Practitioner Focus: Sam Hobbs

Tell us what you do?

I currently work four days a week in a secondary school in West Sussex. I have two roles: 'OutBacc' Lead (working with Subject Leaders in other foundation subjects), and Subject Lead in the Art department. Around five years ago two important things happened that changed my relationship with my job. Firstly, I was seconded to Brighton University to work with PGCE students one day a fortnight. I realised how much I valued sharing skills and knowledge with others and that the reflective nature of learning never stops. Secondly, I joined the Sketchbook Circle! Re-engaging with my own work and joining the Sketchbook Circle community felt like finding the last piece of a jigsaw. I love my 'free' Fridays when I get to make my own work, and I love the impact that this has on other aspects of my life. 


How would you describe your work?

Varied! My interests are broad and I draw inspiration from places I visit, exhibitions and galleries, as well as my sketchbook conversations. My current collages are small in scale. Around two years ago a good friend gave me a bag of old postage stamps that had belonged to her father. I started cutting out the motifs on the stamps and creating small scenes by combining them with other materials. I have become a stamp collector (who'd have thought!) as well as a seeker of old atlases, maps, sheet music and books to use in my work. Combining collage, printmaking and drawing I hope to bring new life and meaning to these beautiful, redundant items. More recently I have enjoyed experimenting with different phone apps to move these images on a step further.


What’s your favourite tool or material to work with?

I love all types of printing. My background is in Textiles, although I specialised in Embroidery at University. Before teaching, I owned a clothes shop and t-shirt printing business with a friend in Brighton. I loved the screen-printing process, and since then have enjoyed experimenting with print on different papers, including old dress patterns and maps. Throughout my teaching career, I have learned so many great printmaking techniques which I now use in my own work, with young people in school, and with PGCE students. Different mono-printing techniques, relief printing, rubber stamping, intaglio printing, gelli plate printing... I love it all!

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Where do you go to find creative inspiration?

I guess I am an adventurer at heart. When I was young I wanted to be Indiana Jones! I love everything about travel- the maps, the transport, the journey, exploring different places and different cultures. I often return to the sea in my work, and have recently turned my gaze towards the stars and outer space. Do you think I might get to visit the moon in my lifetime?


What’s the first arty thing you can remember making?

I remember mum bought lots of art and craft materials for me when I was small. I have always loved cutting and sticking, so it is funny to think I have returned to this as an artistic pursuit in later life. I liked making animals with play-dough and I loved my fuzzy felts (It was all about the composition if I remember correctly)! We used to make Christmas decorations by cutting out circled from the previous year's cards with pinking shears to form hanging balls. I remember that I particularly loved making plaster of Paris Paddington Bears that came in a kit with a rubbery mould and paints so that you could decorate them.  


What are you working on at the moment?             

There was a great link that an NSEAD member posted on Facebook recently which re-imagined famous songs as vintage-style book covers of songs such as 'Under Pressure' by Bowie/ Queen. I thought this was such a great direction to take my collages in next. I'm currently writing a list of my favourite songs and trying to make connections to some of the recurring themes in my work, such as the sea and outer space. I'm not there yet, but it's a fun challenge!


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that’s helped you to develop as an artist?

Don't compare yourself to others. Your work is a reflection of who you, embrace it.

 Where can we see more of your stuff?

Instagram: @arthobbs

Facebook: @arthobbsart


Pinterest: arthobbs


Alison Marchant tells us about a recent community exhibition, 'Villafranca del Arte' that she co-organised, in a 400 year old derelict house in Castellón, Spain

The idea for the exhibition that took place this Easter under the name of Villafranca Del Arte was conceived more than a year ago when a close friend found herself the owner of a massive ancient and largely derelict old house in a fairly remote mountain town in Castellón. The question was what to do with it?  How to breathe life back into the building?  


Between us both, Anne, with a passion for architecture and the visual history of a building, and myself, with an enthusiasm for the arts and community projects, a plan was hatched.  We would create an alternative venue for the arts. We would preserve and celebrate the history of the house and its wonderful artefacts alongside displaying artwork from professionals, amateurs and community groups.  

Two English women, a small Spanish town, a derelict 400 year old house, no budget, limited experience and an idea. No problem...right?  


In retrospect it was an immensely ambitious project.  We had 20 different artists with really diverse work to display, community projects (the birds and a large embroidery), a forest school room with a massive tepee to install, a rolling program of workshops each day to organize, crazy ancient objects arriving constantly, our own work to finish and mount and a building that needed to be made safe to visit....oh and my three kids to home school and Anne’s day job.   The journey wasn’t always smooth (I could, for example, have done without working through the night to replace damaged floorboards 24 hours before opening) but it was a huge amount of fun.  


We have a lot of people to thank for the wonderful week we spent over Easter sharing art and architecture, running workshops and welcoming more than 750 people into our “gallery”.  Several of those are members of Sketchbook Circle.  We were ‘blown away’ by the box after box of paper birds that arrived week after week and the variety of the textile squares that were sent to us to include in our group projects.  We felt honoured to have had so many creative people invest their valuable time contributing to our slightly crazy idea...and the birds sent by the children were beyond spectacular. 

There were the artists and university students who took a leap of faith and travelled out to the hills to exhibit work with us and the wonderful group of friends who volunteered to man the exhibition and run workshops throughout the week.

We were welcomed into schools to work with pupils and donated antique farming equipment, sausage making machines, centuries old wooden spoons, ceramic jars, cauldrons, baskets and sewing equipment to exhibit.  These objects came mainly from older people from the town.  They visited us initially out of curiosity; to see what these two nutty British women were doing with the broken bed frames they saw us collecting from the skip (making display shelves for artwork of course) and ended up inviting us into their homes to share their wonderful collections.

The entire experience was exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure and although there were moments where we thought “never again” we can’t wait for the next time.  A huge thanks to all who got involved! 



Practitioner Focus: Philippa Stanton


Philippa Stanton is an artist living in Brighton in the UK

Tell us about your work

My work consists of lots of differing elements but which all seem to weave together or at least in and out of each other. I paint abstract pieces using my synaesthesia as well as my love for texture and the weather, my photography usually connects to my love of colour and now I’ve also written a book about the creative process. My ‘work’ is basically anything that takes my fancy creatively…and as a side note I also trained at RADA, so occasionally moonlight as an actor still.


What creative project are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on 2 Artist’s Open House Projects, one which is focused on my textile designs and the other which is encouraging people to come and visit an artist’s home, just as it is ( i.e., not a group show ).

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Where do you find your creative inspiration?

Everywhere, but a lot of the time I find great creative inspiration from restrictions!

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What tools or materials could you not live without?

I have a palette knife which belonged to my Grandma and I make sure I use it in some way on every painting. I have a jar of my favourite brushes, but to be honest, if everything disappeared I would find something to work with.. it’s about restrictions again! In terms of my photography, at the moment, the editing apps I can’t live without are Unfold, Videoleap and of course Instagram ( I edit all my images with Instagram tools ). I also have a memory stick which plugs into my phone and computer which I guard with my life!

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What is the best piece of creative advice you have been given?

Find everything interesting, especially if it frightens you! …my mum said that!

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Practitioner Focus: Mags Ryder

On 28th June 2014 I began a process I never realised would continue to the present day; I produce a little creative work every single day. I aim to fill an A5 sketchbook every year and this year is my fifth.

My 365 sketchbook was never meant to be shared but very quickly my students became interested. After one lesson, my Year 7’s had been painting and I was collecting the newspaper to use in a collage. They found it fascinating and so I showed them the subsequent work the following week. It has never been a problem thinking of ideas as I would liken my mind to a washing machine of creative plans, so my sketchbook helps me to offload. It’s a chance to practice but mainly to play.


What influences your work?

Absolutely everything around me influences my work. Art has taught me from very early age to see the world around me; to live with my eyes wide open. Most of the time I work alone but like minded collaborations, such as Sketchbook Circle helps me to feel part of like-minded communities.

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How important is drawing to your practice?

I love to draw; it is the most important skill for me to maintain. It is the one technique I will always go back to.

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What are your favourite materials and processes?

My favourite technique at the moment is a watercolour base and then coloured pencil shading over the top. I like to challenge myself with photorealism in observational work. But the truth is that I thoroughly enjoy producing lots of different pieces in lots of different media. My textile pieces based on The University of Manchester’s mineral collection comes to mind, as I had so much fun knitting, felting and adding lots of French knots. I love details so when a local Embroiders Guild friend taught me to smock I loved that too. The list goes on really, as there is no technique I wouldn’t try, in fact the more the better.      

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How does being an artist teacher impact on your work in the classroom?

I understand what it is to create, including the joys and pains of making. One of the most important things to me is to be completely honest and show my work as it develops. I try to show on Twitter @mags_ryder  how my work follows the typical pattern of producing: the highs and lows, as work develops and sometimes doesn’t go to plan. I suppose this is where the art teacher in me kicks in. So my process pieces are just as important as the finished ones to me. I also hope to show how much joy art can bring you, as well as the time put to what look like the simplest of pieces.

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What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given during your career?

I trained to be a teacher at the Didsbury campus of MMU with Keith Walker. His enthusiasm for art education was infectious and his true dedication and thorough ways was impressive. One of my first Heads of Art, Rose Beasley, followed the same strand. I have carried their ways forward throughout my career. As a result I came to the conclusion very early on in my career that the one child in front of you is the most important person at that point in time and helping them to progress is the most important thing.

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What advice would you give to all the young artist educators starting out today?

When dealing with young people it is important to be patient in everything you do. Be truthful to your students about their work, but only use constructive criticism if you can show them the way to improve it. Your absolute focus should be your classroom and your teaching. Become an expert in your subject, in the pedagogy, know your schemes and syllabuses inside and out. Art is truly the best subject in the world to teach, so be proud of it and sell it through your students’ progress and their enjoyment.

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Miranda Pennington tells us about the impact of introducing a Sketchbook Circle at St. Richard's Catholic College, Bexhill-on-Sea 

I first took part in the sketchbook circle in 2015 to help develop my own practice and work with other artist educators. I loved the experience and the deadline every month forced me to work on my own art and try new things. I loved the experience and am now in the fourth year of taking part. Every partner has been a different creative journey and my own practice has developed as part of the process. Pupils love seeing the sketchbooks and seeing my work.


I was inspired to try and develop a sketchbook circle at St Richard's. I asked colleagues from the art and design departments and six of us took part. This was really successful and everyone really enjoyed taking part in the project - and keeping the books at the end.

During September 2017, I opened up the project to the whole school and I was delighted when 15 members of staff signed up including teachers from the Maths, Science, English, MFL, Art and DT departments, TA's, former teachers and technicians.


We have kept it simple - the books move round in a circle and we pass on the next person in the circle as near to the first of the month as possible and as you can see from the selection of the work the outcomes have been fantastic. One participant has collaged the covers as she receives the books, there are scientific drawings, beautiful calligraphy, cyanotypes, ink & bleach, drawing, painting and many, many different techniques. As the project has progressed, the books have become more interesting and the artists have become braver with their responses. 


I recently asked the participants to take part in a google questionnaire and I have had extremely positive responses. Everyone (who answered) enjoyed the project. They liked that the project forced them to dedicate time to art and found it relaxing. All loved seeing the others work as the sketchbooks went round. Comments included: 

'I love this. It has really helped my well bring and is a nice ice breaker with staff.'

'It's something different and out of my comfort zone.'

'It's inspired me to do more work'

'I've really enjoyed having a chance to be creative - I haven't been artistic for a while so it's been lovely to get back to it!'


I have run a couple of workshops but I would like to develop the project further and hopefully next time make it part of the school CPD/Wellbeing programme and get some dedicated time for the project and involve others in running workshops. Small problems have arisen with moving the books around on time and I think this could be alleviated if we could find the time to meet up briefly every month!


It has been a great way for me to meet staff from around the school and a fantastic way of showcasing the art department and participants have enjoyed seeing their work on the school twitter account @strichardsart


Practitioner Focus: Katy Pugh

Katy Pugh is an artist, workshop facilitator and manager of a Gather of Cheshire in Congleton; a shop, creative space and cafe.

I am an independent artist working mainly in mosaics. For the mosaics I search for sea glass on the beach and bits of broken ceramics, aka ‘boady’, buried in river banks and gardens. I also smash vintage ceramics from charity shops and sale rooms. I combine this found treasure with my own clay tiles and feature pieces that I paint and fire by hand. Sometimes I press seeds, leaves and shells into clay to create textured tiles. I sell original pieces online, at markets and open studios. Sometimes I make prints or cards for sale.

Recently I’ve been exploring lino printing and doing more drawing and sketching. I’m working in black and white and focussing on birds and feathers. I run workshops in various mediums including lino print. Glass and enamel.

My work is influenced and inspired by nature. I grew up, and am now bringing my kids up, in the stunning Cheshire countryside - pludging for boady on the banks of the Dane and windy walks up The Cloud or The Roaches. Family holidays are spent exploring in rock pools and pebbly beaches. I am inspired by the intensity and expanse of landscapes and fascinated by the tiny details. I have endless curiosity for glimpses of tiny shards of river worn pottery, hand smoothed wooden field posts, tufts of fleece snagged on barbed wire and mossy tree stumps transformed into fairy castles. The magical threads of nature and the breath of wind in the trees find their way into my work.

My mosaics reflect nature in their colour and shape. People can’t resist touching them as well as looking at them to experience their texture and edges. The different surfaces and materials shift and come alive in the light.

My ‘can’t live without toolkit’ includes my hand sized sketchbook, iPhone camera (for those fabulous frozen leaf shots or a buzzard on a post) and a black fine liner pen to catch those moments of inspiration. And big pockets to fill with treasure. Space to make a mess with jagged bits of pottery is always a challenge but having access to a kiln has been a blessing.

The best advice I ever get is from my sister who always tells me to ‘just keep doing’. She encourages me to carve out time for my art amongst the chaos of family and work commitments. She's one of my biggest creative influences and I her arse-kicking skills are sometimes much needed!
Instagram: @katypugh73

Click on the images to read on the blog, and to see more of Katy's work.

Practitioner Focus: Diane Bruford

Tell Us About Your Work

I currently have two strands of work – paintings and drawings.

My paintings explore the sheer joy of using inherently beautiful materials - paint and gold leaf. I apply the paint loosely with a large soft brush and it finds its own place on the canvas with little help from me. The gold leaf is supplied as very fine sheets of 24 carat gold, backed with a thin sheet of transfer paper. Gold leaf is incredibly fragile, and is affected by static electricity, the slightest breeze, my breath, or the shaking of my hand. It is hard to control how it behaves and adheres to the surface of my paintings, and it forms an irregular coverage which I build up in layers, interspersed with further layers of paint. The less uniform the coverage, the more visually interesting the paintings are to me.

My drawings, by contrast, are monochrome and much more tightly controlled than my paintings. I am deeply upset by plastic waste and how it breaks into ever smaller fragments in the environment, but never completely degrades. It breaks my heart as I observe and draw small pieces of broken plastic which I have found.

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What creative project are you working on?

I am passionate about sharing my skills and creativity with young people. I run art/craft workshops for my daughter’s Guides unit and have been teaching drawing to home educated children.

I spend a few days each month on Sketchbook Circle. I have been part of the Circle since it started and enjoy the social aspect of having partners to work with, and the challenge of responding to somebody else’s work.

In the sketchbook I am sharing with Gill Hall, we are exploring a garden and botanical theme in mixed media. In the sketchbook I am sharing with Marie Wilson, we are exploring a grittier, urban theme, which began with soiled-looking observational drawings of the interiors of insalubrious community buildings and church halls around East London.



What do you search for in creative inspiration?

I respond to emotions of happiness and sadness. I have a comfortable life and I appreciate how lucky I am, and that privilege allows me to be playful with materials and ideas. This happiness is expressed in my paintings. When I’m painting I’m so relaxed and unaware of time passing. I dislike unkindness and unfairness, especially social injustice. My drawings often lean towards recording people, places and objects tinged with sadness.



What tools or materials could you not live without?

I carry a sketchbook and black pen. My paintings rely on gold leaf, and other metallic leaf to a lesser extent, and acrylic paint. I’m also enjoying my new acrylic inks and Posca pens.



What’s the best piece of creative advice you have been given?

A lovely art foundation lecturer called Max said to me, ‘There are lots of things I could teach you, Diane, but your learning will be stronger if you work it out for yourself’. I was livid at the time, as he had avoided answering a question. On reflection, I think he was right to leave me to it. Unexpected outcomes occur from grappling with new ideas and techniques, and the ‘right’ answer reveals itself as part of my creative process. I don’t know how a piece of work will be resolved until the moment it has a sense of completeness. I have faith in my ability to solve my own creative problems, and I think of him when I feel stuck. I remind myself that I just need to work through it, and then I will have grown as an artist.

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Practitioner Focus: Joanna Walton

My work is inspired by places I visit, local landscapes (living in the Lakes it would be hard not to be affected by the environment) or just odd/unusual things I come across whilst out and about. I constantly take photos and enjoy using the ones with imperfections in my work. I also take photos from the car whilst travelling (as a passenger!) past the lake as I head in to Ambleside. It might be a particular light, cloud colours, or the blurred blackness of the trees  which then become a catalyst for some work. Selected photos are printed out very small on to clear film and then layered over a background of collaged papers. I have numerous heaps of paper and boxes of bits  which I have to rummage through to find the right combinations. At other times I draw quite quickly, often on a treated surface as it destroys that pristine page which I find hard to start work on.

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I collect sketchbooks: I just cannot resist buying them or unearthing old photo albums or note books in charity shops. I blame the sketchbook circle. I don’t do enough drawing though - hence I have many sketchbooks waiting to be used. My work is usually on a small scale, so A6 sketchbooks are about right for me. The process of layering and building up surfaces plays an important part of my work, so sketchbook/old book pages are quickly brushed with a bit of thin, white emulsion, swabbed with a wash of brusho, then rolled over with glimpses of acrylic paint. Bits of text might be added or left revealed on the page. I have a slight addiction to champagne gold, interference blue acrylic and edges. For backgrounds I use old graph/squared papers, brown paper, old envelopes (a legacy of the early TEA days; an art CPD course where we swapped envelopes, and participated in many other collaborative exchanges), old, unwanted, yellowing till rolls of paper I was given, tapes - I use micropore tape (it’s very cheap) or masking tape, (never sellotape though), soft, dark graphite pencils, white posca pens (thanks to James Nairne) or tippex pens and the odd inktense pencil or two. These are my basic drawing kit materials.

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Searching for creative inspiration is not easily explained, there are so many ways this may happen. My surroundings naturally play a huge part, places which trigger emotion, through experimenting with materials, visiting exhibitions galleries and museums for pleasure and perusal. An artist whose work I recently discovered is Ricardo Brey - I saw his exhibition in 2015 in Venice and was absorbed by his collections in boxes and zig zag books, all presented with such accuracy and so beautifully. Although not a neat and tidy worker myself, I was immediately drawn to his work. I secretly aspire to do something as carefully as he does, but don’t think I’ll ever have the patience for such accuracy and attention to detail. Two more artists I enjoy following - the photography of Juanan Requena: he puts his black and white images together in sepia stained books often with handwritten text, his diaries and hand finished books , and Elisabeth Couloigner, whose paint-stained pages of her book series ‘Carnets de travail’ has the great title ‘I’m searching. I-V’. Sadly I’ve only seen their work via a computer screen.


Best piece of creative advice I’ve ever been given? ‘To accept the unexpected and see where it takes you’. A very familiar phrase but really does form the ethos of how I work. The problem is I rarely discard anything and am in danger of being a hoarder. I even keep the card from the table top I work on - as sometimes interesting edges, marks and paint stains appear. Keri Smith writes about the importance of randomness and promotes ‘happenstance’ in her book The Wander Society, a great word for unplanned occurrences:

The beauty of happenstance. Of looking for one thing and finding something else. Of stumbling onto something when you were least expecting it......A combination of ‘happen’ and ‘circumstance’ . To come across or find by chance. Can only happen if we provide the opportunity for them to appear.

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Taking/making opportunities is so important, especially when your job can absorb every minute of your day, and when there other so many other commitments with daily life.  A paid-for trip to Venice many moons ago, with teachers and an artist, set off a chain of very unexpected, positive opportunities for me. It was on that trip I met a certain Susan Coles who had also applied to take part. That CPD led to so many connections and slowly re-discover my own practice. Through my link with Susan, a brilliant course on drawing, TEA: Thinking Expression Action helped me connect with like-minded art teachers/educators and which then led to other collaborative ventures. Participating in the Sketchbook Circle was, of course, one of those.

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I am currently involved with a collaborative project #beyondthewall initiated by Karen Shaw   (another TEA participant). In 2016 I worked on a postal project ‘dis:placed’ with Karen and other artists which inspired me so much I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to do something similar again. For dis:placed ( we responded to a personal location and chose our own few words to describe it. Dis:placed pushed me to make my first 3 minute film. I’m now trying to create a few more with those blurry landscapes I keep taking. Karen’s own words:

Collaboration on sense of place; a blind narrative.

Artists receive an object selected from the site of disused ironworks Riverside House in Stourbridge – each object will have four descriptive words to accompany it and these have been selected for their material properties and association by the learners who are regenerating the site.

Artists will produce a response from what is received and ensure that the piece of work can be included in the post to the next artist in the group. The exchange will continue with artists posting at the end of each month to the same recipient in the chain until all six objects have been seen and responded to.

The body of work will be curated by the learners at the site once the collaborative work has been produced; it is intended that the work will be displayed in situ and at two gallery venues following its completion.

One every month, over a period of 6 months, a box will arrive. I am currently on my second box, and it’s proving difficult, but it is making me think hard about how to respond and put something meaningful together. I am due to send my work on at the end of June. I cannot reveal anymore. I’m still thinking and still searching. And I’m still hoping to discover where things will take me.

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Sophie's Secret Postcard Auction- By Miranda Pennington

Sophie' Secret Postcard Auction
Sophie Maria Taylor was an artistically-gifted and popular pupil at St Richard’s Catholic College, Bexhill, so it was with great sadness that her fellow pupils heard the news of her death on 5 April last year after her brave battle with cancer at just 12 years old.  
I was asked by the pastoral leader of year 9 if I could coordinate a secret postcard auction to celebrate Sophie’s life and create a legacy in her name. We wanted to raise funds for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, who’d treated and cared for Sophie and her family.  
It has taken over six months to plan and get things in place for the auction. A friend, who works for a printing company, persuaded her boss to donate 2,000 pre-printed postcards for the event. Working out how to auction the postcards on eBay meant many, many phone calls. The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity set us up as a direct seller on eBay so 100% of the proceeds go straight to the charity and we don't have to pay any fees to auction the postcards. Finally, when everything was in place, I began to ask for submissions.
I began by creating a pack for every tutor with the preprinted postcards, posters and a presentation about the event. We asked pupils to donate £1 for a pre-printed postcard which they could either create work for or pass on to a friend or relative, this has raised over £500 so far. I gave the English department 200 postcards, they set homework for pupils to write to celebrities and/or create their own work. I wrote to every local gallery and artists in East Sussex and sent them 5 postcards and enclosed a stamped addressed envelope. As postcards started arriving, I started to email as many galleries, groups and artists that I could think of to submit their creations to the on-line auction  - including sending 100 postcards to be sent in the Sketchbook Circle mailing.
It was clear that we needed to exhibit the work so I asked portfolio box if they could help and they have supplied the website for free. This took a few days to set up but has been very easy to upload work once in place. I have had to be very organised with the postcards which are numbered, photographed and published online as I have received them.
The response has been overwhelming. Over 550 postcards have arrived from pupils and artists from as far away as Australia. Sir Quentin Blake has submitted two drawings, Thomas Taylor, who illustrated the first Harry Potter cover, Bob and Roberta Smith,  award-winning portrait artist Laura Quinn Harris and BBC radio DJ Fearne Cotton have all submitted wonderful works of art on the back of a postcard. Loui Jover sent three original postcards and also donated an amazing A4 work to add to the auction. There has also been a phenomenal support from the talented amateur and professional artists here in East Sussex and of course the pupils work has been wonderful. You can see the full list of artists on the website.
I have been using social media via our twitter account (please follow us... @strichardsart) and Facebook to get the message out. Sharing the amazing work and thanking the amazing artists. I am currently putting all 550 postcards on eBay - there is no easy way to do this and it has taken for ever!!
Sophie's Secret Postcard Auction has been a great way to engage pupils with art, they have loved seeing their work online and there is a real feeling of excitement about the auction. It has been a fantastic project for the art department and has raised the profile in the school. We are hoping to raise lots of money for the charity and also keep Sophie's memory alive.
Sophie’s Secret Postcard Auction will open on eBay at 8pm on Thursday 7th June and runs until Saturday 16th June with bids starting at £1. All the artists will be listed but their identity will remain a secret until the auction ends. More information on: 
On behalf of St Richard’s Catholic College, the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and Sophie and her family, I can’t thank everyone who has helped and created work for this fantastic event enough. 
I am very excited about the auction and will be spending Saturday 16th June with friends and family following the sale which I hope will raise lots of money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. Please can sketchbook circle members share the event and encourage people to look. Sophie’s Secret Postcard Auction is not just a chance to get your hands on an original work of art for a tiny price, but you’ll also be supporting The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity with all funds going directly to the Charity.
Miranda Pennington
I am a part-time Art Teacher at St Richard's Catholic College, Bexhill, UK and trained as a teacher after having my son 9 years ago. My first career was in advertising as a graphic designer and studio manager which has been incredibly helpful with this project. I am a practising artist ( and have taken part in the sketchbook circle for the last 4 years. I currently run a sketchbook circle group with 15 staff at St Richards.
Sophie's Secret Postcard Auction click link for all details. 

Click on the first image to view the slideshow

Practitioner Focus: Heulwen Lewis

Tell us about your work?

Currently I’m a full-time art teacher at a British International school in Barcelona, Spain. I’m constantly inspired by the city’s architecture, street art, galleries and the Mediterranean way of life. I studied BA (hons) Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design at Leeds College of Art and my personal work is inspired by many things such as travel, calming walks along the sea coast and I’m  especially inspired by textures and patterns found in nature and the decorative arts. I enjoy working with mixed media, combining mediums such as textiles, watercolours, printmaking- lino cut and screen-print, collage and photography. I love to layer images together and play with bright colours and different shapes and patterns in my work.


What creative project are you currently working on?

I have started designing some new mixed media botanical prints that I would like to sell at local markets and online. I also enjoy photography and would like to experiment more with creating some cyanotype prints from my photographs of the beautiful welsh landscapes, taken recently over the Easter holidays around my hometown of Swansea. I often find it difficult to focus and finish projects however and have found it difficult to balance my school work with personal work.  I’m currently enjoying playing with ideas and developing a visual dialogue with other artist teachers in the sketchbook circle, which is a great source of inspiration. It has helped me to think more about how I can use my time better to be more creative and productive and pushes me to try out new ideas.

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How does your creative process work?

I always find the initial stages of a project quite daunting and some days ideas just pop into my head and other days I struggle to get inspired by anything at all. I sometimes  like to create creative constraints such as a weekend hashtag project on instagram that sometimes helps develop a sense of focus, I love instagram and am a bit addicted if I’m honest! I often find inspiration from the lessons I teach and from my students and the work that they produce. When working on my sketchbook I am quite spontaneous and don’t worry too much about making mistakes, the mistakes often lead to new ideas and unexpected outcomes.

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What tools or materials could you not live without?

A sketchbook of course...I am always collecting new materials and tools and a recent purchase was  a Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolour travel set and since I bought it I don’t think I could  live withut it!. I also have some good quality coloured pencils and mix these with my fine liners and posca pens. I like collage too and enjoy mixing materials, I have a huge stash of different papers and fabrics that I’ve collected over the years!


What do you search for, for creative inspiration?

I am very lucky to be living in Barcelona, surrounded by beautiful architecture and art. I visit local galleries and museums as often as I can, to search for inspiration for my own work and the lessons that I teach.  I recently visited Casa Vicens by Gaudi, the first home that he designed in 1883, and I was especially inspired by the bright glazed ceramic tiles of floral carnations that covered the building and how he merged many different cultures from around the world into the design of the summer house. I also recently visited the William Morris arts and crafts exhibition at Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and admired the depth of colour and detail in his designs. I enjoy exploring the rich culture of Spain and find inspiration everywhere, I really look at stuff!  I am inspired by the Moorish decorative tiles or discovering different species of Mediterranean plants and trying to grow them (unsuccessfully!) on my terrace. I also enjoy collecting old postcards and maps and browsing flea markets. I also look back home to Wales for creative inspiration, and Welsh artists such as Glenys Cour, Michelle Scragg and Katie Allen are inspiring and I love the moody landscapes of the Gower.

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What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I can’t think of one piece of advice but I always think it’s important to surround yourself with positive people and situations and avoid negativity

I also love this quote, Gandhi said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”


Susan Coles discusses her role as World Councillor for InSEA, International Society for Education through Art. 

Most people know me for my work with NSEAD and generally being a bit of an activist for our subject, but I am also part of inSEA- International Society for Education through Art. InSEA comes under the umbrella of UNESCO and is truly international, with members in 69 countries. Last summer I took up my place (as one of three representatives from Europe) on the World Council, and have been very busy since then. Meetings online can be interesting too- becasue at times the time differences don't work out in my favour so I've had to do one online meeting in my dressing gown at 2am in the morning. 

Pre-school, Zagreb, Croatia

Pre-school, Zagreb, Croatia

Being a part of the national TEA Thinking Expression and Action Drawing CPD and later Sketchbook Circle, has allowed me to push my interest in collaboration out there into the world of art education. This also inspires the work I have done with InSEA this year- pulling together a Manifesto for Art and Design education (see below) was a huge job, although it might not look like that! I had to consult with and share documents with people all over the world and edit everything into one succinct document which can easily be translated, and which is already on the way to being available in many languages. I am very interested in manifestos and their role in art education and will be running a workshop on this at the 2018 InSEA European Congress in Helsinki next month.

Workshop using recycled materials, Lagos, Nigeria.

Workshop using recycled materials, Lagos, Nigeria.

The other collaborative project has been to get art educators to send in photos of their art education 'spaces' from across the globe, to celebrate the UNESCO International Arts Week at the end of May. Ironically, the UK is one of the few countries that doesn't celebrate this, so I have am ambition to make sure that we do this nationally in 2019. Ambition is always a good thing! We are collecting all the images uploaded after May 18th, to share in a film, a slide show, a PDF, which can be downloaded. It will also be shown at the forthcoming InSEA Conferences, the European Congress in Helsinki (June), the Greek Art Teacher Symposium in July, and in other future events. The images can be found via Twitter and Instagram under hashtag moreartnotless and in a photo album on the InSEA Facebook page. and the range of places, people, creative spaces is fascinating. The poster is here and so is the project outline, in different languages;

At the Middle East and African InSEA Congress in Cairo (April) , I was approached by a delegate who wanted to hear all about Sketchbook Circle and is keen to exhibit some of the imagery from the books at a gallery in Missouri. I have not had time to follow this up yet- but I will. Sharing and collaborating is a way to make our subject help heal a very fractured world through creativity and art education. I love what I do. 


Practitioner Focus March 2018: Georgina Bruce

Tell us about your work:

My work is inspired by a broad range of subject matter, from natural forms and organic shapes to geometric lines, structures and organized patterns. Contrasting these disparate elements and combining them to make something new, is always exciting and a challenge I enjoy.

I am a mixed media artist working primarily with lino and paper cut, drawing, photography and watercolour mediums. I enjoy experimenting with the layering of images and materials and the combinations that are possible in order to render an image. I aim to derive clarity and order from something that could be considered chaotic or mysterious, such as the growth of natural forms and plants, or the structures and systems that support our everyday existence such as maps and networks. I carefully break down ordinary, everyday forms into their fundamental and identifiable parts and reconstructed them in such a way as to question the viewer.

Nature has a pattern and order to it that is not determined by humans, although we do try to organise and make sense of this. I am fascinated by the structures and systems we use such as maps, diagrams, grids and text, that turn vast areas of information like land, space, data, behaviour and language in to something manageable and understandable; order from chaos. I also enjoy breaking down complicated structures or ideas to its basic components, starting with shape, line and colour.


I used to mostly work in lino printing, however drawing and pen work play an increasingly important part in my work these days. This has become more prominent as my work has changed dramatically in the last four years through being involved in sketchbook circle and responding to the work of a variety of talented artists. There has always been a graphic quality to the visual images I create and an organized and structured look and feel to them. However, very often I respond to 'happy accidents' as they happen and work with what I am given in order to forge something new and unexpected. Although a challenge at first when this occurred, I now welcome the unexpected as an opportunity for my work to develop in unusual ways; I am now far more willing to give over to entropy.

This method of working does not come naturally to me and again is a result of taking part in sketchbook circle for the last four years. Being actively involved and collaborating in a visual dialogue with other artist teachers has helped to motivate and inspire my work in new and exciting ways, which I could not have predicted before taking part. This is an important aspect of my practice and is always changing, responding and adapting to the work of others, be that artists, teachers or even students.


What creative project are you currently working on?

In the last two years I have made a more conscious effort to exhibit my work more regularly in local galleries and exhibitions. Usually, the themes are broad and open to a variety of work and styles. This year, however, I have been selected as one of fifty artists to create and exhibit work in response to a project called “Fifty Bees”, the aim of which is to illustrate the diversity of Britain’s bee population and their delicate ecosystems that are under serious threat. The range of work involved is diverse and collectively will aim to present an informative and stimulating conversation about these creatures. With my love of bees this opportunity aligns perfectly with my interests, whilst providing a challenge in the ways it could be approached. I think it is vital that more people are aware of just how important bees are to the ecology of the British Isles and what better way to share this message than with art?

The exhibition will take place in June this year at the Richard Jefferies Museum in Swindon.



How does your creative process work?

I have always found the initial stages of any project both exciting and daunting in equal measure. There is nothing scarier than a blank piece of paper, and I would sometimes find it agonising to make those initial marks and blemish the page, quite often being dissatisfied with the results; I struggled to do anything that wasn’t controlled. Then a few years ago, I received my partner’s sketchbook through the post and it changed my working practice forever. The sketchbook was an A5 concertina sketchbook, with one long single page folded in to smaller ‘pages’ that showed a continuous and developing piece of work when unfolded, rather than lots of individual pieces. No longer did I have to always start something fresh, but instead I simply carried on from where my partner had left off, quite often working back in to something from months ago. Everything was a work in progress, until you just knew it was done. I found this way of working liberating, and it has stuck with me ever since. When I began the Artist Teacher Scheme at Oxford Brookes University, the initial task to introduce us to our colleagues and lecturers was to present something that showed our inspirations and chosen method of working. I made a concertina sketchbook, which I began by punctuating the long strip with the work of artists and images I found inspiring. My self-imposed challenge was to then join these up in a seamless strip of colour, line, shape and pattern that moved from images of barnacles, skeletal structures and modern architecture to the work of Henry Moore, Derek Lerner and Ebon Heath. This sketchbook is A6 in size and is still going; I carry it with me at all times, along with my travel art kit, ready to create anytime and anywhere.



What materials could you not live without?

The list grows constantly but there are some key materials that I have with me at all times that I could not be without. Firstly my Rotring Tikky Pencil 0.35mm is my go to when starting any piece of work. I use diluted black Quink ink in a water brush pen, along with a mini travel set of Windsor and Newton Cotman watercolour paints when putting down any grounds or washes. Along with staedtler coloured pencils and fine liner pens, I use white gel pens and a large white marker pen to block out larger areas. When working on a larger scale I have started to experiment with lino printing on to clear sheets of plastic and then using sun sensitive papers to make a cyanotype print. My ‘toolkit’ adjusts to the style and scale of work I am producing, but these are definitely my go to materials.



Where do you search for creative inspiration?

I am a full time art and photography teacher, and in the past I have struggled to balance my school work, with more personal work. I find inspiration from the projects I create and the lessons I teach, and particularly the work my students produce in response. The school trips to galleries and museums, such as our annual pilgrimage to the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford always furnish me with ideas also. More recently my own work has begun to direct the schemes of work I am producing for the classroom, with the development of more printmaking and large scale mixed media drawing and an ethos of making mistakes and responding positively to the unexpected has begun to be more common among my students. Pinterest is my initial source of inspiration (georginabruce), but I have recently begun to use instagram (gbruceart), which has been an unexpected source of inspiration in recent months. However, I find that my stronger and more substantial ideas come from simply playing with contrasting imagery in unusual ways, through collage or digital manipulation. Most recently maps and text have been of particular interest and I enjoy collecting and combining these elements to drive my ideas forward.


What is the best piece of creative advice you’ve been given?

It doesn’t need to be perfect, you need to make mistakes and get things wrong. Finding out all the ways something doesn’t work for you, gives you a better idea of exactly what it is you’re trying to do, and what is possible. I don’t know if this was advice I was given, or just something I learned over time. It was, however a lesson I needed to learn and something I am still endeavouring to do.


Practitioner Focus: Helen Scribbans

What creative project are you currently working on?

I am currently working on producing a range of Raku fired ceramic pieces readiness for Christmas craft fairs and galleries. All my work has had its first, bisque firing and I’m in the process of applying the Raku glazes. This is my least favourite part of the ceramic process, I think because I don’t see the results of the glaze until the Raku firing and also having had many glaze disasters in the past. I’m not a very confident painter and don’t feel like I am good with colour so I tend to stick to only 2 colours of glaze now; turquoise and white. I find limiting the colour palette stops me thinking too much about what colours to use! I’ll be glad when the glazing is done so I can get on with the exciting part  - the Raku firing. 

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How does your creative process work?

I usually start with a shape I like and this is the most important aspect of my ceramics. This could be inspired by anything from a sculpture to a piece of clothing. I then try and adapt the shape to make a vessel out of clay. I really enjoy the construction or engineering of a piece of pottery which I think comes from my love of dressmaking. I get great satisfaction from fitting 2D pieces together to make 3D shapes. 

What tools or materials could you not live without?

Clay and my pottery tools.


Where do you search for creative inspiration?

I attend as many exhibitions, workshops and courses as I can and take inspiration from many different arts and crafts, especially 3D work. I also like looking at other people’s work to see how they have made something, then seeing if I can use that technique to fit in with my own work. I find that one art or craft informs another so as long as I am creating something, I rarely run out of ideas of what to make.

What is the best piece of creative advice you have been given?

Focus on one technique and do it well. 


Practitioner Focus: Ciara Gibson

What creative project are you currently working on?


I've recently changed my teaching contract from full time to 4 days a week to give me more space in the week for making. I've also started a series of short, weekly sessions locally for adults called 'Make Space, a chance to come together and make space in your week for making and playing. Taking on this role has encouraged me to think about how I use my time. I'm looking forward to being part of the Platform Perth festival next year and keen to do some mixed media work around mythical creatures and landscapes so I'm doing some prep for that.

How does your creative process work?

I’m not really one for planning things out. I love exploring ideas with different materials and then watching what unfolds. While I really enjoy figuring things out and playing, it can sometimes be a struggle to stay focused on the process rather than imagining what the end result will be. I am learning to be more mindful in my making.

My workspace is like an ongoing 3D sketchbook with all the various bits and pieces I'm working on scattered around and piled on top of each other.


What tools or materials could you not live without?

I’m rather obsessed with gelli plate printing and have been using the huge volume of prints I end up with to make all kinds of books and sew into landscapes.  I’m also really enjoying exploring free motion machine embroidery so I’d be lost without my sewing machine.


Where do you search for creative inspiration?

Living in Highland Perthshire I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by the most stunning landscapes.  Walking the dogs each day in all weathers gives me time to notice the changing seasons and I love thinking about the different pathways we take and the many repeated and familiar journeys we make over the year.

What is the best piece of creative advice you have been given?

Stop thinking and make! 


Practitioner Focus: Gemma Roche

What creative project are you currently working on?

Currently I am exploring the perception of conspiracy theories and observing how minds can be moulded by the media so that we accept things as fact. I am interested in the new term ‘fake news’, but I am also exploring how this has been documented in the past before this term was applied. I am exploring how society has responded to this using found images and song lyrics taken from American culture in the 1960’s and present day.

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How does your creative process work?

I am inspired by artwork that encourages storytelling and documents the current world we live in. I am constantly on the lookout for images that I can use in my work. I attended an artist talk with Maurizio Anzeri at Baltic in 2011. He finds vintage photographs at car boot sales and is both saddened and inspired by the fact that these photographs have been abandoned when they may once have meant so much to someone. I love the idea of creating new personas of anonymous people and distorting the perception of the viewer by using thread, collage or text.

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What tools or materials could you not live without?

I would be lost without typography! Stamps of various sizes, words cut out of newspapers, stickers and Letraset (which is sadly depleting). If I have a creative block I can always rely on a song lyric, a statement or quote to inspire my creative process.

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Where do you search for creative inspiration?

I am privileged to work with a number of creative people in the north-east as part of NEATEN who work in both schools and galleries. They challenge me to alter my teaching and artistic practise depending on the projects I am involved with. For example, I am currently working on a project with Amnesty International where young people document a journey taken by refugees using poetry and photography, encouraging compassion and creativity. Artists and campaigners such as Shepard Fairey (‘I give people work to debate and dream about’) and Bob and Roberta Smith (‘Art is your human right’) exude peaceful yet powerful messages in their work which influence both my artistic and teaching practise. Using these influences in my art lessons in turn gives me creative inspiration. Seeing young people interpret art in ways I had never thought of encourages me to think differently.

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What is the best piece of creative advice you have been given?


‘Don’t think about art, get it done’ Andy Warhol

Practitioner Focus: Carola Chambers

What creative project are you working on?

I appear to be in that 'pondering phase' at the moment, having finished one large canvas and mulling over ideas for the next piece of artwork.

The Sketchbook Circle has been monumental in this process and I am constantly grateful and energised by the ideas that develop from the exchanges. However, I can't imagine ever having enough time to develop them all!

I am also creating a series of 'art-in-a-box' projects, enabling primary school teachers to deliver stand-alone art lessons to their class. This should allow for all children in KS1 and KS2 in my school to access challenging and engaging art activities, regardless of the individual teacher's knowledge or expertise, as I am unable to work with all year groups in my school.

So, if any of you creative people out there have any suggestions or want to share your own personal experience of doing something similar, please get in touch.


How does your creative process work?

As mentioned, I mull over ideas and play around with materials and techniques before finished pieces begin to evolve.

Like many, time is the main issue, so I tend to work in the kitchen where I can be involved in family life, as I have 3 smallish children, and can spend snatched moments working on pieces whilst simultaneously cooking ( however, often the cooking part suffers as I get absorbed in what I'm creating art wise). But I often regard my materials as ingredients and can be dictated and inspired by them. So this location suits me: the kitchen is the hub of my creative environment. I also like to engage the senses by playing music which suits the mood of my work and if working in the evenings, wine and incense are often involved, adding to this sensory experience of making!


What materials and tools could you not live without?

Well, the Sketchbook Circle, obviously! 

Also, chunky graphite sticks, textiles and acrylic paint.  I like the tactile nature of my 'ingredients' and love combining and layering materials. During my involvement over the last 2 years in the Sketchbook Circle, I have really enjoyed exploring new techniques and processes.

I never thought I'd say this, but also technology. It really speeds up the design process, since my days in art school more than 20 years ago. Apart from playing music through it and researching lesson ideas for school, I use my I-pad to digitally play around with ideas and to record my work.


Where do you search for creative inspiration?


I am very inspired by nature, colours and pattern and am lucky enough to live near fabulous forests which never fail to inspire. I am also excited by materials and textures of papers and fabrics. I must also acknowledge good old Pinterest for the ease to find visual inspiration and to access a world of amazing creators.


What is the best piece of creative advice you have been given?

It sounds corny but, "follow your heart" and "be true to yourself".


Sketchbook Circle Mail-outs

Monthly Postal Mail-outs

For the last two years Sketchbook Circle has offered a lovely, monthly, postal mail-out.  These mail-outs are intended to offer a bit of inspiration and to encourage the participants to be creative perhaps even sharing their artwork and ideas with others in the Sketchbook Circle community. Some of the mail-outs offer interesting materials to work with or unusual techniques and others are more focused on ideas.  It is always lovely to see our community sharing the things they have made in response to the mail-out (#sketchbookcircle).

We have had some fantastic, guest mail-out designers which has helped us to keep the mail-out varied and interesting.  We are always looking out for ideas!  So give us a shout if you would like to take a month over!  

The exciting news this year is that we have support from Great Art, which means that some of the mail-outs will include materials for you to try out.  However, there will still be the usual inspirations, ideas and prompts and other artist educators sharing ideas and experience.  

You don't have to be part of the circle to sign up for the mail-out!  Maybe you are keen to receive something lovely and inspiring through the post?  Maybe you could buy it for someone else as a gift?  

This year we are charging a little bit more which will allow us to develop the mail-outs further and enable us to afford slightly more for the contents of each per pack.

Take a look at the images of some of the mail-outs from the last two years but do get in touch if you have any other questions. 


Practitioner Focus: Amina Booth

What creative project are you currently working on?

In July I was getting fed up with how little effort my Year 13 students were putting into their personal investigation, I told them that as an artist this should be their dream opportunity to research and explore an issue they were interested in through art. One of them said ‘why don’t you do it then Miss?’ so I thought why not? So here I am doing a personal investigation on how colour impacts on an environment (I need a more exciting title!). I was sparked by the Favala painting project in Brazil, a project that transformed the aesthetic and the social psychology of the whole community.


How does your own practice impact on your work in the classroom?

Doing my own personal investigation has certainly kept the students on their toes, it’s prompted some interesting conversations and I think that the students like it when they can see that I’m unsure about where my project is heading. It makes them feel less anxious about not knowing what to do next with their own work and we can work through the creative blocks together.

How does your creative process work?

My creative journey usually starts with photographs, I love to travel and carry my camera where ever I go. I’m not a Photoshop expert but I do love experimenting with it, I’m a massive fan of layers so the next step in generally layering images and exploring colour combinations. I like to zoom in and crop sections so images become more abstract.


What tools or materials could you not live without?

I use my sewing machine as a drawing tool and I think because I’ve drawn with my sewing machine for so long it’s impacted on my hand drawing. I draw mostly using a continuous line I like the imperfections of a continuous line drawing I think it adds to the character of the drawing. Because of my love of layering I use acetate a lot in my work, its versatile material that I can draw onto, stich into, spray paint, print and photocopy on.

Where do you search for creative inspiration?

I never know how to answer this because I’m inspired by so many different things. Like most artists I notice beauty in ordinary objects which others may pass by; a rusty gate, a weathered wall, patterns in window reflections etc. I often go for a wander around Liverpool when I need some inspiration. Liverpool’s a city of contrasts between the old and the new and that’s one of the things I love about this colourful place. I use photography as a starting point and instead of recreating these photos back at home; I aim to capture their essence, expression and emotion, highlighting the different tones and layers.