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Oooh, It’s A Girl!

Really? Did I really look like that in the 70’s? Unfortunately yes, bowl cut and all. Delving back into my childhood as part of the process to bring the Impossimal version of Alice In Wonderland alive. It’s always a hard but necessary step looking back when creating Impossimals to retain the quirky naivety in my paintings. My childhoodwas a world that lacked designer labels, massive high street chains, computers, mobile phones, even the television only had three channels and didn’t start broadcasting until around 10:30am on the BBC a whilst ITV ran schools programmes until midday. In short, it lacked many things we now take for granted which also meant that many experiences also created more focused memories. Take phonecalls for example, today they are part and parcel of mobile life that more often than not we don’t think about but way back then phone calls were a considered move that required in most cases the finding of a phone box and a handful of 2p’s to avoid the dreaded pips in the vain hope that the person on the other end was actually near the phone. More awkward perhaps but certainly more memorable.

So each of my paintings have layers of memories hidden in them from my many years on this planet; one such memory that popped into my head yesterday was of a schools program vaguely remembered that centred around a short poem so prompted me to add a small painted addition to a stream of red hot tea pouring from a pink teapot. It was a beautiful pea green boat carrying the owl and the pussycat, a small detail that you would miss quite easily as it’s less than 1cm in size but I know it’s there and it waits to be found by others, a memory captured and passed on like all the best memories are.

Anyway the photos triggered a bit of ‘how did I get here?’ type of feeling so off I went flicking through the years to find out…

Some memories are a little more painful including my long hair that often promoted me being branded a ‘girl’ but I quickly realised that the best way to tackle with being a little different is to think differently which led to some unique opportunities along the way in an area of the country that expected most young school leavers to go directly from school to work in the local pits.

The first was training to be an architect / surveyor. Here I am still looking girl like setting up a tripod to survey part of a new inner ring road somewhere around 1986. Not a glamorous job and I could be often found on site in a small hut with a frozen toilet and a toaster for heat. I enjoyed it but it was not for me, creatively it was a bit stale but I did learn many useful skills from the people I worked with such as how to complete the cream cake challenge; eat twenty cream cakes and finish with an ‘Elephants Foot’ possibly the largest cream cake ever and how to ‘pounce’ people which involved using a dusting powder very much like chalk and balancing it above a door so the next person to enter got a head full of the stuff so all was not wasted. Oh, and I learned how to draw circles and curves freehand on fear of getting my knuckles rapped and a passion for numerical problems and puzzles.

I ended up eventually a few years later in a fashion design department using one of the first CAD systems to enter the UK, the Nagata 3000. It was the age of Commodore Amiga and Atari ST so to get my hands on a state of the art system like this was incredible. Even more fortunate was the decision by the company I worked for to start licensing products. This was relatively unheard of in 1989, the first licensor we worked with was Disney who at this stage was also very new to the licensing game and supplied cartoon images hand drawn directly from the cartoon artists that worked on the films. Quickly the company amassed over 400 hand drawn and inked originals that were worth over £40,000 that sadly were thrown away in a misguided move by the company many years later unaware of just what they had.

Rather than be a CAD artist I tried to be a designer and applied for a design job at the same company and learned my first true lesson from the formidable owner Roy, that shaped my future.

‘Learn colour and composition and by the way you haven’t got the job.’

That was it, it was that simple. I went back to the CAD system and spent sixteen years learning just that eventually running a team of graphic designers using seven different CAD systems to produce a variety of licensed products from over a hundred licensees in one of the biggest design studios outside of London. So after working with Teletubbies, The Simpsons, Thomas The Tank, Mr Men, Warner Brothers, Lucasfilms, DC Comics, BBC and just about every other conceivable popular character or brand and producing over 30,000 designs I thought it was time again to look to the future. The photo above by the way is from a popular children’s program called ‘You And Me’ / ‘Playbus’ they featured the company I worked for and unfortunately me as part of the ‘People At Work’ on the programme. I even did the voice over until a stuffed hen called the Why Bird returned on screen and muscled me out.


In 2005 I had a wife, mortgage, car loan and numerous other expenses so I did the most illogical thing, I packed in my job of sixteen years and sent an email to fine art publishers Washington Green at 8:30pm one April night.

Ten years later I’m sat writing this blog wondering how did it all go so quick and flicking through photos to write today’s blog.


We have them, make them and savour them, occasionally like today it’s also nice to share them.

This is WHY bird – My BBC Childrens Television ruiner, avoid at all costs!


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