I work in a large attic studio in Sheffield. After many years as a children’s book illustrator, with my media and style restricted to what was known and expected, I now enjoy the opportunity for experimentation and creative play. Drawing is central to all my work, whether painting or sewing: I think of stitch as a parallel to drawn mark-making, while sheer fabrics, rough-cut and layered to create subtle gradations of colour, flow like watercolour.
All my textiles are hand stitched. I like the meditative pace of hand sewing, which allows me the time to formulate ideas as I go along, helping me to work intuitively, rather than planning ahead. I am not interested in work where the outcome is predictable: my inspiration comes from the fragile nature of creative expression and its links back to the subconscious.
The gentle, steady pace of my sewing is in direct contrast to my painting process. In order to capture the energy of instinctive mark-making, I paint quickly: short bursts of energetic work are punctuated with longer periods of observing and thinking. I am intrigued by the balance between apparently random mark-making choices and controlled decision-making. Like my textiles, the paintings and drawings evolve in an entirely dynamic manner, with no specific goal in mind.
A few years ago, I realised that I suffer from aphantasia: an inability to pull on visual memory. My mind’s eye doesn’t function; when I try to conjure an image, it is as if I see it in my peripheral vision but, if I attempt to look at it directly, it evaporates.
I am fascinated by the ways in which this informs my creative method – my focus on the here and now, on making decisions as I go along – and how certain kinds of work have always been impossible for me, without me understanding the reasons at the time.
I can paint or draw anything which is put in front of me but, remove me from the subject, and I cannot work from memory, not even seconds later. Yet I do have the ability to soak up inspiration from the natural world, or from other artist’s work, and to carry that away with me in some fashion, if not as remembered images. This inspiration does find its way into my work, but through largely subconscious channels.