Studio updates and articles

Two Zines

15 August 2022

We made two zines!

Me and my long time collaborator Richard Nicholls have just published 2 zines – each very different in concept, style and message.

A zine, (short for magazine or fanzine), is a self-published, limited run publication; traditionally hand-made and reproduced on a copy machine, although these days are often commercially printed, albeit still in small numbers and with the same non-commercial DIY philosophy.

The first zine we made, ‘enough to see but not enough to see by’, was inspired by ‘House of Leaves’ (Mark Z. Danielewski, 2000) which was also used as the starting point for one of our previous collaborative projects ‘Wall Stories’ which was shown as part of the ESPY Photographic Awards in 2019.

We set up some props in Richard’s studio and spent a day photographing them to give our interpretation of the complex novel. It has no clear singular meaning and the author has largely avoided giving a set interpretation of the text. This forces readers to walk away with their own conclusions.

It is one of my favourite books and I often go back to it to enjoy it’s complexity. It is typographically unique with copious footnotes and it is impossible to read the book the same way twice.

Our second zine, ‘end of an era’, shows photographs of the former Royal Worcester Porcelain Factory which closed in 2009 after 258 years. We took these images in 2012 when we had the opportunity to go around the site before it was cleared. This is the first time that the images have been seen in public. A zine seemed the most appropriate way to share the photographs in order to make them accessible to as many people as possible.

Both are available to buy on our websites. £5 if you would like to collect person or £7 if you would like one posted to you.

The process of making a zine has been really liberating and we are looking forward to making some more. I thoroughly recommend having a go yourself as there is lots of online advice.

Solo Art Exhibition Preparations

2 May 2022

Having a solo art exhibition is really exciting as well as hard work. It’s not just about making the art, there are lots of other jobs that need to be done and as I’ve just been through the process I thought I’d share it with you. Here goes….

 Title and theme

This is always my first decision; it provides clarity for both you and the gallery.

Size of gallery

You need to know the meterage (if that’s a word) as well as the position of windows, doors and other immovable objects are so that you can formulate a hanging plan – or at least work out how many pieces of work at what size will fit in the space.

Make and select the artworks.

You may be making new work, showing old work, or a combination of both. I always try to show mostly new work. I love making new work as it evolves all the time. I sometimes include relevant older work. This always takes longer than I think as not everything makes the grade.

Number and size of artworks.

Including whether any need to be hung together (eg triptychs)

Document the artworks

You need photographs of the work before it is framed (I failed on 2 for this exhibition which is really annoying and completely my fault). Once documented you can use them for the exhibition catalogue, your website and your future book 😉

Title the artworks

Titles are really important to me. I like the title to be ambiguous but also hint at what I am trying to convey in my work.

 Provide artist biography/information about the artistic process

Although the gallery may do this for you it is worth putting some time into it. If you have an unusual process the audience will be interested to know about it.

Provide gallery with information about each artwork

Size, medium, price etc

Frame the artworks and attach suitable fixings

This varies according to the gallery’s hanging system

Label the artworks.

Wrap the artworks

This protects the frames. The gallery will do a check for any damage prior to you leaving the artworks with them.

Deliver the artworks

In my case it’s ‘how many artworks can you fit in a mini’ !? The answer is 46 but there’s room for more.

Liaise with the gallery

Keep in contact with the gallery the whole way through the process. You are working together to make this exhibition happen

Share information about the exhibition

The gallery will also be doing this but I always do it too, both on social media and via artist newsletter (before and during). You will reach different audiences.

There’s no point in having an exhibition  if no one knows what it is or where to find it



The Big Decline

25 February 2022

Whilst researching for an upcoming solo exhibition I discovered that the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world.  I was genuinely shocked. My artwork is about declining natural habitats, loss of species and decreasing biodiversity but I had no idea that it is as bad as it is. I live surrounded by farmland but of course that is not natural – I walk in ancient woods and meadows but they are currently under threat from a big housing development – so short sighted as once natural habitat has been built on it is gone forever.

The World Wildlife Fund states that one in seven native species in the UK face extinction and that more than 40% are in decline. 30% of UK birds are threatened with extinction with 70 species now on the red list of Birds of Conservation Concern – you may have read in the national press recently about the addition of the greenfinch to this list but there are other birds on the list that you may not be aware of such as such as sparrows and starlings.

A report by the Natural History Museum in 2020 states that UK has only half of it’s natural biodiversity left. It is in the bottom 10% of all countries globally.

Farmland covers 70% of the UK and as it has intensified there has been a decrease in habitat for wildlife. Larger fields mean less hedgerows and trees for example. And then there’s the pesticides and herbicides that are used on crops that are dangerous to small mammals and pollinators – and ourselves.

Fly tipping is also a big problem –from leaking toxic fuel from dumped motorbikes to large items such as trolleys and baths that trap silt and smother natural gravels on the beds of rivers that support wildlife.

Also in the press recently there has been a lot about the decline of hedgehogs – this is linked to loss of hedgerows too.

I hope this has given you some insight into the enormity of the situation and why I feel compelled to try and bring it to people attention through my art.

If you want to read more then here is a list of links to sources of the above information and more. Sobering but essential reading.

Toning Cyanotypes – the process revisited

2 February 2022

A year ago I wrote a blog about toning cyanotypes. I wasn’t a big fan but since then I have read an amazing book that has really helped me to develop the process to suit me. The book is called Cyanotype Toning – Using botanicals to tone blueprints naturally by Annette Golaz. If this is something you are interested in I highly recommend it. She is so generous with her information. This link will take you to the publisher and gives a great summary of the book.

Previously I had bleached the original cyanotype completely before immersing in tea which I used as toner. The resultant images I got were quite low contrast and just brown and white. I didn’t feel I had gained anything at all. Reading this book made me realise that I did not have to bleach everything out of the image, and that by only partially bleaching before toning better contrast could be maintained, and the colour would be dependent on the botanical that you used. This was a revelation to me as I had understood that the only useful toners were tea, coffee and red wine.

I was making a cyanotype for a group project called Fifty Bees 5 (see earlier blog for more details) and I wanted to reference some of the aspects of the ecology I was researching.

My eureka moment came when I realised I could use leaves and roots from one of the plants that my allocated bee – the Shaggy Furrow Bee- foraged to make the toner. It was the dandelion. A very underrated plant. And one of this bees habitats is brown field sites and the colour this toner gives is brown.

So I created my cyanotype and let it dry overnight. I then partially bleached it using a teaspoon of soda crystals in about 2 litres of water. The smaller amount to bleach meant I had much more control over the speed of the process and so could remove it from the bleach when I felt that  some but not all of the blue had gone. This took a couple of attempts to get right ( for me) as the bleaching process carries on until thoroughly washed in water. So once washed I put it in a tray which contained 4 tablespoons of dried dandelion leaves and roots in warm water. I left it face down in this toner for 4 hours, checking it every hour or so for progress. Once I was happy I then rinsed it in water again and left it to dry.

I am really happy with the result and looking forward to toning some more cyanotypes in the future.




8 October 2021

Inktober is a worldwide event that artists have always participated in since 2009. Artists use it as a challenge to improve their inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.

So for all of October the challenge is to make a drawing in response to a prompt word. The list of prompts is published in advance.

It is a great way of exploring new ideas and moving your practice forward.

I have been wanting to try to combine drawing with my cyanotypes for a while but have never made the time to experiment so I am treating this challenge as my ideal opportunity. Some things work, some don’t but that’s fine – it’s how things develop and new ideas and concepts emerge.

Check it out on instagram, here’s a link to inktober2021 where you can see some amazing drawings and illustrations in all sorts of styles.

Here’s a link to my instagram page if you want to follow my progress

And maybe I’ve inspired you to have a go yourself?

Here’s a list of this years prompts and some of my drawings so far:

World Cyanotype Day 25th September 2021

25 September 2021

I thought I’d write about the cyanotype process again as today is World Cyanotype Day!

The cyanotype process is a photographic printing technique that does not use a camera and was introduced in 1842 by John Herschel. A year later Anna Atkins created a series of books using the cyanotype process to document plants.

The cyanotype image is made by applying ultraviolet sensitive chemicals to paper. This is exposed to sunlight to develop and then washed in running water to fix the image.

There are various formulas for creating the cyanotype solution but they all involve mixing various quantities of two chemicals: ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. These are in powder form and prepared by combining with distilled water and storing away from light. I use a formula at the moment from my go to reference book which is called Cyanotype. The Blueprint in Contemporary Practice by Christina Z. Anderson – v=onepage&q&f=false

I apply the combined chemicals to alkaline free watercolour paper – I use either  Fabriano Artistico 300 gsm watercolour paper, Arches 300 gsm watercolour paper or Hannamuhle cotton rag paper. I always use hot pressed paper as I like a very smooth surface but a lot of people use a textured surface – just depends on your personal preference.  Once coated the paper has to dry in a darkened room before it is ready to use.

To create the imagery I use a combination of digitally prepared and printed transparencies of vintage sundial diagrams, birds and insects. I then place this transparency onto the prepared paper and add real flowers or plants.

I place this on a flat surface outside in the sun and put a piece of glass on top to hold everything firmly in place.

Anything that stops the light reaching the sensitised paper will appear white when developed and everything else will be blue.

The sun provides a convenient source of UV (ultraviolet) light and exposure times vary according to intensity and orientation of the sun, amount of cloud and ambient temperature.  Exposure times can vary from 15 mins upwards. This can be calculated scientifically using a stepwedge test but you soon get a good idea of timings comes with practise using a particular combination of chemical formula and paper.

Once it has been in the sun for the required amount of time the image is developed by holding the paper under running water for at least 6 minutes. It is a great feeling to see the image appear. It takes up to 24 hours for the paper to dry completely and only then can I add the gold or copper metal leaf detail or draw with ink.

I apply the metal leaf detail by hand. It’s a delicate process which involves applying a water based glue which dries until tacky – approximately 10 minutes and before applying the metal leaf, rubbing away any excess. I then apply a clear shellac varnish to prevent the metal tarnishing.

I love this technique as there is a certain amount of serendipity about the process so you never quite know what to expect. Sometimes the resultant image is no good at all but that’s just how it goes- and of course with so many stages there is opportunity to ruin the image at any point!


The resultant image is typically blue and white but the colour can be changed to various tones of sepia by using tannin based organic washes such as tea, coffee and red wine. This involves waiting until the cyanotype is dry before bleaching it in a solution of soda crystals before leaving it in a solution containing the toner. I have only used tea so far and it results in a very different image.

If you want any more details about how I make the work just contact me and I’ll try and help!

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