Autobiography

From the Beginning

I have so many memories and anecdotes over 30 years that it's hard to edit them down. There are some anecdotes at the bottom of the page too which fill out details of my first commission (and how I thought it was my last) and a couple of my most memorable too.

Powerboats

My career of painting on commission started in the late 1980s. It has been wide and varied career over the years. My earliest paintings were of Offshore Racing Powerboats and I had work displayed at the London Boat Show. It all started with Fiona, Countess of Arran, with a painting of her craft Hell's Angels. I am convinced she mistook me for a professional artist, I was a teenager at the time, passing the time at the race meetings by painting scenes around the port. Later on the Toleman twins with their Class 2 Catamaran and the Chairman of UKOBA (United Kingdom Offshore Boating Association), amongst others, also commissioned me to paint for them.

Property

Following this I began painting house portraits and artist's impressions. I had worked in architect's practices and had, through a baptism of fire, of mistaken identity, ended up being trained to draw on their plans. As an 18 year old, fresh out of school, this was terrifying as then we used Rotring Rapidographs pens with permanent ink and drew onto extremely large acetate sheets, which could so easily be messed up, erm, permanently. Fortunately, I somehow managed not to ruin any architect's hard work, mainly due to the kindness of the architectural technicians who took me under their wing and helped me with the basics. The basics being understanding what 'parallel motion' meant and how to clean your Rapidograph pen. They also showed me the hair-raising process of scratching off ink lines from the acetate with a razor blade and then smoothing the surface in order to draw a new line over it without the ink bleeding into the altered area. I say hair-raising as I was tasked to do this on huge plans which must have taken an architect weeks to draw up. I was doing this only a week after finishing my A levels and had thought I'd just be following someone round and making coffee for them. Not be sat at a drawing board being asked to change some doors on a large school plan. The only thing I embarrassed myself with was getting lost whilst driving plans to the printers to be printed onto paper; instead of a quick 8 mile round trip, I got lost driving in Woking and ended up driving 50 miles! The second week of doing 'work experience' I was told by the Chief Architect that, in his absence, the rest of the team had thought I was the new graduate. He told me that I'd impressed them enough to carry on 'working' there, not salaried but just for experience. I stayed 6 months until the department was closed down by the Council and I then went to a private practice which was just starting up. I gained enough knowledge from this time that I could go onto render artist's illustrations, as I could read from architects' plans and work out what it would look like once built. Over the years, clients have included FPD Savills, Hamptons, Lane Fox, Wessex Frame Buildings Ltd, Browns Estate Agent and as well as many private clients. My artist's impressions have successfully supported planning applications and been used for advertising on hoardings and in brochures. I became a member of The Society of Architectural Illustration.

Maps

I also design illustrated maps which have an enormous appeal. They become a very personal representation of home, family and surroundings. A map of Turtle Bay, Kenya included a Father Christmas on a camel and the orphaned young elephants from the Elefriends Project as my client's family were close friends with Daphne Sheldrake. Poems and names are woven into the drawings, but anything is possible and designs vary from map to map. The first map I designed was in 1994 for the wedding of Polly Samson and David Gilmour. From initially designing traditional 'estate maps', I went on to create 'Wedding Maps' and 'Life Maps' which would depict either two people coming together with illustrations of their own lives intertwined with their life together or a map of a single life, from birth, through schools, houses, experiences and careers. I have been told that families who have these will pass them down as family heirlooms.

Murals & Painting on Furniture

Over the years I was commissioned by Polly and David Gilmour to create other pieces including a highly decorated cot, for their first baby, Joe. The cot and my paintings on it were included in one of Polly's books, Lying in Bed, in the story Blood Roses in the Snow. I have to say, having a piece of my art inspire a piece of fiction was quite a hightlight of my career. It was wonderful to think that an author would look at something I'd painted and create further from it. I was so flattered when Polly told me and the way my cot had been described was just perfect, even if the tale was rather dark. Murals have included wildflower scenes with clients' children as fairies walking through the stems and a 360 degree scene of a train station which included an interative clock and railway signs on velcro so that 'Sleepy Time' could be announced.

Tutoring & Workshops

Over the years, I have also run art courses for children in schools. I was asked back year after year to Bedales Junior School, Dunhurst. Here I co-run the successful Art and Drama Workshop alongside Jenny de Jongh and Annabel Munn. I have been Artist-in-Residence and presided over art weeks. I was described as "calm amid the chaos" on an art week for over 300 children, it was quite a busy week to say the least! I have also privately tutored from my studio and at client's houses. I enjoyed a wonderful time tutoring the daughter of mountaineer Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Her daughter is a talented young girl, with ancestry of Serbian artists behind her. I so enjoyed our after school session with her little band of friends. Being out of school, we were free to paint and make pretty much whatever we fancied and so I would turn up each week with baskets of materials. One week, we were exploring natural pigments and I'd taken quite an array of flowers and such. The children thought it funny painting with coffee and red wine too! I once tutored the great great great grandson of the Dutch forger Van Meegeren, my young chap won his scholarship to his senior school after our sessions together. He was a very talented artist himself, I just helped him see what was around him in his life and to find a new way of looking at them and choosing the most suitable media too.

Essence Royal Art

When my husband left the Corps after 13 years as a Royal Marine, he wondered what to give as a leaving present. "Everyone in the Troop is giving the same things" he said. I suggested that I could paint a picture maybe? He went with this, probably out of desperation rather than thinking it would be the best idea! As I didn't know very much about military life and equipment, I had to ask him, as I peered closely at his photos, "What's that bit?!" and,"What on earth is this?!" My first paintings were presented to an initially reluctant RM Officer, who told me afterwards that some artwork presented to the Corps isn't always quite what they'd hoped for. I wasn't sure if he was being polite when he said he liked my work. A short time later though, I was commissioned to paint a leaving present and soon work started to come in from various Royal Marines. I was invited down to CTC Lympstone for the RMA Reunion to display my work and had much success there over the years. Jon suggested that I should use the format of my illustrated maps as a way of depicting military careers. I started by creating one of Jon's career, including the countries he'd served in, medals, unit crests and photos and memories from his time in the Corps. This was displayed at an event up at the Union Jack Club, the launch of Recruit for Spouses. It inspired quite a few people to ask for commissions. When the Royal Marines Association opened a shop, The Royal Marines Shop, they asked if they could sell my originals, prints and greetings cards, all with a percentage to the Corps' charity. I haven't only been commissioned by bootnecks though! I've worked for a variety from Blues & Royals to the Rifles. I also create cartoons for people, of themselves, in a distinctive 'long, tall, skinny' style. These cartoons do lend themselves well to military attire and make for an original present. I have also had the pleasure of helping to create a book cover for former Army Officer, author and 'hunter' on the television programme Hunted - LA Clarke. As the book, Callsign Whiskey was about female army officers, my brief was to paint an up close camouflaged face of a female. I used my daughter as a model, but changed her eyes to blue. When working on the historical piece of the Limbang Raid I visited the Royal Marines Museum and the Royal Marines Historical Society for research. Through former bootneck clients of mine, my request for help spread quite far and wide and I was put in touch with a veteran of the 1962 hostage rescue. This was not only extraordinarily helpful. Commandant General Buster Howes once said, "The only thing which ruins a good war story is a witness", in the same way, the one things which aids a military artist on a historic piece is a witness! My depiction of the Limbang Raid would have been very different if I had not had the assistance of Brian Downey. He helped so much by not only providing many photographs (there was little I could find on this 'forgotten war') but also helped me to edit them down. I would not have chose to put the picture on of 'the dead and the dying' Royal Marines, nor the coffins draped in Union Flags. I also would have omitted the rebels and their flag. During the course of painting this raid, I became so emotionally involved in what had happened. The last minute calling together of Lima Company to go in with the most unsuitably noisy and slow craft to face certain death in order to attempt such a brave hostage rescue. When I paint across a multitude of illustrations on one piece of work, I normally balance out the colours by using the same colour mixes over the whole painting. However, on the Limbang Raid, I found it impossible to use the same red paint on the Union Flag and then onto the rebel one. Equally with the camouflage of the Marines and that of the Rebels. It somehow seemed a conflicted thing to do.



Foolery Art

My Foolery cartoons started totally by chance and a very strange coincidence. After my little dog Ratty died I eventually got a Norfolk Terrier from my wonderful friend Jenny de Jongh. It was a last minute decision and we had the puppy which was left. Jenny has been on the stage and chose the names of her puppies from parts she had played in and so although I named my bundle of naughty Norfolk, Artie, his Kennel Club name is Tom Foolery! Considering that we already had Jester, who was named by Canine Partners. We think it was meant to be. I think we all have an inner fool. It's just whether we're up for letting it out and being the silly person. Seeing the funny side of life. Follow the Foolery, you know it makes no sense!


Anecdotes

Over my thirty year career as an artist, I have gone through a few different phases. From painting offshore racing powerboats, rendering architectural illustrations, designing illustrated maps and painting military work. This has all been commissioned work for clients who I have been fortunate enough to work for. Over the last ten years, since my husband has been disabled and I have been his carer, I have found that art has it's healing properties, especially when the subject is the natural world around us. Going for long walks in the country side, always with a camera by my side and being able to get enjoyment from the beauty around is just wonderful. We are so fortunate to live in near the South Downs which is a beautiful part of the country.

In between commissions I created an Etsy shop with my own paintings and photographs. From nature, widlife and our dear dogs, Artie and Jon's Canine Partner assistance dog Jester, my Instagram account celebrates all that we do have in our life. I also celebrate the carer, the charities which help, the Invictus athlete (as my husband was one of them!) and anything which makes me smile. Oh yes and HRH Prince Harry, as he rather loves dogs he instantly fell for Jon's first canine partner Varick, a beautiful Flat Coated Retriever and subsequently, Jester, the gorgeous black lab. (To read more about canine partner Varick do read Kate Humble's book Friend for Life.)


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From the start, the life of a commissioned artist was interesting to say the least. When Lady Arran asked me to paint her boat, I went off to find a press photographer to see if I could get permission to paint from one of their photos. I knew about copyright issues and back in those days, I didn't have a camera with any sort of capacity of photographing high speed vessels. The photographers were a friendly bunch and always generous with their work. Although I think some were bemused at the thought of a painting of an offshore powerboat. In retrospect, I'm not surprised. I went away and painted her boat, then at the next race meeting, presented it to her. She thrust it back in my hands with the remark,"My racing overalls are silver, you've painted them grey" "Ah, well, it's watercolours Lady Arran", I replied. "Haven't you got silver paint?" she asked. "Erm, well, no" "Well go and buy some!" That was it. That was, what I presumed to be, then end of a very short lived artist's career. When I got home, I went into work at the Art Gallery and Art Shop I worked in. It was owned by a lady called Audrey who was one of the last debutantes to be presented to the Queen. She told me that she'd lost all her inheritance to a male cousin and ended up living over the shop but drinking real champagne everyday and swearing like a trooper at any poor soul who ventured into her shop. She had a private income and so running a business was just something she did in between watching snooker on the telly and inviting the local policeman in for a brandy. I could park on double yellow lines whilst working for her as the brandy worked a treat. The eighties were very different times! I told Audrey about my experience with the Countess and my rejected painting. Audrey had some rather choice words for anyone who would demand silver paint on a watercolour, countess or not. However, she produced a pot of silver paint for me. She was quite dotty, but terribly kind underneath. I went away and actually studied my painting and thought it terrible. I started again from scratch and redid the whole thing, topping it off with silver paint. I ventured off to another race with my then boyfriend and presented the new picture to her. This time, she just took it off me. I didn't get paid for ages. Finally a cheque from a private bank came in the post with a brief note of thanks from her. It wasn't until I got to go to the London Boat Show and was mooching about on her boatmakers' boats that Jeff Hunton (who made her Hunton Gazelle racing boat) came over and said, "Loved your painting of Lady Arran's boat"  "How did you get to see that?" I asked, "Oh, she brought it down to the boatyard and has been showing everyone."  After that, there was occassion when people would approach me with,  "Ah, you're the Countess's artist aren't you?"

I had worked in architect's practices and had, through a baptism of fire, of yet more mistaken identity, ended up being trained to draw on their plans. As an 18 year old, fresh out of school, this was terrifying as then we used Rotring rapidographs pens and drew onto acetate sheets, which could so easily be messed up, permantently. 

Painting murals in people's houses sometimes made me a bit nervous, especially when shown through a 50' long drawing room with white carpet in order to get to the room you were painting. Or being shown another artit's mural which you were tasked to paint over. But probably being locked in a house whilst the owners went out because next door had had an armed car jacking incident was probably one of the more unnerving incidents of my career. I think I was more alarmed at being locked in to their house than the possibility of a car jacking, after all, no one would have wanted my old car!

I think that possibly one of my most memorable days at work was when Polly and David Gimour commissioned me to paint a Wedding Map for Phil Manzanera from Roxy Music. David drove me over to Phil's house with Polly and their daughter Romany. It was all to be a surprise and so the housekeeper let us in. They told me what to take photos of in the house to add to the picture; an old sepia wedding photo of ancestors here and a tennis court there. Then Polly remembered that Phil and his new bride-to-be adored the view from their bedroom and so we all went upstairs to see which window for me to photograph out of.... and then I realised, yup, I was having a slightly surreal moment in one musician's bedroom taking photos in secret with none other than the Gilmours. Over the years my illustrated maps have included such incredible diverse subjects because of family ties to such events or interesting ancestors. My husband thinks I'm probably the only artist to be asked to paint; the Torrey Canyon Disaster, a brawl during the Miner's strikes and Francis Greenway, the only known convicted forger to be commemorated on a bank note. Confused? I'm not totally surprised. After years of interesting requests, I am no longer surprised by clients who ask me to paint something a 'little unusual' on their Life Map. They will certainly go down as talking points for family for generations to come. People lead extraordinary lives and we all have such unique stories. It has been a pleasure and an honour over the years to lay people's lives out in illustrated form.

The life of a commissioned artist is never dull and work appears at the oddest times. As a teenager waiting on the docks for a powerboat race to start, a powerboat racer who was standing on his Class 2 catamaran called to me to paint his boat, "Yes, of course!" I shouted back, "We'll talk after the race."  "But you'll need money....for paint and stuff!"  He yelled over the roar of the engines and with that, unzipped his racing overalls. He pulled out a roll of notes peeling off a few twenties and passing them up, much to my bemusement. Always discreet with my clients wishes and protective of their privacy, a number of them are in the film & music industry and military community. I build good working relations with my clients. On an invitation to a lunch with clients I decided not to tell my young children quite where they were heading off to. On the way up the long winding driveway, my son noticed the security cameras hidden in the trees. "What are the cameras for?" he asked  "They're great animal lovers, they're filming the squirrels" I replied