A portrait of the artist as a young child
I’ve been an illustrator all my life.
1980s Kent. When I wasn’t pretending to be a Victorian, pretending to ride a horse, building Borrowers‘ houses, or playing the violin, I spent much of my time sitting at the kitchen table with an HB pencil (my right middle finger is permanently indented) drawing children, dogs and many, many horses. Quentin Blake was, of course, central to my upbringing. Though I never consciously copied him, his influence goes very deep, perhaps helped by the fact that I imagined him to be a woman until I was about 10 (it was Famous Five’s Uncle Quentin who gave the game away). Lucian Freud pictures were all around the house.
When I was 5, my Gran (subject of an early portrait: bizarrely I drew her ‘mending a bike,’ despite her not even having one) gave me a set of felt-tip pens containing an inordinately wide variety of greens. I put this tempting range of khaki colours to use by making lots of war pictures, featuring tanks and uniformed soldiers. Fortunately for my friends, to whom I was trying to flog these works, the pens ran out. Around the age of 6, I got a box of watercolours, which is still going strong. The yellow has nearly run out though. It was at this point that I learnt how to make black.
… as a teenager
The RA Summer Exhibition was my introduction to art galleries. My mum used to take me; we still go and especially love Anthony Green. Around the age of 15, in deepest darkest Lincolnshire, I got into more artists, my first loves being Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh. Living in Ukraine for three months aged 20 opened up a whole new world of Russian icons and ninteenth-century Russian painters (such as Shishkin and Kramskoi). A combined History of Art and English BA and a History of Art MA at York followed, where I developed an eclectic trio of obsessions with art theorist Georges Didi-Huberman, Anglo-Saxon art and the coolest dude ever Paul Muldoon.
… in Europe
Le monde etait mon huitre, as the French definitely do not say. After university, I lived and worked in Paris for two years, where, during the all-too-infrequent breaks between bread and / or gateaux-eating, I hung out in the Pompidou (Yves Klein! Jackson Pollock! Pierre Soulages!), the Louvre, and all the others. I found another great love, Gaudier-Brzeska, during this time.
My friend Caroline and I make regular pilgrimages to Europe’s art galleries, sometimes managing to convince ourselves not to just go back to Madrid, which is, to our minds, a perfect city with the most amazing art collections. El Greco, Velazquez, Rothko, Rembrandt…
… as an Alto
All the while, I’ve made cards and pictures for family and friends. Cara and Cathy have got so many of my paintings that I refer to their house as my Provinicial Gallery. Music is another huge part of my life and when I moved to London, I joined the City of London Choir. A couple of years later my career as an illustrator took off when, in a storm of singerly excitement, I produced a caricature of the choir with our conductor (a dream for any caricaturist) for an Auction of Promises.