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Monday, 15 January 2018

'Brink' and Other Stories.

When I am drawing words come. A conversation with the drawing, as it happens, during which I find words to describe, guide and define it. Some of these words spill out into my sketch book, as notes, half poems or possible titles.

I have been thinking about the power of titles recently, particularly the line between titles working with the drawing to communicate to the viewer and titles being too leading, snuffing out the ability of the drawing to speak for itself. It is a difficult line to tread, however words often feel so involved in my drawings, tied up in each mark, that I want them to contribute, and to figure out how best they can work with the drawing.

Paint, pastel and pencil on tracing paper

Some people call it 'The black dog', for me it is certainly dark but also heavy, dense and  invading. It attempts to conquer and there is always a battle between it and the other (the parts untouched by depression and anxiety). What happens at the point where these two equal forces meet, who will swallow who?

'Almost Edible' 
Pastel on tracing paper

The surface of my sons skin. A landscape I could happily lose myself in and that I can not help but touch, particularly those cheeks, I ache to kiss them. The Joy of this.

Pastel on paper

Can you still draw the workings of the mind, and heart, if you take medication designed to soften their edges?

More images of my work are here

Monday, 11 December 2017

Album Artwork for 'Mass' by dbh

I was very honored when the incredibly talented Manchester musician Dan Bridgwood Hill aka dbh, asked me if he could use details from my drawing 'Sara's Forest' as the artwork for his latest album 'Mass'. I love Dan's music, and have really enjoyed drawing in response to his improvisations during our performances over the years. And so Dan responding to one of my drawings in this way, felt like a very natural exchange.

'I first saw 'Sara's Forest' on the wall of Naomi's studio not long after she drew it and I was immediately attracted to it. Overtime I've derived a lot of meaning from it, including things Naomi can not possibly have intended. I realised very early on that it would make a great album cover and as such it became inseparable from the music I was making, so when the record was finished there was no option but to ask for permission to use it'  - Dan

'Mass' is out now on Thread Recordings

Find out more about the original drawing 'Sara's Forest' here

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Drawing as Experience - All the Dirty Words


Two years ago I was extremely lucky to receive funding from the Arts Council England for a research and development project to develop my practice. It was a fantastic opportunity, and now as the project ends I have been reflecting on what happened. You can see a gallery of highlights from the project and read all about it in my Drawing as Experience posts

When talking about what happened in a project some things can get omitted. There was something else going on throughout this two year project, a parallel journey I think it's important to share....

The Mothers We Are

How do you justify going to your studio to draw and develop your practice, when you have to pay £40 a day in childcare every time you are there? There are rarely any known immediate results at the time of making, will it be exhibited, or sold, will someone select us to perform? On a practical level as a parent it makes little sense, as a self employed person running their own business it is at best risky.

I do it, in part, because I do not know how not too, I realised as soon as I returned to my studio when my son Jackson started nursery that this is my 'comfort zone', it is what I know. And with my new job of being a mother being made up of a series of shifting unknowns, that was a lovely thing to return to. My work is also a vital part of my identity, prior to being a parent it felt like it was all of me, and took most of my time. being an artist is something I have been working at for as long as I can remember, it is who I am, how I see and interact with the world around me.

Becoming a mother has an enormous impact on your identity and is a big adjustment; how do you see yourself now? how do others from your family to wider society see you? and most of all how does the little person that depends on you for all see you, what impact are you having on him? And where is what you know as 'you' in this mix?


How do you continue to develop your practice when members of your family die, but you still have to find the wheatabix, do the jigsaw and stay steady for your child, who is far to little to understand? And what happens when a few months later you suddenly find you can't sleep anymore, no matter how hard you try? You see that your mental health is waning, but to stop working in the way you always have feels like losing an important part of who you are. And you are giving your all to your new job too, of trying to be the mother from fairy tales, because you are used to trying to do things the best you can.

Nobody can give their all twice.

At this point I stopped, and thought many, many times that I would not start again, It was like a crisis of faith. I took a break from the project, from my studio, from trying so bloody hard.


Eventually I started talking. And in doing so I discovered that almost all of the mothers I knew had (silently) crashed at some point too, I listened to artists past and present who talked about the conflict between their identity as a mother and as an artist, I talked to a fantastic counselor and GP. Finally I started to talk through my work too, through each drawing...


Medicine Day 5

Medicine Week Two

For a long time I had hesitated. Though I saw each drawing as a psychological space inhabited, where emotions, sensations and memories emerge and make their way out in the drawing, I was showing them behind a layer of frosted glass. With drawing music in particular it was more a form of escapism, than direct communication. I found increasingly that I wanted to say more.

Recognising there was no space in my life to grieve for those in my family I had lost, I went to my studio and I did it in the drawings. I went there too to talk about motherhood, both the joys and the difficulty and to try and articulate my internal landscape when my mental health is fractured. In the drawings I have the space to think, feel and gradually, proudly, begin to say 'all the dirty words' that are; motherhood, grief, feminism and mental health, are this.

Stroke (1)

Stroke (2)

I'm looking forward to making more work, to putting it out in the world, not as some cathartic process or therapy, but as a new way of drawing. And I want people to find something in that work that hits them, that makes them talk back.

I am enormously grateful for this funding for the crucial help with finances and therefore time, but most of all for the belief in me that it symbolised at a time when I needed it the most. It made me keep going, grow, and pulled my work to exactly where it should be.

I would like to thank everyone involved in the project for their support; Andrew Brooks, Mark Devereux, Devin Terhune, Alison Kershaw, Rae Story, Louise Thompson, David Birchall, Dan Bridgwood Hill, Gemma Lacey, Simon Woolham, Epiphany, the Vonnegut Collective, the participants from TLC St Lukes and the Manchester Art Gallery's wellbeing program as well as everyone who came to our performances.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Exhibition News

I am pleased to say that my work has been selected to be shown in the 'Small World' exhibition at PS Mirabel as part of the Manifest Arts Festival, the preview is on the 7th of July 6-9pm.

'The feel of your ear' (top) and 'Morning time'

Drawing under Hypnosis and HOME Talk

For my fourth session drawing under hypnosis at Goldsmiths, University of london in collaboration with Devin Terhune I attempted to 'draw happy'. The emotional states I explore and capture in my drawings tend to be more about difficulty than joy (though happiness has appeared in work made about my son Jackson). Perhaps it is harder to articulate happiness, for fear of descending into visual cliches, or perhaps I don't feel the need to explore and communicate it as much? As a psychologist Devin has always been keen throughout our collaboration to keep an eye on where I am going in the hypnosis, to steer clear of any real darkness. So I thought it would be good, here in the context of working with Devin and hypnosis to give 'joyful drawing' a try.

The Last Swim

I always come to the sessions with a scribbled list of things I would like to do, places, emotions, or words I would like to focus on under hypnosis and therefore within the drawings. Devin and I then talk through them to see which could work well under hypnosis. This time I came armed with a list of happiness; making Jackson laugh hysterically by tickling him, my last swim in the sea....

Colour has become more present in my work as a whole, helping me to better represent emotional states, memories and sensations. I used Bright neon pink pastel to draw tickling Jackson and hearing him laugh. While doing this drawing I remember grinning, on the verge of laughter myself as the tickling and laughing felt so real for me, I even began to tickle the paper, as you can see in the fingerprint marks that make up the bottom of the drawing.


As my Arts Council England Research and Development Project 'Drawing as Experience' comes to a close, of which this collaboration forms a part, Devin and I have got into a really good rhythm of working together. Devin has a good understanding of what I want from the drawings, and makes suggestions along those lines or even to get me out of my comfort zone. My knowledge of hypnosis and other aspects of psychology is coming along too. It has been a great collaboration which we hope to continue.

Left hand hard, right hand soft

Earlier this year I was invited to give a talk about my drawings made while under hypnosis at HOME for their quarterly show and tell event.

Talk at HOME

You can see more about my drawings made under hypnosis here 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Capturing Drawing in Response to Music

Part of my drawing practice involves drawing in response to live improvised music, this is a method I use to capture different emotional states and physical sensations through drawing. As part of my Research and Development project 'Drawing as Experience' (funded by Arts Council England) I wanted to ask; How is this work best shown? Is it through the finished drawing, the performance or the documentation of the performance or some combination of all of these elements? In recent years I have focused very much on the public performance as the act is where this particular aspect of my work exists for me, the finished drawing can not 'tell it' alone. But does this moment of making the drawing, of hearing the sounds that propel it into being, have to be physically witnessed by an audience each time, or are there other possibilities?

Exploring this, I commissioned Andrew Brooks to create a film of me drawing in response to improvised sounds by my long term collaborators David Birchall and Dan Bridgwood Hill. I wanted to push what the audience could access of this moment by using a go pro camera (attached to my head), giving both the impression of the performance as they might witness as part of an audience, but also a more intimate view, close to my own, inside the drawing.

Here is the resulting film.