Pen and Ink Tarot designs

I’ve been working on a self initiated project creating a series of tarot cards. I’ve made a start on the major arcana and will keep working my way through all those. I’ll see how I feel about creating a full set of 78 cards once I’ve done these.

The Moon

Making your own designs is a brilliant way of learning and engaging with the symbolism and history of each card. I’m trying to maintain as much of that tradition as I can in but in my own illustrative style. The most obvious change is that, for the most part, I’ve been replacing human figures with animals.

The Sun

I started in no particular order on the cards that most appeal to me, the Sun and the Moon. I’ve since realised it’s probably more sensible to work my way through methodically… or end up with all of the less joyous cards at the end! so I’ve gone back to the beginning and the Fool for my third design.

The Fool
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Classical Trompe l’œil Mural

A few years ago my partner, Lucas Stephens, and I painted a trompe l’œil mural across the wardrobes of the master bedroom of a private house in Norway. The customers wanted a design that reflected their love of classical themes (one of the couple is a Professor of Ancient History). We put together a design amalgamated from many sources. The result was this Italianate terrace within a pillared archway, rich with flowers overlooking a landscape with a cloud-shrouded mountain in the distance. We were asked to include various elements, the stone circle, a stag.

Finishing touches to the trompe l’œil mural

It took several weeks to complete. We had to put together a scaled design with the blessing of the customer. Lucas made the cupboards. We transferred the design using a combination of grid and a projector. I remember the perspective of the tiles on the terrace being a particular nightmare!

Floral details.

The painting was created in many layers using acrylic paint, mostly powder pigment mixed with acrylic medium, to create glazes of different densities and build up a richness and depth of colour.

The faux marble extended further out from the mural across an adjacent wall (not pictured here). Lucas used an air brush with pigmented glaze to add a final layer of shading and depth perspective.

Last year we were asked to recreate the mural in the couple’s flat in Oslo. This time using a tessellated photo montage technique and with the addition of a photographic border at the top to make the design fit the scale of the new space. The photographs are attached to the huge sliding door using a very strong glue product that is applied from a roll like wallpaper. Its difficult to use. Each photo had to be burnished after application to get rid of any air bubbles. It’s incredibly strong adhesive with only one chance to get each piece correctly placed.

Photographic tiled mural in situ on the sliding panel door.
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Reaching for Sunflowers

I’ve been busy in my sketchbooks with pen and inks. In this illustration a trio of woodland creatures, in their finery of feathers, leaves and twigs, reach through a tangle of roots for a Sunflower. As with most of my sketchbook, it was unplanned, started with a bear reaching towards the moon then meandered, as these things do.. I suppose it makes a pretty good analogy for 2020, for many people a lost year – or a year of loss. Our family lost my Dad unexpectedly in September and it still seems a bit unreal. This year I hope we can reach for Sunflowers.

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Illustration blog: Some Flamboyant Royals.

I’m not much of a royalist to be honest…BUT I certainly appreciate a flamboyant costume ….so illustrating extravagant monarchs in flamboyant garb is very appealing!

So far I’ve imagined Louis XIV partnered up with a flamingo in matching tights.

I’ve also drawn an interpretation of Queen Elizabeth I astride her favourite Lion. I’m not sure if Louis had a flamingo….maybe. I’m pretty sure that Elizabeth didn’t have a lion to sit on. She was much too clever to toy with a kamikaze lounge pouffe. I’m always keen to include animal imagery in my work though and it certainly adds a touch of decadence and absurdity I think.

I’ll add one last illustration to this blog. Elizabeth I’s sister Mary. Mary Queen of Scots was a dog person. She was particularly fond of Maltese Terriers and when she returned to Scotland to claim her throne she brought a little gang of them with her from France. When Elizabeth imprisoned her she only had these little dogs for comfort. The story goes that her favourite dog even went with her to her execution, secreted beneath her skirts. After she’d been decapitated he sat between her severed head and body, refusing to leave the corpse. Mr Bull the executioner, took pity on the dog and washed it. There are various different stories about the dogs fate, from it dying of a broken heart to being taken to France to live with a French aristocrat. I prefer the version where it was taken to live with an English family but refused to eat until it was returned to Scotland to live out its days. (A friend tells me there is even a macabre mechanical toy of Mary’s execution at Sheffield Castle, where she was imprisoned, which has a small dog shooting out from her skirts as her head falls off!)

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New Year, new start and maybe a new direction…Pen and Ink Illustrations

I don’t really do New Years resolutions, but if I did…. one would be to update my blog more regularly (at all would be a move in the right direction at the moment!) and the other would be to do more illustration work.

Most people, if they know me, think of me as a textile artist or of the big build structures, lanterns and costumes that I make for parades and events. My first degree though was in Illustration and Painting and I do love that part of my practice very much. I spend a good proportion of my time in an old wooden house here in Norway. Often that’s in the depths of Winter when the snow is thick on the ground and the temperature is well in the minuses. Today it’s -16 up here on the mountain and the uninsulated sewing studio in the barn is much too cold to use. So I’ve turned to my sketchbooks and I’ve been working in pen and inks. I’d really like to earn more of my income from illustration. Not least because it’s something I can work on remotely.

My illustrations are connected to my textile practice thematically. This example I’ve posted here, a little group of Shaman creatures, to hail the Winter Solstice. I liked using bright colours instead of monochrome to represent the snowy season.

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Woodland animals, an illustration commission

I had a lovely commission a couple of weeks ago to illustrate some woodland creatures for a public art project in Yorkshire.  I used Brusho ink and pen, cleaning them up in photoshop afterwards.

batty island sketches fox smallbatty island sketches badger smallbatty island sketches squirrel smallbatty island sketches hare small

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Keepsake exhibition – new work for a good cause

I’ve returned to my sadly neglected WordPress blog today because I’ve  started working on a really special project. It’s new work for an exhibition organised by Caroline Hick. All the artists involved are creating work to be exhibited and sold in aid of the Justice for Grenfell campaign. I’m making a series of small ‘sweetheart’ cushions stitched from printed silk and stuffed with lambs wool. Each is printed with the image of a different tree, if you look very closely you can see that the image of Grenfell is layered subtly through the branches and leaves. In myth and folklore trees are imbued with symbolism and the power to heal. Each of these trees carries a word, printed onto a burnt fragment of silk and pinned to its heart. You can find out more about the Keepsake project here:


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SIRF Carnival 2017 costume designs

I’ve been busy designing costumes for this years Stockton International Riverside Festival.  This year is particularly special because it will be SIRFs 30th birthday.  The theme for this years carnival is FIZZ BANG POP.  My section within that is also FIZZ BANG POP – so that’s nice and easy!  Here are my illustrations:

Bang Blast RocketsPop MonstersPop go the WeaselsFizz MonstersPop ArtistsBig Bang Backpacks

My partner, Lucas, also put togather a little musical stop motion of me making one of the illustrations.  You can watch that here


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Saltaire Inspired, dogs and a Llama

I’ve done what I usually do and neglected this blog…. so I have a little backlog of posts to write about the different projects I’ve been busy working on.  They’ll appear in no particular order…  Anyway, this weekend Burnett and Catt were working at the Saltaire Inspired Art Trail in the beautiful World Heritage site on the edge of Bradford.  The event is well established now with lots of residents opening their houses as galleries to show visiting artists works, specially commissioned projections onto the houses in the evenings, a large makers fair and lots more to see and do all around the village.  This year the theme was “Inside Out” and we  were commissioned to devise and deliver some family activities outside Victoria Hall.


We came up with the Llama Parlour (a kind of interactive colouring area with David Hockney inspired face in hole portraits and a llama of course), we also made colourful tassled Saltaire lantern danglers based on Titus Salt or the Saltaire Lions and provided a ‘third plinth’ to pose on wearing cardboard beards and hats etc…


We invited some special guest artists including Catherine Mercer who made ugly ducklings and swans that were then sent from outside…down a slide …to fly off the end and end up floating serenely on a paddling pool in their very own ‘duck disco tent’ complete with flashing disco duckss and a bubble machine.  Carine Brosse came along on Sunday and made some absolutely brilliant hats of imagination, inviting you to turn the thoughts inside your head into a hat on top of your head.

We had a brilliant time in spite of some very exciting weather.  We had everything thrown at us, including marble sized hailstones, thunder and lightening but it didn’t dampen anyones enthusiasm.


My favourite part of the weekend were the doggie visitors who patiently posed in our doggie Hockney face in hole portrait.  They were just lovely.

Thanks to all our visitors and massive thanks to all the good people of Saltaire who volunteer their houses and their time to make this such a special arts festival.

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Touch and Flow workshops: Gawthorpe Textile collection

I’ve just completed a rather lovely project in Burnley called Touch and Flow.  I was asked to facilitate a series of hand stitch workshops with a group of carers and to give them the opportunity to explore the Gawthorpe Hall Textile handling collection.

If you’ve never visited Gawthorpe Hall in Padiham then you must!  They have a beautiful and fascinating collection of textile objects and costumes, collected over the decades by Miss Rachel Kay Shuttleworth.


Portrait of Rachel Beatrice Kay-Shuttleworth

You can find out more about her and Gawthorpe here

The weekly workshops took place at Burnley Mechanics.  I brought along tea china that belonged to my Great Aunt and we spent the sessions slow stitching with a steady supply of tea and biscuits.



The sessions were aimed at carers, giving them a chance to get out of the house, chat to other people and do something slow, relaxing and totally unpressured.  Over the weeks we built a core group of lovely people who shared stories, supported each other, made some very beautiful artworks and brought in precious objects from their own histories, including textile objects, photographs and old patterns, somebody even brought in fragments of wallpaper they’d saved from their first home.

I started the group off with  images printed onto calico stretched onto hoops.  I wanted to get away from the pressure of a blank ‘canvas’ and the local landscape photos seemed a good start point for people to explore stitch and find their own style.


Some people stuck with this and produced several beautiful pieces, taking them home to work on in between.  Other people hand stitched A Gawthorpe pin cushion bird, based on a beautiful little yellow bird in the handling collection or made little tea light jars.

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