Category Archives: Workshops

Making banners for Canons House

I’ve just completed a community art project at Canons House, Mitcham, which was a pleasure from start to finish. Back in November I ran workshops at this historic house with two schools, as well as drop-in sessions for families and adults after work. Here are the completed banners, hung this week… keep scrolling down and I will show you how they were made!

The workshops began with mixing colour and creating painted sheets of colour to use for collage later, using classic ready-mix school paints… I had forgotten how good these paints are for the money, just £2.99 for a huge bottle that lasts forever (which is making me re-think how I use paints for my illustration work). We also went out into the 18th century walled garden to look at the colour and texture of bricks for inspiration:

While the paint dried, everyone made drawings of characters who might have visited the house over the centuries. I brought Robert Selbie’s ‘The Anatomy of Costume’, illustrated by Victor Ambrus, for inspiration and reference which led to some excellent characters.

Next step was to make collages of plants from the materials made earlier – one of the evening participants actually runs a lavender farm, so she made a stunningly accurate botanical sample. I also finally got the chance to meet Syvebonne from Little Ark. During lockdown I joined her project to make masks, caps and bags for NHS workers, but we never met in person until now and it was a real treat! My mum joined in the sewing project too and was much more productive than me – here’s me, Syvebonne and one of the bags my mum made that Syvebonne kept as an example of best practice.

Finally I took everything home and did LOTS of scanning, then put all the artwork together in two massive Photoshop files, moving the layers until I had the right design. For a finishing touch, I made a collage of the house itself – and I am sneaking it into the picture book I am working on at the moment as part of the scenery! I got the artwork printed onto canvas by Bannerbuzz, who did a good job and delivered the artwork amazingly quickly considering that they were posting it all the way from Mumbai.

I’m looking forward to doing more work at Canons House this year – thankyou Amy!

London landmarks

I’ve been back working with children on the ward and in the classroom at Evelina Children’s Hospital School. Together we made another big book, using collage and drawing, this time on a theme of London Landmarks. As always the children inspired me with their vision of an exuberant, colourful London, with a diverse crowd visiting the British Museum (top centre) and the royal barge Gloriana tackling some impressive waves.

The amazing rainbow jaguar

I celebrated World Book Day 2017 by making a book with children at the Evelina Hospital School. This remarkable school caters for children who have to stay in hospital for a long time, and miss out on going to their regular school – it’s a lovely warm and friendly place with very small class sizes and lots of 1-1 teaching.

The project began with a morning on dialysis ward, where some of the children have been spending three days a week since they were born. Using a mix of drawing and collage, I helped the children create some beautiful rainforest creatures – my favourite is the rainbow jaguar, invented to represent all the undiscovered species in the rainforest. I also visited other wards, and spent a day in the classroom working with some children who were well themselves but had very sick siblings, so the whole family was living at the hospital. One little girl produced the fabulous treehouse below, complete with a family of five!

The work the children produced was wonderfully exciting and vibrant, and I have put it all together into a hand-bound book for the school to keep, use, and exhibit in their summer show. You can read the school’s report on the event here.

The Amazing Harvest Machine

With secret doors, knobs to twiddle and control panels galore, this harvest ‘machine’ was the focus of a Big Draw activity I organised recently for a lovely local community event, Southfields Harvest. This year’s Big Draw theme was STEAM Powered – bringing together Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths.

Children drew fruit and veg to drop in the hoppers at one end, added dials, switches and various secret ingredients through the little doors, and then created some imaginative finished products to appear in the ‘output’ hatch. The doors in particular kept many little fingers busy for much of the afternoon – and even the mayor dropped in to participate.

Many thanks to Southfields Harvest, and to St Barnabas Church for hosting the event – and also to Work and Play scrapstore for plenty of paper and the rather classy doorknobs.

Barbed wire and twisted trees

20160526_142344_resizedI’ve just finished a project for Twickenham Museum – a large canvas backdrop for their forthcoming exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. I worked with a lovely group of Year 9 students from St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, also in Twickenham, over two days.

Day 1 began with a visit to the museum, after which we looked at the paintings of WW1 artist Paul Nash. Although Nash didn’t reach The Front until 1917, I felt his striking and intense battle-scarred landscapes would be a good starting point for the students. We then made collagraph plates by sticking string, rice and corrugated scraps onto cardboard – this was to represent barbed wire, shell explosions, and torn duckboards. We then used mixed media to create a reduced scale collage to plan the composition for the final backdrop.

Day 2 saw the students cutting blasted trees from black felt (sourced from the wonderful Work and Play scrapstore) and then getting stuck into some embroidery. I must admit I had wondered if this would be the least-favourite element for a group of teenagers, but in fact they couldn’t put those needles down, and the detail of the stitching on the trees is one of the best things about the finished work. We also printed the collagraph plates onto fabric – a mixture of linen, cotton and various satin samples in a muted colour palette. Keeping to the paper plan as much as possible, I then finished the piece by assembling on canvas with a mix of PVA glue and Bondaweb.

Many thanks to Twickenham Museum for inviting me to take part in the project, to the Richmond Arts Team at Orleans House, and most of all to the staff and students at St Richard Reynolds Catholic College for all their enthusiasm, ideas and careful stitching.

World Book Day

Last year I was lucky enough to be picked for a special training programme for new authors – 21st Century Authors – run by the National Literacy Trust and delivered by Author Profile. We covered all the stages of planning and delivering a school visit, from preparing the content to tips from an actor on how to stand and deliver. The final part of the programme was an actual school visit – and mine was yesterday, fortuitously on World Book Day, to Wessex Gardens Primary School in Brent Cross, north west London.

Although I’ve led creative workshops in dozens of schools over the years, it’s the first time I have visited one as an author, so I was excited and a little apprehensive – I feel much more comfortable encouraging other people/children’s work than talking about myself. However I looked back through all my notes from the training, found the talk I had prepared, and realised I was actually ready. Best of all, although the publication date is still some way off, I was able to read the children my first picture book as author and illustrator, Pink Lion – a world premiere!

The school, staff and especially the children couldn’t have been more welcoming. I spent the day with Year 1, talking about how I wrote the story with and developed the artwork – and was rewarded by a big spontaneous round of applause after I read the story out loud! Since the children were all dressed up for World Book Day, it was lovely to be told by the Mad Hatter, Robin Hood and several princesses that the book was a hit with them.

The remainder of the day was taken up with workshops – the children created their own stories using a mix of collage and drawing, with some very imaginative scenarios developing as well as gorgeous artwork. I love the idea of the snake being happy about his present – beneath the flap is a tiny, curled up sleeping bear. Nice to see my little flier getting embellished and incorporated into some of the books too!

Huge thanks to NLT and Author Profile for preparing me so well for this event – may it be the first of many.


The Frame is launched!

theframe1theframe1After six months of research, planning, workshops and tonnes of scanning – it’s finally here! My community art project with Sue Edkins was launched yesterday at Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham, under a blazing hot sun with many of the participants – from age 8 to over 80 – there to see their work on public display for the first time.

As I posted when we first began in January, the project is Twickenham’s version of the ‘Fourth Plinth’ – a public work of art that changes every couple of years. In Twickenham’s case, however, it also involves the community, and the work of many, many hands can be seen in the three finished pieces.

Four classes of children from St Stephen’s Primary School took part, producing the most characterful set of drawings based on stories and postcards showing Twickenham’s involvement in WW1, from sporting heroes at The Front, to the Belgian refugee community, to Richmond Park as a training camp and convalescent hospital. They also made monoprinted textures, and experimented mixing paint to create panels for collage.

We also had a huge number of collage motifs, created by two groups of older people and also by members of the public who came to a drop-in workshop in the park. These form a decorative border around the three panels.

With a red-hot scanner burning up from working so hard, we pieced together these hundreds of individual elements digitally to create three colour-keyed scenes telling the story of Twickenham’s War.

The frames were appropriately covered up with camoflage netting to increase excitement as we waited for the big moment – then the children helped whisk off the net and then immediately rushed around spotting their own work – a lovely moment we’d been waiting for a long time!

The work will be on display until 2018 when the centenary years of WW1 come to an end – so if you are near Twickenham, do go and take a look – there’s an excellent cafe in the park and a lovely river view into the bargain.

Many thanks to the many people who made the project possible – to the Arts Team of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames at Orleans House especially Rachel and Carla for commissioning us, giving us studio space and being fantastically supportive, to everyone who helped with the research, especially Helen Barker, and to Ruby, Anna, and Ashley who all helped with the workshops, to St Stephen’s Primary School for taking part so enthusiastically, and to the Greenwood Centre in Hampton and St Stephen’s Church Monday Fellowship Group for producing beautiful motifs. And finally to Jagon, Chris, Luke, Roger and Mark for helping install the work in Roger’s amazing Frame!




A football, a fez, and a Belgian or two…

drawingsI’ve been very busy processing all the drawings produced during workshops earlier in the year with Sue Edkins at St Stephen’s Primary School, Twickenham – and the final work is now taking shape.

We’re putting together three huge images for display in Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham, all inspired by Twickenham’s role in the First World War.

The launch is planned for June 26th, so I can’t show any more now – but here are just a small sample of the wonderful drawings produced by Year 4 and Year 5, which I have coloured digitally. They are full of such freshness, life and character, I am rather envious of the children’s drawing skills…


Carrots on a windy day

DJG_eventYesterday Sue Edkins and I held a drop-in workshop at Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham – we invited passers-by and local families to come along and make a motif, inspired by one of our WW1 themes, to form a decorative border for the work we are making to go in The Frame in the park.

We had a good flow of lovely participants throughout the session, with two boys in particular being so keen they dashed off to fetch their cousins and stayed for ages making radishes, medicine bottles, and even a locket that opened. The only problem was the fresh breeze sweeping in off the river and attempting to snatch away freshly-made carrots…

Many thanks to Ashley for helping on the day, and to Jagon for helping move all the equipment from Orleans House and back into the cellar at the end of the day.

Another drop of that squirty black stuff please!

workshopsThis week Sue Edkins and I have been at St Stephen’s Primary School, East Twickenham, running workshops with Year 4 and Year 5.

It’s all part of our WW1 themed community art project, which will go on display in Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham, in June this year.

The workshops have been great fun, with delightfully enthusiastic children and teachers. Activities divided into 3, with each child getting a chance to try them all – logistically complicated but feasible! The first was drawing, using wartime reference photographs; the second was painting – experimenting with mixing colours within a specified palette – we had some delicious ochres, mustards and khaki shades emerging simply from three primary colours and white. The final activity was monoprinting, which became strangely addictive: once shown the technique, children were given a variety of tools to experiment with mark-making, and they were very inventive in their approach. They were also intrigued by the huge tube of water-based block printing ink (the squirty stuff) and seemed to like the smell!

Each class was making work related to a particular theme: the Belgian refugee community in East Twickenham, Twickenham’s sporting heroes at the Front; and Richmond Park during the war – all fascinating topics on which we were able to share our research from earlier in the year.

We have two workshops still to do, and after that will spend some weeks collaging together all the work we have collected to make three finished images.

Many thanks to Ruby, Anna and Tinah for their help.