I've just completed my largest, most enjoyable commission to date for Bollington Cross Primary School. I usually paint very small, detailed nature-inspired, watercolours, with tiny paint brushes, so painting a 100cm x 100cm canvas in acrylic paint featuring lots of children was a pretty big challenge! But I had so much fun creating a narrative-rich scene that references the school's close links to St Oswald's Church, illustrates the school's core learning values (Resilient, Resourceful, Reflective and Respectful), celebrates the importance of play and nature-based learning, and above all, makes people smile. The painting is going to go in the school's entrance hall and will hopefully help create a warm welcome for all the children, staff, parents and visitors to this very special school.
Exciting news! My green sketching venture, Boggy Doodles, finally has its own website. Please go and check it out at www.boggydoodles.com and let me know what you think. I built it myself, so please bear with me if there are any teething problems!
Sketching outdoors in the winter months poses a few obvious challenges. It's all too often cold, wet and very grey, none of which inspires you (or me) to get outdoors. But the physical and mental benefits of putting on your boots and going for a walk with your sketchbook are enormous. So here are a few tips to help you Boggy Doodle your winter blues away:
1. As the famous quote goes, 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.' I feel the cold easily, so pile on the layers and LOVE my fingerless gloves.
2. If it's really cold - too cold to linger - focus on speedy sketching. Try to capture the essence of the landscape or feature with quick gestural sketches, using a minimum of lines. Winter trees, for example, are challenging to sketch at the best of times, but even more so when your fingers are frozen. If you're struggling, just focus on recording the overall shape and dominant branch patterns.
3. Although I don't recommend trashing your sketchbook in heavy rain, you can still doodle in light drizzle, which is just as well in this part of the world. Water-soluble coloured pencils are brilliant on damp paper.
4. Tempting as it is to wait for the sunshine, don't be put off Boggy Doodling on those (all too common) grim, grey winter days. Foggy weather is perfect for monochrome sketching or painting. The fog eliminates details and colour, helping you focus on dominant shapes and values.
5. Don't forget to make a quick note of the weather conditions next to your doodles. I guarantee it will make you smile when you later look back through your sketchbook and are reminded of how you braved the elements.
6. Although it often seems like there's not much colour around at this time of the year, if you look carefully you'll spot green gold catkins, the viridian shoots of snowdrops, burnt orange robins... Take time to note down the colours you spot. Once you start looking, you'll be amazed at how much colour is out there, even in winter.
7. A flask of hot tea is one of those little luxuries that can make all the difference in winter. I don't remember to take one with me very often but am always glad when I do. Apart from anything, a hot cup of tea keeps your hands warm so you can sketch for longer.
8. Winter is a great time of year to observe large landscape-scale patterns. Where I live, the stone wall field boundaries create a dramatic mosaic of shapes across the hills. Look out for patterns created by hedgerows, trees, river meanders and rocky outcrops.
9. Remember to feed the birds if you're able to. They need as much help as possible at this time of the year. In return, you'll be able to sketch them from the comfort and warmth of your home. It's easy to stop looking at a bird once you've identified what it is, but by trying to sketch it you'll notice all sorts of beautiful details that you might otherwise miss. One little way Boggy Doodling can bring joy, even in winter.
10. If you'd like to learn more about the joys of Boggy Doodling, whatever the weather, you can sign up here for one of my 2018 introductory workshops or get in touch to discuss a bespoke event. Happy Boggy Doodling!
Gift Vouchers for my Boggy Doodles workshops are now available. They make an unusual present for anyone needing a little more joy, calm or focus in their lives. Suitable for all; no experience needed.
I offer two different vouchers:
1. Boggy Doodles introductory workshop (group limited to 8 people max). See here for more details. £16
2. Your Boggy Doodles (a confidence-boosting, half-day 1:1 coaching session, tailored to your needs. £60
Please get in touch to order gift vouchers and find out more about workshop dates and locations in 2018. Thanks!
As a few of you may know, earlier in the year I was approached by the John Lewis stationery buyer. You can probably imagine how excited I was! I was invited to submit my designs and short-listed as a potential greeting card supplier for 2018. The whole submission process was fascinating, albeit expensive and time-consuming. It involved me registering for VAT and submitting my first ever VAT returns, buying my own barcodes (who knew barcodes were so expensive!) and learning all the nitty gritty details about submitting a product to a major retailer. In the end I wasn't selected (they only selected 3 new suppliers out of 132 that were shortlisted) but they gave me lovely, helpful feedback and said they would consider my designs again next year if I expand my range a little more. I'll see how my other projects pan out in 2018 before deciding whether I do resubmit but I'm so grateful for the opportunity, excitement and confidence boost John Lewis have given me this year. Who has give you your biggest confidence boost this year?
I'm thrilled that my Christmas cards are now on sale at the wonderful Button Warehouse in the centre of Macclesfield. It's a gorgeous wholefoods cafe hidden down an alleyway off Chestergate in a beautiful old mill building. It's my favourite place to go in Macclesfield when I want a healthy treat and a calm, inspiring space to think and work.
I've been busy designing Christmas cards this week, for my own range and for the National Trust. Here's a sneak peak of my holly heart and robin design.
I had an amazing few days at the Bogfest 2017, a brilliant and inspiring conference/festival celebrating our precious boggy moorlands. I met so many interesting people and reconnected with some of the science and stakeholders of my former life as a researcher and climate change advisor. As well as running three Boggy Doodles workshops, I was also the Bogfest Artist in Resident, which involved helping delegates create a Boggy Art Wall, a fun way of giving them a chance to think creatively about why our moorlands matter. So many ideas, conversations and contacts to follow up on!
Many people ask me how on earth I came up with the name 'Boggy Doodles'! The quick answer is that our family cat is called Boggy Doodle. He was named by my little boy after my two great loves: art and peat bogs (which I studied during my geography degree at Oxford University and later during my PhD on nature conversation and climate change). I was searching for a name that would encourage people to come along and sketch in the wild, without feeling intimidated, and realized the name was purring right under my nose.
But it’s not only the name that combines my two interests. Boggy Doodles has given me a wonderfully rewarding way of linking my background in geography and environmental science with my love of sketching and new career as an artist.
It is my way of helping people reconnect with nature, the first step towards greater environmental stewardship. You have to love nature to want to take care of it, and it’s easier to appreciate nature when you start to see it properly; to really savour its beauty. Sketching helps you see -- not just look at -- nature; you notice so many details that you’d otherwise miss.
Yet so many people have limiting beliefs, stemming from childhood, about their inability to draw. Boggy Doodling gives people permission to have a go at sketching, without worrying about anyone judging their efforts. It’s so rewarding when someone is adamant and self-conscious about the fact they ‘can’t draw’ but then, after an hour of Boggy Doodling exercises, finds themselves losing track of time, completely absorbed in the act of sketching a humble hawthorn leaf.
It’s this focused observation that makes green sketching so relaxing. It can even be a form of meditation for those of us too pragmatic to sit in front of a candle. By giving our full attention to sketching what we are looking at in a particular moment, we are able to focus, mindfully, on one task and quieten the mental chatter in our minds – something so many of us crave in this age of information, digital and cognitive overload. Nobody worries while they’re Boggy Doodling!
Click here to learn more and book tickets.
I'm in Country Living! Huge thanks to the lovely CL team for including an interview with me in the extract of their fab new book, Turn Your Hobby Into A Business 2 (all about how to find the confidence to start and run your own business), which comes free with this month's magazine. The book itself goes on sale today in loads of shops, including WHSmith, M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose. It takes guts and resilience to change career and start your own business but hopefully this book will inspire and reassure people that they can also be brave and follow their dreams.
I'm delighted to announce I've been invited to Boggy Doodle at Bogfest 2017. Bogfest 2017 is a joint celebration of our iconic uplands and brilliant blanket bogs hosted by the Moors for the Future Partnership and IUCN UK Peatland Programme. The festival/conference is an opportunity to connect with people working on upland and lowland peatland restoration, clough woodland regeneration and upland meadows.
I'm going to be running two Boggy Doodles workshops for Bogfest delegates on Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd September. I'll also be running a third Boggy Doodles workshop on Saturday 23rd September, one of several Bogfest events that are open to the general public. You can book tickets for the Saturday workshop here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/boggy-doodles-in-the-peak-district-part-of-bogfest-2017-tickets-36977124575
I'm so excited to be part of Bogfest 2017. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love peat bogs! I studied them during my undergraduate dissertation and later during my PhD research. More recently, I've started work on a new range of boggy designs, inspired by all the sketches I make when up in the moors. By Boggy Doodling at Bogfest, I'm going to have a wonderful opportunity to help other people savour and learn more about our beautiful moors.
Just got back from 5 days of Boggy Doodling and relaxing with the family in Wasdale, a beautiful (comparatively) quiet corner of the Lake District. We stayed in a cute little 'pod' on the National Trust campsite; a very wise decision as it rained every day. Despite the soggy weather, I had ample opportunities to soak up nature and sketch all sorts of little treasures. I even befriended this beautiful female robin who was trusting enough to eat bilberry flapjack crumbs out of my hand. Simple pleasures!
Look who I found! When you try to make sketching a daily habit (I'm on day 36 of a personal 100 day sketching challenge), you find yourself looking for things to sketch and end up seeing so much more. We get a mini invasion of these baby frogs in our garden every year. It's so easy to miss them unless you slow down and look really carefully. I love the way it's holding on to my pen.
Thought I'd start my blog by sharing my new Boggy Doodles logo.
It's taken me the whole weekend to create this simple design, which involved drawing endless curves and birds in charcoal and then trying to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator from scratch.
I'm cross-eyed from staring at the computer screen but pretty happy with the end result (if only because I love the colour!).