I’m starting this blog a little bit later than I would have liked but it’s taken me a while to get to a point where I feel ready to focus on this project and use the bursary from A-N.

My original proposal for the money was to fund a print-based residency at the Bluecoat in Liverpool which I applied for at the same time however (unfortunately) this residency is no longer taking place in 2016.

My back-up plan was to conduct my own self-directed residency by choosing a location at random, travelling to it, exploring the area using a series of rules, tasks and activities and documenting this process in order to build up a body of research to work from. The work will be print-based with the aim of improving and developing my print-making skills primarily focusing on screen-print, etching and drypoint, monoprint and (maybe) waterless lithography.

As well as using the bursary to support the learning of practical processes I also want to use the opportunity to establish new connections and expand my creative network. My intention will be to make contact with other artists or artistic organisations in the location that I choose and include them in the project in some way – it may be that they offer feedback about the work, contribute thoughts or opinions during the research stage or their involvement may just be showing support for the project by making it visible to their network and audience through promotion and engagement.

In addition to making connections with the local area that I randomly select I would also like to extend and develop my network in Manchester where I live and work. I studied in Manchester at Manchester School of Art (MMU) graduating in 2010 and have since worked freelance as an artist and illustrator alongside a number of part time (none creative) positions. Although I have been involved in a number of creative projects in Manchester I do still feel like a bit of an outsider at times. Achieving a sense of integration in the artistic community or scene seems to be quite a difficult task – the reasons for this are varied but this is something that I’d like to change during the course of this self-directed residency. It’s difficult at the moment because I’m not sure exactly where my work is heading or what type of category it falls into anymore. The main reason for wanting to undertake a residency is a desire to dedicate time towards discovery and exploration within my practice. Having worked on so many projects for other organisations or with very specific aims and outcomes I feel as though I’ve reached a stage where I need to work out what I want to say as artist – this is a big task, one that at times I feel quite overwhelmed by. Time to reflect and question is very rare but hopefully having an extra boost of funding will allow me this time without having too many worries or feelings of guilt.

This sounds like a lot to achieve with one single bursary but I’m determined to make the most of this opportunity. It may just work out as the beginning of a bigger project, conversation or expansion of network and practice or it may have a shorter lifespan and be wrapped up by the end of the year or sooner. Either way there are ample opportunities for personal and practical growth which I’m determined to seize. Writing this first post has been something of a challenge – I’m lacking in confidence in my ability to make comment and evaluate in an effective and mature way and it feels like a big step for me to publicly document a project in this way. I’m hoping during this residency period that my written outputs will improve and I’ll feel comfortable continuing to blog or write about my own work and about art and culture in general.


Throughout the posts I’ve outlined the progress of the project and the working processes that I adopted during my visits to Colne and Nelson and while developing the print-based work. Below I’ve compiled a series of images that document the two trips and the photos/sketches that I made. The images also show the collages that were made as a first response to each location, mark-making and painterly motifs, the plates, plans and some work in progress shots.

Above are maps and routes created for my trip to Colne – I photocopied OS maps from the library and used tracing paper to draw over random routes. I then followed them as closely as possible using Google Maps and wrote out directions to guide me on the day. I did follow some of the routes but I found it tricky at times to stick to them as a lot of the routes followed back and forward around the same streets.

Sketches made on the journey to Colne – I found it difficult to complete any drawings of people without them noticing.

Above are photos and sketches from Colne – when I got home I began developing these into collages and mixed media pieces taking shapes or patterns and distorted them or combined them with new marks.

After creating these mixed media pieces I wanted to remove the colour to continue to develop them as compositions that could then become print. I flattened the images by photocopying in black and white – I posted images of these earlier in the year. The next stage of the process was to work on metal and make the drypoint plates to print with. I didn’t want to recreate each composition and chose instead to combine the elements that stood out and used them to produce scenes or compositions that reflected my experience in Colne and my first impression of the town. I worked directly onto the plate with the tools without planning allowing new marks to come through alongside those lifted from the collages. Below are the plates from the Colne prints:

As explained in more detail in my blog post about Nelson my working methods during the visit were slightly different to those used in Colne. I took less photographs and sketches and instead wrote more and chose to work directly onto plates. As I had The Shop to work in I was able to return there in between walks and produce collages immediately.

I still created a few extra mixed media responses to the Nelson trip but I began working into plates at the same time – I cut out some of the development process that I used for Colne. Below are the collages and plates (the prints have been shown earlier in the blog).

After producing a number of drypoint plates I began working on mono-prints. This introduction of colour was really important as I wanted to establish a palette to represent the area from what I had seen. The colours that I used in the mono-print work have been developed and honed during the screen-printing process. Before beginning to work on the design for the screen-printed work I produced further drawings in response to Nelson which haven’t been used directly to print with.

I experimented with some of the plates at home using watercolour, acrylic and poster paints and burnishing by hand to create new marks and shapes to work with later in the project.

The next stage of the project began at the beginning of December when I found out about the closure of The Shop. The design for the printed booklet began to take shape quite quickly – once I’d decided on a format I made a rough plan and produced components to expose onto screens to build up a design that incorporated various elements from the printed work produced in response to my visits to Nelson and Colne.

After the design had been established and the screens made I began printing – I chose two different paper stocks; a thicker, higher quality grey paper for a short run and a thinner, more flexible cream paper for the prints to be distributed to the public. The results have been slightly different and it’s been a good learning experience to try out other papers and view the effect of the ink.


With the closure of The Shop and shortage of time towards the end of the project I’ve had to reconsider the format of my final printed output for ‘Think, Question, Print’. In truth I had no concrete idea for the end product but as I was intending to exhibit in a more conventional way I assumed that I would produce a series of prints. Instead I have opted to design and print a folded booklet which can be distributed to the people of Nelson and Colne (for free) enabling them to enjoy and experience the work without having to organise a venue and a formal exhibition.

As I mentioned in a previous post about The Shop I was contacted by In-Situ about an image from ‘What’s Holding Me Back?’ being featured in their zine ‘Northern Souls’. I have since contacted a member of the zine team about distributing the work from ‘Think, Question, Print’ alongside the next issue of the zine. This will allow me to gain access to an established pool of interested arts appreciators and will hopefully enable the work to be distributed throughout the two towns more effectively.

After settling on this format I had to make decisions about the content of the booklet quite quickly in order to meet the deadline for bursary usage. I chose screen-print as the production method as it’s easier to reproduce a larger run of prints and I feel confident with screen-printing however it was also an opportunity to learn more about the process.

I wanted the booklet to be made from a  single sheet of paper to make production more economical and to make it easier to construct. I chose a format from Esther K Smith’s ‘How to Make Books’ which uses a sheet of paper slightly larger than A3 and utilises both the front and back of the page. I didn’t spend too long deliberating over the paper or the final construction as I only wanted a loose idea of how the images would fit together on the pages.

My aim was to produce the work in a way that leaned towards fluidity and spontaneity, this is not easy with screen-printing where it’s necessary to decide on images and prepare screens in advance however I worked hard to keep the overall structure of the images open-ended.

There were certain elements from the research, photographs, sketches, collages, drypoint and mono-prints that I wanted to include and I spent time carefully looking back over the body of work that I produced up to October in order to create a design that captured my impressions and responses to both towns. It’s difficult to try and recreate the drypoint marks and richness produced by the carborundum but I developed new shapes and tried out new (to me) methods to produce painterly, pencil and charcoal marks on the screen.

Using True-grain for the first time was a great experience as I was finally able to successfully recreate the hand-drawn quality that my work has. It’s been a really enjoyable experience producing the artwork to apply to the screens and then choosing colours and layering the different components.

The work has built up in a way that I’m unfamiliar with and although it’s not always consistent between each print there is a character and charm that I feel is really appealing.

Unfortunately I was unable to finish the prints before Hot Bed Press closed for Christmas and I’ll have to complete the printing and folding early in January however I see the project as completed in terms of my learning and growth. Writing this blog in time for the deadline (and only just!!) has provided an opportunity to honestly reflect on what I’ve been doing and the successes and failures that I’ve had. Despite the setbacks I’ve managed to produce a body of print work that has included experimentation and new methods, I’ve expanded on or revisited processes that were already familiar to me, I’ve established new relationships and contacts and most importantly I’ve asked questions about what I’m going to do next and how and why. These questions have lead to further questions but beginning this discussion, if only with myself for now, is vital in order to move forward.


Between August and October I produced a number of printed pieces in response to the days spent in Colne and Nelson; the development of these pieces is described in more detail in previous posts and photos of the drypoint and mono-print work can be found throughout this post.

In 2014 I attended the Complete Printmaker course for a year at Hot Bed Press in Salford (where I now volunteer on a weekly basis). Sampling the different processes inspired me, reinvigorating my work and taking my practice in a new direction. As a volunteer I have the opportunity to learn more about the space and experience the day-to-day running of an open access studio and the hours that I earn (to print with) enable me to explore and experiment in a space that I feel comfortable.

As I have mentioned a number of times I am often pushed for time to dedicate to play or learning and my aim for this bursary was to use the extra money to afford time to devote to this. Although I haven’t come close to the level of application that I intended, I do feel as though I have made some progress in developing my skills and my style of working. I’ve found myself focusing less on the subject matter as an entity to be recreated or interpreted literally and moved towards responsive and sometimes abstract work that feels more fluid.

In the past I have taken scenes from Prague, Berlin or Whitby and illustrated them in a straightforward way prioritising the architecture or landscape and depicting in a whimsical hand-drawn style. I also chose to draw animals and plants or food in this same way, documenting and collecting species or concentrating on trends. This type of work is easy to do – the subject matter is plentiful and it’s fashionable but it’s also everywhere in every possible style. I enjoy making this work – I like drawing buildings and creatures but in terms of my career this subject matter is not stimulating or challenging and I don’t have enough of a unique visual aesthetic to produce this type of work and stand out from the crowd.

When I began this project and chose to use a location as the starting point for my creative output I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to make but I knew that I needed to step away from a more conventional illustrative response and push towards something else. I find it really difficult to try and block out the images by other artists or illustrators; I often see work that I admire and wonder whether I actually care about my own style at all or if I just want to mimic them and make what they make or do what they do. I have to consciously take a step back and think about the effect that the work is having on myself and my creativity.

Part of this struggle is caused by my inability to allocate sufficient time for reading or thinking – I storm ahead and make the work because I enjoy the processes but I seldom stop to think about the context or the depth of the piece. Reaching a stage where I need to make some big decisions about the future of my practice means that I need to assess the influences and the ideas that make up my work. This is something that I discussed in my first blog post and I can’t decide if I feel any closer to being able to properly summarise what my work is about. I’ve made a lot of print work and enjoyed developing this and moving towards a different way of working but I’ve spent almost no time researching.

This project has been important as it was the first print-based project that I’ve undertaken with complete freedom since taking part in the course in 2014. Over the past year I’ve made posters for Hot Bed Press or cards and prints to sell at fairs but each piece has been aimed at a certain audience or potential buyer. Even the print work made for ‘What’s Holding Me Back?’ had restrictions in terms of subject matter and the expectations that I and the gallery had for the show. I was able to experiment a little with trace mono-print and collage for once piece (the only piece in the whole show that was not pre-planned) and this way of working was almost an introduction to the working methods I’ve adopted for ‘Think, Question, Print’.

The drypoint and mono print work uses similar mark making and abstracted or displaced imagery to capture something recognisable but transform it into something vague and indistinct. I enjoy this way of working as it feels more intuitive and natural allowing me to respond to themes, places or objects in a more open way. It also enables me to see patterns within my work and motifs that I revisit that have some importance on an unconscious level.

At the same time though I do struggle with this way of working as I’m so used to producing imagery that is recognisable and seen more as conventional ‘art’ – more of a straight depiction of a subject matter. Having the confidence to stand by this new body of work and talk about it or demonstrate and explain my choices feels slightly out of reach. I tend to worry a lot about whether my work has enough depth or if it has any relevance to the wider world and I think moving towards more abstract outcomes adds further pressure to deliver an important or meaningful concept or message.

I think these feelings further highlight the need that I have for further education or guidance as it feels like a constant battle in my own head over whether the work that I make can be justified. I also question my decision to produce work that is not a straightforward representation of the subject matter and I wonder whether this is a result of current trends in illustration and design.

Although I rarely dedicate time to studying or researching the work of other illustrators or artists currently working I do use platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest where I’m bombarded with examples of trending work. It’s hard to establish how much of an influence this exposure has on my practice but I’d like to think that the level of thought and consideration that I apply to my image-making will always move the work beyond what I see on screens.

It’s a luxury to have Hot Bed Press as a workspace (despite the freezing temperatures) where it’s possible to view works in progress and be inspired by more than just a final polished and perfected image. I’ve found that working with print has enabled me to begin to find my own style by trying to work out and attempt the processes that have contributed to art work that I admire. Having to physically mix and apply the colour, construct and layer sections to create compositions and consider the many variables that effect printmaking techniques has been so important for me. I’m nowhere near to being an accomplished printmaker but I feel as though I’m making progress and a lot of this has been made possible because of this project.

For a number of years I’ve been critical of myself and my artistic activities; reproaching myself for not drawing more or for not pushing myself to attend classes or workshops. I’m sure I would have gained a lot from these practical activities but what I’ve really needed is time to read, write and think. I lose sight of the need to balance the creative hands-on learning with the contextual and intellectual. I’ve reached a point where this needs to become a priority or my work will become impeded and lose momentum. Taking part in this self-directed, sort of failed residency has been an eye-opening experience and I feel both better and worse for it.


As outlined in previous posts, the direction that ‘Think, Question, Print’ has taken in the latter stages has been disappointing and frustrating. When I received the funding and began planning the project I aimed to devote a significant amount of time to the project to ensure that it would have a beneficial outcome and feel like something akin to a residency. I postponed the start date to August to make sure that I had established some connections before I began making work however I’ve found it a real challenge to remain focused on the original plan. A number of factors  have obstructed the project but ultimately the experience has highlighted the need that I have for time, structure and space away from my normal life in order to seriously develop my artistic practice. I naively believed that the bursary money alone would be enough to support my plans and make them easier to realise however I was still having to continue with my existing commitments (working part time and volunteering at Hot Bed Press) plus I took on extra responsibilities through the set up and organisation of ‘Unwrapped’ print fair and a heritage workshop project in Leigh. I hate to make excuses but it was so difficult to carry out a project that required research, exploration and experimentation when my time was so tied up with existing activities and responsibilities.

The experience has left me feeling frustrated with working freelance and taking on project based activities. In order to make anything of substance or effectively develop my practice I would need to drop everything else and devote as much time as possible to research, thinking, reading and creative exploration. This is completely unrealistic and unachievable as it would mean a life without security or stability. To meet the aims that I had for this project I would have had to sacrifice hours at work which I would then need to pick up again once the project was complete. This level of flexibility is not available where I work and I had to put my future welfare first and prioritise my part time work over ‘Think, Question, Print’. This infuriating decision made me think about the cycle of short term projects; once ‘Think, Question, Print’ ends I don’t have anything creative lined up – I began to question whether I should be looking for my next brief/commission/bursary etc. In order to sustain a career as a freelance artist or illustrator I always need to be looking ahead for new paid work therefore sacrificing the time that I should be spending making the work for my current project…I’m sure I’m not the only artist facing this problem but that thought doesn’t make me feel any better. I was hoping to come out of this project with a stronger network and a better formed idea of what my work is about and although I have made connections with other artists I actually feel more confused about what to do next and where my place is in the artistic community. I’m glad that these questions have surfaced but it’s difficult not to feel panicked by the uncertainty that lies ahead. In some ways I feel paralysed by the options that I have – do I continue applying for residencies; improving my applications and keeping my fingers crossed? Should I pay for a residency place and the luxury of time and space? Should I reconsider further education and Masters degrees? I’ve reached a stage where I’ve finally found part time work that is enjoyable, (almost) relevant and conveniently located and all of these decisions would mean giving up this security and moving away. This is a big gamble but I don’t feel like the progress that I’m making at the moment will ever move fast enough. It’s so difficult to make these decisions alone and I’m keen to seek out some mentoring or guidance in 2017. Without ‘Think, Question, Print’ I may not have reached this point and although I’m dissatisfied with some aspects of the project I know that they have contributed to this reflection and realisation.


In earlier posts I’ve described The Shop and it’s place in both the Nelson community and Think, Question, Print. As a resource it’s been fantastic offering a base during my research trips and a pool of local contacts. In September Elly and the team offered me the opportunity to exhibit as a way of introducing my work to the town. I intended to exhibit the new prints created for ‘Think, Question, Print’ at a later point in the year once they had been developed further so in September I chose to exhibit an existing body of work produced in February for a solo show in Warrington.

Titled ‘What’s Holding Me Back?’ the exhibition comprises a number of hand-printed and hand-made pieces inspired by both my own creative struggles and the drawbacks and difficulties faced by my peers. Making the work felt very cathartic and I often refer back to it if I’m experiencing a creative block or I’m faced with doubts about an idea. It felt like an appropriate body of work to show in a venue where I encountered a number of individuals seeking a space that they could connect with and that reflected their experiences, doubts or thoughts. My aim with the work was to encourage the viewer to look beyond the surface of success or creativity and reflect on the difficulties and setbacks that lead up to that final outcome. I received a lot of positive feedback about the work and the subject matter with visitors identifying with the themes. I hope that the work had a positive effect during it’s time in Nelson at The Shop, I’ve not had the opportunity to gather feedback. My only insight into the impact of the work came shortly after the work was taken down when I was contacted by Andrew Nicholas about featuring an image from the show in the ‘Northern Souls’ zine. I happily agreed and the zine was published and launched by In-Situ in early December.

As mentioned in my previous post my time during October and November became overrun with shifts at my three part time jobs and organising ‘Unwrapped’ print fair. During these two months my contact with Elly and The Shop was also put on hold and I was devastated to find out at the end of November that the landlord had illegally evicted The Shop from their premises in Nelson. I was appalled to hear about this knowing how valuable the space was to so many people in Nelson; The Shop provided more than just a venue for arts or culture but also served as a food bank with donations being made each week that were made available on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis ensuring that even those with nothing were able to visit The Shop and have something to eat or drink or take extra food home with them. Since the eviction In-Situ and the other organisers/contributors to The Shop have continued to provide the services that The Shop offered and I’m sure that their hard work and dedication will soften any negative impact on the community however the eviction is still an infuriating example of how selfish, greedy and out of touch people can be. Projects like The Shop are so important, especially in areas where it is easy to become isolated or where art, culture and community spirit is not so easily accessible.

The closure of The Shop was frustrating for me in terms of ‘Think, Question, Print’ as it meant that my plan to exhibit was no longer possible. I had to rethink my final outcome and adapt to this new situation to ensure that the work could still make some connection with the town and the local residents.