Learning to be a beginner again

beginners, drawing, charcoal, paper

I can’t draw.  I have been to art school, twice, coming out with two degrees, but I can’t draw.  Both of those places told me as much, so it must be true! Mustn’t it?

I was really lucky to go a school where the creative arts were celebrated as much as the academic subjects, if not more so, and many of my contemporaries have gone on to great things in the world of acting, music and art.  I was really supported there and had it not been for a truly inspiring art teacher at GCSE I might never have followed my teenage ambition to go to the prestigious Central St Martins to study Theatre Design.  I really fought for that place, worked so hard, and didn’t at that time doubt my ability to become a really great designer.  I was passionate about it and truly believed it was my vocation in life!

I learnt a lot whilst there, but there wasn’t much support with the basic skills of drawing.  Surprising, really, given it’s one of the top art schools in the country.  Either you were great at it, or you weren’t, and I soon learned to use collage to tick the boxes I needed to in crits and let my meagre drawing ability slip slowly down the river…

That was all a long time ago, in a different life.  I had a good career after that, designing for ballet mainly, simple drawing suited me well and served its purpose professionally, but I always felt a bit held back by my inability to translate the fabulous ideas in my head onto paper.

I decided to go for a Masters at London College of Fashion.  It was the same story all over again, and on one rare occasion where a drawing tutor was brought in for some targeted tuition ( 15 mins 1-1 only ) she ended her time with me with the parting shot –

‘It’s a shame you can’t draw’


Somewhere between then, and now, I have grown up a lot, had a few knock backs, been extremely poor, got very tired, had a different career, got married, set up an award winning couture label, had a baby, moved to the other end of the country, had some great adventures, but l had lost the love of the thing that used to make me leap out of bed every day full of excitement at life’s possibilities.  I’d set up and run a successful and award winning bridal couture business, designed some big shows at places like Sadlers Wells and site specific performances in Rochester Cathedral but it had vanished.  Where was that joy? I’m a pretty accomplished sewist, and sewing tutor, I enjoy teaching, I can get quite into some of my makes, but Joy?  I’m just not feeling it…

I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve learned from Eliza, the little power pack of energy that brightens my days with her total uninhibited joy-love at life, throwing herself into every new experience, gleeful at new discoveries, crying at the odd bump of a head, but soon back on her feet (she’s only been walking for a couple of weeks!) and off, pelting it through the living room with the new favourite thing in her tiny hand.

Looking at her it suddenly struck me…  I needed to do something different, out of my comfort zone, to not be afraid of falling over, making mistakes. I needed to be a beginner again.

I’ve always been interested in the process of printing,  but I have never done anything very much, and it struck me as the perfect antidote to the white silk and chantilly lace world I had become accustomed to.  I am excited about getting my hands dirty, making a mess, experimenting and being at the start of it!

A couple of weeks ago, I started.  I drew an elephant (I have a mild obsession with the animals of Africa, where I was born) I drew it again, I drew it again… I wasn’t happy!  It was a start, but it was all wrong…

1 10414904_10156411781765158_8869964633634254046_n

Then, whilst setting up a life drawing hen party for my company Aggie Arts I met a wonderful artist called James Eddy who offered to teach me. It felt like a bit of a universal sign-post… YES YES YES! I shouted internally…

‘Yes please, thank you very much’ I said to James.

Despite rain and colds and the general grimness that is Cornwall in February, James came over last night and we made a start up in the studio we built last year at the bottom of the garden.

Well, dear reader.  Whether I can draw or not, by that London College of Fashion Tutors damning standards, after last night I’m not sure that I care!

I had SO MUCH FUN!  In an hour I went from nervous apologetic wreck to being able to recognise that perhaps it didn’t all go down the Swannee ten years ago, and maybe some vestiges of ability lingered, under the radar, all the while.

We focussed on short poses, observation exercises, really looking before drawing, and making a conscious choice about what information was key to conveying the character and essence, of the subject.  In this instance, it was my teacher James. The dreadfully  scribbly one was a bit of an excruciating exercise where I wasn’t allowed to look at my drawing, which made for some abstract mark making!  I did at one point make him appear as rather beautiful lady, but overall, by the time we got to working with tones and negative space in the last exercise, I felt that something was beginning to shift.  Its a humble start but it’s a start, and I feel like after more than ten years I am finally squaring that tutor and her negativity up in the eye…



I can’t wait for next week!





I am a creative person.  I love to make stuff and firmly believe if I can do it myself, I probably should!  You get better results, more tailored to your aesthetic and a it’s great opportunity to have a bit of down time from the relentlessly busy nature of life.  Especially with a little one, or two, in tow!

But, in all that I find that I don’t have enough fun.  I am usually caught up in the end result, working in a very linear fashion, meeting a brief, delivering to a deadline.  That suited me to be honest; make dinner- tick, make wedding dress for client – tick, send emails – tick, design Christmas card – tick…

Becoming a Mum has changed the way about I feel about it though, and now, 14 months in, I am learning more from Eliza than I ever thought possible.


All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

Pablo Picasso

Every day is a joy for her, exploring new things, experimenting, testing and exploring through her play.

Play, now there’s a word we don’t use much as adults.  Really young kids aren’t afraid to make mistakes and are totally psychologically and physically unencumbered by what people will think of them, or the things they do.  They are natural clowns!

Growing into mummahood last year taught me a huge amount and my little girl is the biggest lesson the universe has sent me.  So, dear 2016, these are my promises to you:

Spend time with my special people

Learn to dream again

Have fun

Don’t be afraid of falling over.