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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The Narnia Tree

One happy September afternoon, while book-shopping with Sarah in Auxerre, I came across this beaut of a book, ARBRE, by Amandine Laprun, which got me thinking.

I'd already been working on some illustrations for the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for my portfolio, and the fold-out-tree-cum-book format seemed perfect for Lucy and Mr Tumnus. It's been a horribly long time since I got my act together and sent out anything vaguely self-promotional, so I vowed that, this Christmas, I would send something no less than SPECTACULAR. The Eiffel Tower of self promotion, a thing so exquisite that art directors all over the world would weep tears of joy. You know the sort of thing. Instead, I did this:

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I've been working on these illustrations for a couple of months and finally, last week, I had a whole forest of paper trees, ready to spread their roots! Well, nineteen to be precise, and one with a bit of avocado on it.

I'm quite pleased with how these turned out, but mostly very chuffed that I actually got them in the post the right side of Christmas! Here's to a 2018 full of doing some actual, proper work.

But before then, I plan to eat, drink, be merry, and attempt to bring some sort of order to the hovel that is my studio. And to draw some nice animals. And make a good sort of list. And go for a run, because it's been a while. And finish all those ink paintings I started before I remembered that I don't have time to do self-initiated projects in December. And finish making my crackers. And wrapping presents. And...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Running for Refuge

It is astonishing, the speed at which it's possible to go from idly browsing Refuge's website, looking for fundraising inspiration, to receiving a London Marathon running vest in the post.

Because the amazing thing about running is that even when you're completely stationary, sitting at your desk with a mug of tea, the endorphins can still get you. Like the rhythm got Gloria Estefan. Like listening to Nina Simone sing Here Comes the Sun can make it feel like the sun has come up in my heart. I only had to imagine I was running down the Mall, the crowd cheering wildly, and, before I knew what had happened, I'd not only submitted the application form but actually got a place!

I'm so proud to be running the London Marathon for Refuge. Refuge is committed to a world where domestic violence is not tolerated and where women and children can live in safety. They aim to empower women and children to rebuild their lives, free from violence and fear. They provide a range of life-saving and life-changing services, and are a voice for the voiceless. I'd be so grateful for any donation you can give, you can find my fundraising page here.

I've been running fairly regularly since the Bournemouth marathon last October (although rarely more than 10k), but I still definitely wouldn't call myself a runner. I fling my arms in the air for fun when I'm going downhill, sing/gasp along to Taylor Swift (judge me if you will) as I go, and fantasise that I'm being interviewed on Woman's Hour when I probably should be focusing on... who knows? My gait? Nutrition strategy? Instead I listen to Girl on Fire and pretend that the actual spirit of Maryland is calling me or Modern Love, which transports me to New York, where I zig-zag the streets like Frances Ha.

In reality, I'm mostly zig-zagging round horses and tractors while desperately trying to stop Gladys from dragging me into the ditch on the opposite side of the road.

So, only when I'd got my vest and sponsorship form, taped a training timetable over my desk and bought myself some jazzy new leggings did I realise how much harder this marathon business would be this time (besides the February sleet and soggy trainers), because now, I'd need to ask people to sponsor me, just for me.

I've written and re-written my fundraising blurb a MILLION times. I wake up in the middle of the night to do it. I tweak it over breakfast. I move commas at lunch. I email it to friends and family to ask them and, if someone does make a donation, I panic about which version they've seen and what they will think. I've been trying to write this blog for a whole month.

But now there are only SEVEN weeks to go til marathon day and it's time for action!

So, basically, this cause is very important to me because, like plenty of other women out there, I know how it feels when a relationship becomes abusive, no matter whether the abuser does it consciously or not. I know how hard it is to identify what is happening, how impossible it is to explain. That's why I'm doing this, because I want it all to have been useful for something. I want other women to know they aren't alone. I want to raise lots of money for this brilliant, life-saving, awareness-raising, attitude-changing charity.

Every woman should be aware of the warning signs of an abusive relationship and know when to trust her instincts. This is why the work of Refuge is so important, they can give a woman the strength and support she needs to leave an abusive partner, when she feels at her most worthless and powerless. And they'll be there to help her rebuild her life, too.

Something I'm working on, inspired by  this interview . Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says women must "reject the idea of likeability ... you have girls who are abused, but they're thinking about the feelings of their abuser."

Something I'm working on, inspired by this interview. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says women must "reject the idea of likeability ... you have girls who are abused, but they're thinking about the feelings of their abuser."

In their lifetime, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence (this doesn't just mean physical abuse, but controlling, manipulative behaviour too). This seems almost incredible, until you slowly start talking to people and then you begin to understand how real that statistic is. Which is really why I want to try to talk about it, because domestic abuse affects women of every age and background. Every week in England and Wales two women are killed by a current or former partner, and recent research by Refuge indicates that over half of young women (18-21) have experienced at least one violent incident from a partner.

Refuge can help. Not only do they provide safe, emergency accommodation and run the National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Women’s Aid, they also offer services for children, individual and group counselling for abused women and community based outreach services. Refuge runs award winning media and advertising campaigns to raise public awareness of the issue and lobbies for better provision of services for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

So, this is why I'm giving this marathon thing another go. Please give anything you can. I have other fundraising plans too - so watch this space!