In another foray into print-making techniques this weekend I attempted copperplate etching in my kitchen. The grand idea was an Arthur Rackham-esque quality print to use for an open call submission.

Having attended a wonderful workshop at the Bury Print Studio and made (what I thought were) diligent notes I assumed success and duly set about sketching ideas.

Suffice it to say the process was nowhere near as simple when unguided by a practiced hand and despite several attempts, I ended the day with an ink-covered kitchen and a few rather unsatisfactory prints.

Initially, I was very disheartened and disappointed in my lack of skill, the prints were stuffed into a corner along with the equipment and I convinced myself I had no future as a printmaker (good old ‘all or nothing’ ADHD brain!). However, returning to the prints a day later I was able to see them anew and somehow in all the strange marks and splodges I could now sense an atmosphere I had dismissed before. All these ‘errors’ carried their own story and added animation and narrative to the background of the print.

The outlines of the figurative elements were very faint but readable enough for me to go over by hand and instead of dismissing these unscripted results, I was able to appreciated them. The finished effect was ethereal and atmospheric.

The whole experience was a metaphorical reminder to reconsider my own human ‘flaws’ in a new light.

The piece has been duly entered into the open call it was originally conceived for. Now all that’s left to do is cross my fingers and plan more experimenting with print.


I am an autistic artist with ADHD and it is in practical, logical thinking tasks within my practice that I most feel the barrier between hands and brain so I signed myself up for a reduction multicolour lino print workshop this weekend.

I have long pondered how people are able to produce prints incorporating more than one colour. To some, this may seem a very obvious process but I can never quite get my head around the practicalities and seemingly backward thinking of laying the colours. Wordy explanations do not work for me in instructions. I recall begging my 4th driving instructor to please not give me any verbal explanation of how an engine works or why the controls do what they do; just physically show me what pedal to press and when!

Venturing back into the world of academia in my middle age has been a sharp reminder of just how much of a hindrance this can be. Lectures become beautiful clouds of words floating just out of reach above my head. Theories and concepts of my practice that are as clear as a bell in my mind are expressed verbally in a tumble of syllables or not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I do not consider myself special in this regard; I know every person here has a minefield of daily issues and obstacles to navigate.

I have recently applied for a Master’s that I believe would be the perfect path to my childhood dreams. However, after many hours pouring over and submitting my application for this highly competitive course, I have justifiably been asked to present a second portfolio of live observational situational drawings. This fills me with dread and my wonderful ADHD skill of extreme procrastination paralysis has me sitting here with an empty sketchbook unable to pick up a pencil.

How to explain that for me focussing on trying to draw in a setting outside my known comfort zone can be like sitting in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory mid-production of a musical serenade and trying to do complex algebra with a neon sign flashing over my head. But we battle on. Because I am an autistic artist with ADHD. I am an autistic artist with ADHD who will one day write and illustrate my own magical children’s storybook, just as I once promised that timid little girl I once was.


As I look around the stunning work from my contemporaries in our final year interim exhibition, I am filled with a huge sense of pride in all that these inspiring individuals, and the group, have achieved. Vibrant, expressive paintings, emotive portraiture, thoughtful installations, social commentary, and the language of the natural world stand alongside thought-provoking sculptural pieces providing an all-encompassing experience for the viewer.

Then I consider my own installation of works, standing amidst all this wonder, and the doubts begin to dance across my mind. Does it really stand up? What am I really trying to say with this? Does it capture the imagination of the viewer? Does anyone really care or is it as forgetful as a grey day in November?

In the modern world, art is everywhere; all genres are available at the click of a button from amazingly accomplished artists all over the globe. How is it possible to avoid getting lost in such a sea and stop the erosion of self-confidence?

I remind myself that we are all painting our own reality on the canvas of our own lived experience and the joy that comes from such an act needs to be authentic to add anything to the collective. If the work continues to come from my own creative voice, and not from a need for validation, it is worthy of my own acceptance and pride as a visual narrative of self. I cannot compare. myself with other artists because I can never create from the same place that they do. Our landscapes are different.

I am reminded of a quote by George Bernard Shaw “You use a glass mirror to see your face. You use works of art to see your soul.”

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You know the feeling when you get an idea in your head about something you have the urge to create at 3 am, but no idea how to physically accomplish it?  I needed to have more space on the canvas, and the canvas itself needed to be circular to strengthen the infinite energy flow of the fire and water that created the work.  The question was how to find a way to position myself underneath or at an angle to the paper whilst leaving my hands free to draw with open flame.

The choice of a circle was of fundamental importance.  The circle represents unity, a return to the beginning, an ever-eclipsing journey.  In creative terms, it provides soft edges, curves, and gentle lines.  The elemental use of fire and water combined with the holistic energy of the circle provides a backdrop for meditative mindful mark-making with no preconceived ideas.  The size promotes freedom of movement and less restriction to creative flow.

So how to achieve this physically?  My first thought was that I need to find a way to suspend the canvas from above.  Unfortunately, not having the luxury of a dedicated studio space at home this involved security a ceiling hook, and chains in the bedroom!  Secondly, sourcing a circular frame in the form of a large faux cartwheel randomly found online.  Finally, the biggest roll of paper I could acquire, a selection of candles and burning implements with which to experiment, and a spray bottle of water for emergencies.

I deliberately gave myself no preconceived image to achieve and simply allowed my unconscious to manifest at will, resulting in a visual of a large gnarly smoking tree.  I have always had a strong affinity with trees and their energy aligns with that o the elemental forces of fire and water so it was interesting that such an image was called forth.

As a first experiment, with a little obscure engineering, I was able to achieve the first steps to future practice.  Watch this space.


Images from studio installation of ‘Small‘; photo collage mounted on A3 Board.

In my current practice, I wanted to present subjective work that engaged with my own unconscious voice rather than art for art’s sake.   

My childhood was full of fairy tales and woodland magic thanks to bedtime stories and encouraged imaginative play, but moments of light must find balance with darker times in order to shine and chaos, fear, and transience also have their place in my memories. 

Among my late Mother’s effects I found a sheaf of 70s photographs depicting my childhood years and I was struck by the contrast of the seemingly happy-go-lucky situations against the facial expressions and all that I knew to be going on behind the scenes.  By dissolving these images through enlargement and colour filters,  I considered how memories become distorted and gain more clarity through aging and seeing them through different eyes.  

Using meditative mark-making, I layered these enlarged images with text and illustration with the aim of describing how they relate to the woman I am today.   Part of this mark-making was made using the elemental energy of fumage to create a visual language for the invisible voice of my inner child through the free movement of the flame.

Although the process itself I found quite meditative, I had not prepared for the emotion of sharing these works with my peers.  Although I sought to produce something that was authentic to my spirit and inner voice, it is one thing to produce it for yourself and quite another to expose these raw wounds to the fresh air and scrutiny of the world.   A group crit within the studio was enough to make me realise these were not works I would be sharing in a public gallery – more disguise will be needed before I can take that step.