work. Vermeer, Hopper, Sargent and Klimt through to Norman Rockwell, Alfred Munnings and more recently Scott Gustafson all of whom have something to offer me in the way of fantastic art.
There are too many artists to list but nothing inspires me more other people’s work. It is great that my mum is an artist too. It is a real pleasure watching her enjoy her painting. We often call upon each other and needless to say we always have plenty to talk about. My whole family is an inspiration. They are a ''colourful bunch'' and in the summer we get together to help my dad in his hobby of Belgian beer drinking! Of course the birds and animals I see around me every day give me most of my ideas so there really is no escape from work. Even our very occasional holidays turn into reference gathering trips-hard work or not, I think I like it that way.
When sketching ideas I work in many different mediums, sometimes charcoal, pastel or pencil other times inks or paints depending on my subject matter or mood. Once I have been inspired from my large library of reference material I spend a long time throwing ideas around, often appearing in a ''world of my own'' whilst conducting various compositions in my head until suddenly I rush off somewhere to get the idea down on paper or whatever is to hand. Eventually I will settle myself down in the studio and after laboriously priming the board on which I work, I will transfer my idea straight onto the board with brush and paint, though if I am working on paper I always carefully sketch out the picture first as unlike canvas or board there is little room for mistakes.
I work mainly in acrylic, ink and oil paints. These are great mediums for me as they allow me to rework the painting until I am happy. I start by under painting, blocking in the different tones and highlights and from there build up the layers and then the detail. Because I am constantly plagued with new ideas, before I have finished painting I am generally starting a new piece. It is very rare that I should work a picture right through from beginning to end but at least the pieces that I feel are my best works I do eventually finish.
I usually start my day plinking on the piano whilst waiting for the kettle to boil-then reboil, but running an animal rescue house means there is no such thing as a typical day. I have a vague routine, which I build around whoever needs me most that day. Through the year I take in wild animals and birds including nestfulls of various fledglings that need constant attention, dragging me out of bed at all hours but generally I get up when I am woken up anyway. Although it is hard work I do enjoy caring for the rescuees, a lot of who are now permanent residents (and great reference studies too).
I am an ''all or nothing'' person. If I am in the studio and buzzing with work and ideas then I find it hard to come out and switch off, sometimes constantly working through days and nights when allowed and not coming out for weeks at a time. I always have a number of paintings on the go often spending many many hours on pictures I will never finish but this is all part of the process of work.
Once out of the studio I can find it hard to go back in. Discipline is difficult at times and I am easily distracted especially when the weather is good but at these times I can usually justify trips out to gather invaluable reference in the form of sketches, notes and photographs. Ideas never stop as I find the inspiration endless for new books and paintings. Music also inspires me greatly in my everyday life and if I need a break from work there is usually something around to tootle on. I eat when I am hungry (or when I find time) and I have lots of mucking out to do in a day. I have recently taken on a horse which is a new way of life for me now-and even more mucking out. I have a wonderfully close family and very understanding friends and not a day goes by when I don''t feel that I am very lucky!