100 Years, 100 Days

I'm very happy to be able to reveal a really exciting project I have coming up in beautiful Wiltshire. The commission has several parts to it and I'm creating very different work for two separate churches, St Laurence's in Hilmarton and Christ Church in Broad Town. The Broad Town project is a whole other kettle of fish, so I'll save that for a later blog and begin with Hilmarton.

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This year, Remembrance Day will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War. All over the country, communities will be marking the centenary of Armistice on the 11th November, but at St Laurence's Church in Hilmarton, they're starting early - 100 days early.

I was really inspired by their decision to hold an Act of Remembrance in the church, every day for 100 days until Remembrance Day: 100 Years, 100 Days. So inspired, in fact, that I enthusiastically decided to join in and begin my commission by creating 100 ink illustrations. Which is why I now find myself beginning the massive challenge of painting or drawing something, every day from today until 11th November, to tell the stories of some of the local men who died in the war.

You can follow the project on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, support me on Patreon (coming soon!) and watch the work unfold over the course of the next few months!

I'm going to base the work on just four men whose names appear on the war memorial in the church and really want to make this project about their lives and experiences. There's an amazing local historian in Hilmarton, Richard Broadhead, who has done so much research into all the men who went to fight from Wiltshire, it's phenomenal - I definitely won't be short of material.

However, it doesn't end with the initial illustrations. What I'm really hoping to do is to use the work created over the 100 days as a starting point to make three or four installations inside the church. I’d like to commemorate the soldiers lives in a more personal way than names carved in stone, read out once a year. This part of the project all depends on whether or not we can secure more funding, but I really hope it will be possible!

In the meantime, today marks the very first day of the project, and here is the first painting-in-progress!

All the paintings will be exhibited in the church and are also for sale here (although this first one has already been claimed!) so please do follow me on social media and sign up to my mailing list if you're interested in staying up to date!


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Ink After Ink

I can't even remember quite why I decided to try Inktober. I hadn't used ink at all since about 2006 (to which my lumpy jar of Windsor and Newton will attest) and wondered if it was a good idea to invest so much time in something that certainly wouldn't lead to any more work.

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But sometimes having to stick to a 'style' feels like such a trap. Sometimes I even feel there's this huge gap between the kind of work I make and the work I see that makes my heart sing; I'm just not brave enough to try it. I think, I want to draw and I cannot draw, I want to paint and I cannot paint. I want to write another picture book. Create another window display. I want to make giant sculptures as big as a house and tiny, tiny books with beetle-wing covers. To hang a big tangle of ten-thousand paper stars glued to gold wires from a vaulted ceiling. I want to write poems and make costumes and design sets for theatres. I can picture, exactly, the wallpaper I want in my bedroom. I want to sit in my favourite tree and document everything I find there. I want to paint faces on eggs. I want to fill every second of every day doing things that matter, because otherwise, really, what is the point?

There are so many things. I sit at my desk, paralysed by endless possibility and the thought that I would do every single one of them if I was quite a lot braver and a bit less rubbish. And I think about what my decade-younger self would have thought of that (I can half-remember her having a lot more self-belief, at least in terms of work) and I want to go back in time and sweep her up.

So that's what Inktober was about, in the end; being braver. Speeding forth in on my inky-stained steed, throwing caution to the wind, rescuing self-belief and possibly blobbing on some ancient masking fluid for good measure. Somehow, just making time to do one small painting per day and actually doing it (albeit not always on the day), for a whole month feels like it might be the beginning of something. Although so many things have felt like new beginnings this year, I've almost lost track.

This isn't quite the blog I thought I was going to write - I thought I'd write about how difficult it is to know when to stop painting; the frustration I felt when I knew I'd ruined something at the last minute, or the relief when, after a couple of hours, that day's effort seemed much better than I originally thought. How with collage anything is fixable with pritt-stick and scissors, but with ink you're sort of stuck. How possible it is to lose yourself in painting trees.


Here are all the paintings, in order (plus a bonus bear).


I'd already begun using some pencil line in my more recent work, so I'm going to try painting a bit more of it too - beginning with this month's RSPB commission!

I'm also planning to auction these off, probably on Facebook, to kick-start my London Marathon fundraising for Refuge (yep, I'm doing it again!), so please keep your eyes peeled if you'd like to buy one and support a fantastic charity at the same time! You could also stay in the loop by signing up to my mailing list.

Portrait of the Artist as a Grizzly Bear

This started off as a quick scribble I posted on Instagram. I've had way more rejection than I've ever had actual work and somehow I'm still here, sitting at my desk with gluey hands and bits of paper stuck to my slippers. So hip-hip-hooray for a giddy optimism, I think it's probably the main ingredient in being a freelance illustrator.