I have some exciting news to share today: I have joined a local gallery! Keep reading to find out what this involves… but first a bit of a last-minute invitation to our special celebration tomorrow evening, Thursday 24th of May, from 6-8pm. Find more details on the event page on Facebook. If you’re in Leek or nearby, we’d love to see you there for a chat and some fizz!
Located in the magical, cobbled alleyway, Getliffe’s Yard – tucked away off Derby street in the heart of Leek – Gallery Twenty is a co-operative business which only opened its doors in October 2017.
Starting out as a group of nine artists, the team has set up an incredible gallery to showcase and sell stunning paintings, ceramics, glassware, jewellery, textiles, sculpture and everything in between; all lovingly and locally produced to create the most beautiful gifts and decorations to collect and treasure for years to come.
Two members have recently said farewell to the gallery as they continue their creative journeys elsewhere, and I have stepped in to fill the space. I feel so lucky and grateful that I was in the right place at the right time to apply for this incredible opportunity, and that the team chose me as their newest member!
At the moment I have my original framed illustrations in the far corner of the gallery, set up on some shelves and on the wall, plus a couple of portrait commission examples, which can be ordered via my Etsy shop, or in the gallery.
The fact that my work is in a gallery hasn’t quite sunk in yet; it’s all a little bit surreal! I am really happy with my display though, and can’t wait to add more creations soon.
Speaking of which I have a lot of plans for work I want to create in the future, not only original paintings but additional products and merchandise. More on that in another blog post next week!
Of course we have endless plans and schemes for the gallery’s future; since we are a co-operative we all have a say in what happens. There will be events and workshops, a website and blog, and much more besides. I’m not sure how much I can tell you right now… except watch this space!
One thing I can share is our next big event on the 2nd and 3rd of June, called Art in the Yard. This will see Getliffe’s Yard filled up with new independent artists sharing and selling their creations. Keep an eye on the Gallery Twenty Facebook page or Instagram profile for more information, and if you are a local artist there may still be time for you to apply!
That’s all for now, but I’m sure I will have lots more to share about this new branch of my creative career very soon!
Remember to join my special welcome event over on Facebook or find your way to Gallery Twenty in Getliffe’s Yard, Derby Street, Leek, between 6 and 8pm this Thursday 24th of May, and celebrate with us! If you can’t make it I will also be in the gallery all day on Friday, as it’s my turn to run the shop. We are open 10:30am-4:30pm on Tuesdays-Saturdays, plus the first Sunday of every month.
See you back here on Sunday for another blog post. In the meantime, stay creative sisters!
I currently have some of my original artwork in an exhibition! I created three brand new mixed media pieces for the Staffordshire Moorlands Open Art Exhibition, (click the link to see the Facebook event page). All three pieces got accepted and are on display right now until Saturday 12th of May at The Nicholson Museum & Art Gallery in Leek. So, if you are in the area, go and check it out! There is a wonderful collection of work which I am very proud to be displayed alongside; don’t forget to choose your favourite in the public vote!
The work I created for the show is a trio of moon ladies, titled ‘Maiden’, ‘Mother’ and ‘Mage’, to represent the waxing moon, full moon and waning moon. You can view each piece online via the homepage of this blog, where I have my online portfolio, as well as on Instagram and Facebook where I shared the trio as part of my 365 day challenge. Unfortunately they were not hung together at the exhibition, which I would have preferred, but I am still immensely grateful to have my work on display.
I’ve become extremely interested in all things spiritual recently, and the moon is just one element of this new journey of discovery! And of course I love creating portraits, so I personified three stages of the moon’s cycle as the main concept for the artwork.
For these pieces I wanted to go a step further with the materials I used. So far I have been using one or two materials at a time, and keeping the work quite flat. However, I absolutely adore looking at and creating mixed media artwork and collage. So, for these pieces, instead of just painting each composition on one piece of paper, I gave each element its own separate layer; one for the background, one for the moon, and one for the portrait. I then cut out each element and layered them on top of each other.
Not only does this process create a more interesting final result, it also meant I could really concentrate on the texture and detail of each layer; I didn’t need to worry about going over the lines or breaking the flow of the paint, especially for the background which was a lot of fun to create. Needless to say, this is definitely a direction I will be taking my work in the near future, so look out for similar pieces very soon!
In other news a very exciting development in my creative career has just taken place, and I can’t wait to share more about this in the next few months! I will also be doing my very first market in Leek, on Sunday 6th of May. If you are in the area you will be able to purchase original framed and unframed art from me, as well as get your portrait drawn by me in just a few minutes! I am so excited to share my work in this new setting, and will be writing a whole blog post about the market next week, and have an event on Facebook with more details.
Remember to go and vote at the open art exhibition if you’re in the Leek area. As always you can follow my 365 day art challenge, which I started in November 2017, over on Instagram and Facebook.
I really enjoy sharing these little updates here on the blog, and I will be launching my first email newsletter on the 1st of June featuring similar content; more on that soon!
How are you? I am a little late with my Happy Highlights post, which I usually share at the end of each month, but we’re now half way through another month! It’s ok, I forgive myself. In these posts I like to look back on the previous few weeks, and consider which moments made me smile, and which achievements made me feel proud.
Even though the month began with lots of snow, it ended with some hopeful glimpses of Spring; both literally and in terms of things gradually coming together in my creative career!
My Happy Highlights for March 2018…
We had a lot of snow! It caused a bit of trouble and changed plans, but I still found it so magical.
Continued teaching piano, gained a couple more students and shared my poster to get even more students hopefully!
Went to a Susanne Sundfør gig with Fraz. She is BREATHTAKING! Please go and listen to her music now! I also had the best day exploring Stockport and Manchester by myself, stumbling across all sorts of interesting places.
Had a curry tapas meal out with Fraz and his parents. Yes, curry tapas! It meant we could have a few little dishes, and experience lots of wonderful flavours.
Video called mum and dad; which is always lovely!
Got to do some window displays for the charity shop where I volunteer. I really love creating fun displays!
Secured a stall at the ‘Party in the Park’ event in Leek this June. Looking forward to selling my art and drawing lots of sunny, happy faces!
Entered a national art competition, which also meant writing my artist statement. I found this super hard for some reason! But I’m glad I’ve got one now; I might add it to my ‘about’ page here on the blog.
I recently realised something: if a project isn’t working, you don’t have to give-up; you don’t have to turn around and go back to the beginning. You can pause, view your options, and see that there are other paths that will get you to the same tower.
When I started my 365 day art project in November 2017, I gave myself a fixed, specific theme for every month, thinking I would lack inspiration and need a framework to build upon. I’ve discovered, however, that halfway through every month I get bored and distracted; I’ve had enough of that topic, and I want to explore something else now, or on this particular day I just want to draw or paint something different, and then go back to something else the next day.
Recently I’ve also discovered the awesome world of podcasts! My favourite so far is the Creative Pep Talk by Andy J. Miller/Pizza. He is a big fan of analogies, and in a few episodes now he has discussed the idea of pivoting; we are heading down a path (doing a project) with our tower (goal) in sight, but then we see that the obvious and easiest path isn’t the only or best way to go, and we pivot. Or something like that… you need to listen to the podcast!
So anyway, I decided to create this illustration titled ‘Another Way’, to represent my decision to pivot in my 365 day project, and get rid of monthly fixed themes instead of giving-up. The path ahead is less clear now, and it is still very long, but the tower is still in sight, and… look at these pretty flowers and cute creatures, oh and there’s a magical stream over there… Let’s enjoy our time on the journey!
Welcome to my monthly review and round-up of all the good things I’ve experienced and achieved in February. Below is my list (in no particular order) of ‘happy highlights’ from both my Sunray Sister world and personal life.
Found some second-hand tubes of Winsor & Newton watercolour paint in the charity shop!
Spent a lovely weekend with my parents, who visited us! I especially loved our outdoor adventures; first to Rudyard lake, and then to the Roaches.
Started using the Pomodoro technique, which is helping me to manage my time more efficiently.
Visited the Whitworth art gallery in Manchester with Rosie, Eloise & James. It was great fun, and I did some scribbling in a sketchbook which I feel like I haven’t done for ages!
Signed up for a two month Skillshare trial for 70p! I’m going to follow a couple of courses on there specifically to learn more about editorial illustration. I also got a new book (using a birthday gift-card), called ‘Becoming a Successful Illustrator’ by Derek Brazell and Jo Davies. I already love it; feels like a textbook for the art degree I never did!
My new theme for my 365 day challenge is interiors. This means I will be drawing/painting/illustrating any kind of inside space, both real and imagined, every day. I also intend to experiment working digitally and incorporating previous work in a collage style, as shown in the first two days’ pieces below.
Overall in March I aim to:
Promote my new piano/music tutoring service, and gain some new students
Promote my portrait commission service more
Finish the current client project I’m working on
Do some additional personal projects to fill my portfolio – use Skillshare and new illustration book
Register as self-employed and get some proper business things sorted
Take a break from YouTube/put less pressure on uploading regularly for now
Celebrate the official start of Spring!? (even though there is still snow everywhere!)
I was considering starting an email newsletter, where I would share monthly news like in this blog post. Would you enjoy reading that? Would you sign up? Let me know!
What were your happy highlights from February, and what are your plans for March? I’d love to hear your story, share it in the comments, or over on Instagram and Facebook.
The first month of 2018 has come and gone, and at this time I like to look back on the past few weeks and consider what made me smile and what I achieved; my happy highlights!
In January I…
Took part in Yoga with Adriene’s 30 day yoga challenge ‘True’ on YouTube. She is the best!
Went to see Star Wars at the cinema with Fraz, followed by delicious vegan pizza at Klay in Hanley.
Enjoyed a video call to my mum & dad! The first of many I hope!
Went on some quick walks up to Lowe Hill for fresh air; trying to make this a daily habit.
Started making a junk journal from a vintage book and some random, pretty, scrap papers. When it’s finished I will use it as a visual diary/journal/experiment space, and will share a YouTube tutorial for it too!
Submitted an illustration to the open call for Flow magazine’s 2019 calendar! Fingers and toes crossed!!!
Completed another month of my 365 day art challenge – possibly the best so far!? I loved using watercolour, and feel like my work developed/improved a lot.
Below is my new visual for the fourth month of my 365 day art challenge! The new theme for February is patterns. After enjoying watercolours in January, I plan to focus on using this medium by going back to basics and turning some key techniques into fun and colourful patterns.
Since moving north I’ve been enjoying a few solo adventures out in the beautiful Autumn countryside. I really want to get to know the area, and find interesting places to explore; not just walk up and down the same roads.
Below are four recent adventures, illustrated with maps, sketches and photos. Alongside are stories from each trip; look out for the numbers in brackets to reference points on each map. The first two adventures are quite short, and the second two much longer; each time I discovered completely new places I had never been before – and met a few creatures and obstacles too!
Walk one:Friday 29thSeptember
This was one of my first walks in Leek; I had no plan, and I got a little lost!
After walking up the road from the house, at (1) I was faced with my first decision: continue or turn? I took the left turn as I wanted to see what was at the top of the hill. There was a pretty view, and a farm with a wind turbine. I continued along the road, and started to lose hope of finding a footpath, when all of a sudden at (2) there were two footpaths, on opposite sides of the road! The first simply cut the corner off the field and went straight back onto another road, so I took the one on the right, past some buildings, between dry stone walls where lots of mushrooms were growing.
The path then opened out into a field, but was still enclosed with a low wall on the left and a fence on the right. I soon came to a stone stile, illustrated in my sketch above, which seems to be quite unique to the north, as I don’t remember seeing them much back home?! At (3) the path became extremely steep leading down past Hawthorn trees to a stream and a footbridge that lead into an incredibly boggy field! At this point the contained wall-and-fence footpath was gone, and I was left squelching around, and continued onwards until I reached a house with an eerie field full of old cars. There was also a huge pile of stones hinting at a deconstructed hut of some kind. By now I was feeling lost, and saw no signs of a path, so at (4) I turned back and retraced my steps, satisfied that I had accomplished a small adventure.
Walk two:Wednesday 4th October
The following week I set out on a very similar walk. I was aiming to get to Ballington Woods, but missed the turning, so instead found myself in Birchall. Nevertheless it was a fun adventure!
I headed out in the same direction, but this time at (1) I continued straight, onto a bridge which crossed the main road, and up to Lowe Hill. Eventually – after passing a few houses with stunning views – the road turned into a driveway at (2), which continued around a corner, but straight ahead I found a footpath (shown in the photos below). Of course later I would discover that following the drive around that corner at (3) leads straight to Ballington woods.
So I continued on, and I soon discovered a trend of Leek fields and footpaths; they can be extremely boggy! The waterlogged field slopped gently down, and dropped into an enclosed path where I found some tiny apples, illustrated above. Between (4) and (5) the footpath opened out into a housing estate. Still curious, I walked straight through it, expecting to rejoin a path on the other side, but just found a busy main road. As with the first walk, I didn’t have a map (google is no good for footpaths!), so at (5) I turned around and headed back the way I came.
Walk three:Thursday 5th October (the next day!)
Third time lucky; this walk was CRAZY! I left home in the opposite direction to the previous two walks, through Haregate. By now I had also invested in a map – albeit a 20p leaflet map of the Staffordshire Moorlands Trail from the library, so I still got a bit lost…!
At (1) I left the housing estate, and joined a footpath through, yet again, some very boggy fields (I’m not complaining, simply providing evidence to myself for the need of better footwear). On the lovely open footpath I was surrounded by cows in the distance and momentarily accompanied by a dog named Rowan. I discovered this information due to the owner repeatedly and manically yelling its name from far away; I eventually turned around to see the owner wave and yell “sorry”! And the dog ran back to her.
By (2) I was hoping to see the Abbey remains, but I think that might be found on another footpath. Between (2) and (3) I met some VERY friendly sheep; I’ve never got so close to sheep in the same field as me (see left photo below). I continued past them out of the field, and along a narrow track (with some mossy walls, right photo below), to the right of which I caught glimpses of Tittesworth Reservoir between the trees. From the same direction, a heron swooped into view! And this wasn’t the last amazing animal sighting of the trip.
By (4) the track ended, and I met a main road, with a choice of left or right. I knew that I needed to turn left somewhere, but had missed the footpath by ‘North Hillswood’, so had to walk along the road and go off-map for a bit. You will soon see why this turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made! Once again I was fearful of never finding a footpath; I did pass one on the right, but I knew that was the wrong direction. It also started raining – the weather was very changeable that day with heavy rain followed by blue skies!
I finally found the footpath on the left just past ‘Folly Rest’. After climbing over a stile, I entered a field, and sensed something weird… Around (5) I was in the top left corner of the field and needed to head straight down, then enter the woods. As I began marching forward, something large moved straight ahead of me and to my shock and amazement I saw a stag, his impressive antlers projecting grandly from his head. We both stood staring at each other, about 100 metres apart. My immediate reaction was fear – was he going to charge at me? I was also awe-struck, and fumbled to get my camera to take the two photos below. Later I also drew him next to my map illustration (above and below). The moment passed, and he strutted down towards the woods, but discovered there was a fence, and after seeming to panic a little, he found a way out to the left into some bushes.
The funny thing is I had seen a stag red-triangle-warning sign on the road just a minute before! I decided it was safe to start walking again, and in that same second a pheasant flapped clumsily into the air right in front of me and I almost exploded, my heart was racing so fast!!!
I scrambled through some very muddy and overgrown woods, and emerged out into a field, with cows surrounding the stile at (6). I have a mild fear of being in the same field as cows, since they did charge at me once in the past, on which occasion I literally had to sprint out of the field. So I took a deep breath and edged my way around the field, as the cows stared blankly at me. I thanked them for not charging at me (!), and continued through a gate up ahead. Between (6) and (7) there was a lovely path along the top of a very steep field with a few trees scattered throughout. There was also a nice bench, which said “rest a while and think on me”, so I sat for a minute in the rain and reflected on what had just happened!
At (7) I arrived at The Abbey Inn, and walked along the road, past a few houses. There was also some kind of small factory/warehouse, where I discovered the footpath up to the left at (8). After climbing some steps, the enclosed path led around a corner, and eventually opened out to the left to look down across Brough park nature reserve, with a stunning view (right photo below). Then all of a sudden the path emerged into a back corner of Brough Park (9) in the centre of Leek, and I knew where I was again! I wondered back through town (10) to get home, and dry out my very soggy feet.
Walk four:Wednesday 11th October
By the fourth expedition I decided an actual map might be useful! So I bought the OS Explorer number 24, ‘The Peak District (White Peak Area)’. As well as helping me to get less lost, the map was also useful for accurately drawing the routes in each of my illustrations.
Heading out in the same direction as walks one and two, I finally found my way to Ballington Woods at (1). I found the twisted tree silhouettes really interesting (top left photo below), and as I came out of the woods I saw this trolley in the stream! (top right photo below). I crossed the main road and walked through the cemetery at (2), then crossed another road and joined a disused railway path alongside an industrial estate. The path was extremely straight and enclosed by a tall metal fence on one side, and trees on the other, and felt a bit ominous! I finally reached a turning to the right at (3).
The path lead into a small clearing with a ‘welcome to leak’ plaque and some information about the aqueduct at (4). I was stood on a bridge (bottom left photo below) over the river, and on the same level as the bridge was the start of the Caldon Canal, where another path lead to the left. But I continued straight, down some steps to the river level, and followed the trail.
Just before (5) I had to cross a dangerously busy road, since there was a corner leading to a split into two lanes, where cars were accelerating to overtake! I listened and watched carefully, then sprinted across to the opposite pavement. I walked on the pavement a short distance, and entered Ladderedge Country Park, with the path now alongside the canal feeder. This turned into the most beautiful footpath I’ve ever been on (bottom right photo below), covered in autumn leaves, surrounded by magical trees, accompanied by the tiny canal feeder, dotted here and there with sweet wooden footbridges into the park itself.
At (6) the path opened out into fields, still closely following the canal feeder, which was now a little more overgrown on either side. All of a sudden there was a bright, undeniable flash of blue from a passing Kingfisher! It shot ahead of me above the feeder, and I paused hoping to see it again, and maybe get a photo (far right photo below). In the end it was too fast, but it did make another brief appearance. My heart still racing I continued, and up ahead, to my horror, saw that four cows were blocking the path; the feeder on the left, and a short steep slope to the right into the field, with more cows. As with the previous walk, I had no choice but to push forward. So, I stood my ground and started waving/clapping/calling the cows back into the field, and gradually they gave way and let me pass. Once more I thanked them! Shortly afterwards I took the other two photos below, which I thought looked like a magical fairy bridge and boat!
Around (7) I was looking out for a turning to the right, and started feeling my usual doubts of ever finding the correct way. Eventually I found it, just as it started raining, and the path was getting muddier and muddier. At one point I even had to shimmy along the fence! The trail did turn into a concrete track at (8), but I was still swimming in mud, so I found a big stick to ensure I didn’t fall in. I then proceeded through the field, and to my delight I saw the railway track leading to Rudyard up ahead. I had planned to follow the path straight over the railway line, but was feeling too damp and exhausted, so decided to head home along the familiar track at (9) and once again arrived back in Leek town centre at (10).
Since the final walk above, me and Fraz have been on our biggest adventure yet: to Scotland and the Lake District. It was incredible and terrifying, and I can’t wait to share maps and sketches plus stories and photos from that trip.
It’s almost the end of the month, so the next post on here will be my ‘happy highlights’ from October. Until next time, keep adventuring and stay creative!
Today I would like to share a small study of the vast world of my inspirations.
Of course there are endless sources to my overflowing fountain of ideas, but in this post I will be focussing on a few of my favourite modern artists and illustrators. Look out for further posts sharing all the other people and things that inspire me soon.
I hope you enjoy this post and possibly find someone new to inspire your own creative work! All artist names are below their work, with a hyperlink to their online portfolio.
I follow Brett on Instagram, where she shares her work and glimpses of life as an artist. I love her subject matter – usually women, fantasy, magic and science-fiction – along with her small detailed line work and brush strokes.
I am captivated by every single piece created by Yelena. Her work always depicts simple, everyday scenes with incredible details, making small things suddenly special and precious. I also enjoy her muted colour choices.
I feel like Laura’s work is quite similar to Yelena’s, just with the volume turned up! Her work oozes attitude from every corner, and she is extremely bold and brave; just looking at her work makes me feel a little more confident.
Fran is the queen of cute everyday doodles and observations, and even has her own line of travel-journal zines, full of amazing illustrations. Plus she has a super cool YouTube channel full of advice for artists!
Jacquelin also has a YouTube channel, where you can watch her create some amazing paintings. I love the combination of watercolour, coloured pencils and pens used to make her awesome portraits. She also works with digital art and produces graphic novels.
Karen’s work is very different to the other artists mentioned above, but I am a HUGE fan of collage and mixed-media! I bought her book ‘Imaginary Characters’ which is stunning, just like her art. The physical and metaphorical layers built up in rich collages like Karen’s are so captivating to me, I could look at work like this for hours!
So, as a small analysis, from looking at these examples, it seems that I am drawn to work that features: women, everyday scenes mixed with magic and fantasy, watercolour and layers. I better go and make some work that uses all those things then!
There are so many more artists I could list here, but to see a few extra examples of work I admire go to my ‘Art’ board on Pinterest. I add new inspiration fuel all the time, plus I will be adding pins of my own work soon!
Who inspires you? Why do you love their work? Where else do you get your ideas? I’d love to hear your creative stories; let me know down in the comments or over on social media.
If you like, why not come back this Wednesday when I will have a new YouTube video to show you. Find my latest one below and have a wonderful beginning to a fresh new week, I hope your dreams come true!
Welcome back to the Sunray Sister blog and another lovely YouTube video. This week I’m doing something new: a sketchbook flip-through! In the video you will find three sketchbooks for the price of one, featuring travel journaling, observational sketches, collage and random illustrations.
This type of video has been done by many, but every person’s sketchbook is unique, so I hope you find mine interesting and insightful. I will definitely be sharing more in the future!
Please remember to give my video a thumbs up so more people can see it, and subscribe to my channel to catch all my videos when they come out. Also share with your friends on social media if you think they would enjoy my content!
As you may have read in Sunday’s post – ‘Retreat, Reflect, Refocus: How to not give-up’ – I’m going offline for a couple of weeks this Monday. Find out all the details in my next post this Friday, including the exact rules of ‘offline’ and what I will be spending my time doing when I would otherwise be online!