2018: In Review

What a difference a year makes!

Sweet Peas by Claire Leach

Sweet Peas by Claire Leach

2018 turned out to be a life changing year, my partner Craig and I started looking for a home of our own and decided to start a family too. Today, Wednesday 16th January marks my 38th week of pregnancy and the day that Craig and I are finally able to pick up the keys to our first home together! Buying a home and having a baby are huge decisions, ones that we’ve spent years talking about. 2018 finally felt like the right time to make our ‘next chapter’ plans a reality.  So in spring and summer of 2018 our ‘next chapter’ began as we found out that we were expecting and an offer was accepted on a home of our own. These two big changes shaped our year dramatically and mine in particular as my original plan to get a part time job went out the window. I worked out that with sales from my shop I could still afford to pay my way and decided that being self-employed would work best when it came to welcoming our little one into the world. Luckily Craig’s salary meant that we were able to get the mortgage we needed to get a foot on the first rung of the property ladder.

Wren and Sprig of Leaves by Claire Leach

Wren and Sprig of Leaves by Claire Leach

Besides the big changes personally I found 2018 to be a challenging and rewarding year for my art career. January started fantastically well in my online shop. I added the remaining 50 of my 100 day postcard project as well as woodland landscapes and a series on native British trees to my shop which went down very well earning me over £600 for the month. I also wrote a personal blog post in January all about my struggles with the title ‘artist’ and how I overcame my confidence issues and started referring to myself as an artist without hesitation. The post was shared by Jackson Art Supplies on Facebook and has had to date over 1,000 views making it my most read, liked and commented on journal entry.

The first half of the year was spent making drawings inspired by my eleven month travels from 2016-17 for my solo exhibition at The Sheep Shed Gallery in Weyhill, Andover. The exhibition took place in July and went well, helping me to establish a working relationship with the gallery and getting my work outside the studio and onto gallery walls. Exhibiting at The Sheep Shed Gallery in July meant that when a spot opened up unexpectedly in September I was one of the first to be offered some wall space which I graciously accepted. I created a small series of tree and landscape drawings to display alongside a fellow local artist and was pleased to be able to add another bit of exhibiting experience to my artist CV.

I had my first commissions in 2018, a set of two trees and a robin which I found challenging as I’d only ever been used to making work to my own specification rather than somebody else’s. Luckily the drawings went down very well and gave me confidence in my ability to work to a brief.

Silver Birch and Veteran Oak by Claire Leach

Silver Birch and Veteran Oak by Claire Leach

My social media presence went from strength to strength over the year, I finally achieved over 2,000 Instagram followers and increased my Twitter following from roughly 900 to over 2,000 followers. Focusing on growing my social media helped massively with sales as many of my drawings were bought by people who found me via these channels.

I entered a couple of open submission exhibitions with my drawing Woodland Study IV including the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy for the first time. Unfortunately both attempts were unsuccessful and led me to wonder whether the money and effort of entering open submissions was worth it. I shared my thoughts on Twitter and Instagram and was met with such a lovely and supportive response from fellow artists and creatives.

A campaign that I greatly admire and support called Just A Card featured me on their blog and Instagram account which was such an honour. I also used my own online space to interview ten artists over the year that I admire with the hope of learning from them and increasing their reach online.

Woodland Study IV by Claire Leach

Woodland Study IV by Claire Leach

Woodland Study V by Claire Leach

Woodland Study V by Claire Leach

As the year drew on my income fluctuated massively, one month I made just £30 from my online shop while other months I’d earn more than enough to pay my rent and bills. I went through some tough moments where I felt irresponsible for deciding to start a family without having built up my art business enough. In the end I had to accept that I was at a point where I couldn’t change things and had to learn to accept help financially from my partner. My hope is that in the future as my online following grows and my work progresses and hopefully improves that I’ll be able to earn more from my shop with original drawings and perhaps develop a range of work that can be made into prints to create a more passive income. Despite the income fluctuations I ended the year with 102 drawings sold, something that I’m very proud of as I think of how far I’ve come since opening my online shop in July 2017.

Alongside a year of drawing, pregnancy and house buying I also turned 30 in March, celebrating with a wonderful trip to snowy Norway. I was lucky enough to have a family holiday in Spain in May and a trip to Cornwall and the Forest of Dean where yet again I managed to gather so much inspiration for future work.

It’s been quite a year and I have so much to look forward to in 2019 too. I’ve decided to refrain from making goals this year as I have no idea how I’ll adapt to motherhood and how that will affect my life as an artist. Hopefully I’ll be back to drawing in time and my art career will enable me to contribute financially to our little family.

Have you written a review of your year or hopes and goals for 2019? I'd love to read if so, let me know in the comments below. 

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️

Artist Interview: Dominique Cameron

I'm a curious type; I like to know what informs an artist. Who or what do they look to for inspiration? How do they work? Each month I will be asking an artist I admire a few questions, this month is Dominique Cameron.

The Wood by Dominique Cameron

The Wood by Dominique Cameron

Dominique, landscape is at the centre of your practice, what is it about landscape that you find so inspirational?

Landscape and walking have always played an important part in my life, from an early age I would walk the countryside with my family and my practice has developed from those earliest times. I have always had the desire to know where it is I live and having moved house many times there has always been this sense of wanting to map any new environment coupled with a curiosity of what lies beyond the door.

I'm particularly taken with the series of work that you did inspired by 'The Wood', how do you decide which type of landscape or place to focus all of your attention on for a project?

I am interested in all forms and variations of landscape, so the projects I undertake will be different each time. For instance after a project in Leith, Edinburgh I wanted to find an equivalent for the complicated, chaotic nature of urban streets. I decided on a piece of woodland not far from home which was overgrown and secluded, very visually complicated but quiet. Currently I am working on a farm which sits atop a hillside looking out over the Firth of Forth – at that point I was needing to be in the open, with far reaching views as a counter to the wood. So one project leads to another…

The Wood by Dominique Cameron

The Wood by Dominique Cameron

The Wood by Dominique Cameron

The Wood by Dominique Cameron

You use colour very vividly in some work and stick to black and white in others, is there any reasoning behind this?

My use of colour is dependent on many factors. The large woods paintings were monochrome out of a desire to see the woods pared back. I felt that I could articulate better the space by just using black and white. However it wasn’t simply black paint – there were at least four different kinds of black used. Using colour would have made the immediacy of response more difficult. However the smaller works in oil reflected the sensuousness and richness of the plant life. So in short it does depend on the subject matter.

What are the materials that you work with and is experimentation important to you?

I work with many kinds of materials from oil, acrylic, charcoal, ink, through to watercolour and gouache. I do like experimenting with their differences and at times in the studio I will often use what’s at hand, and can often be surprised by the result. I am currently interested in the juxtaposition of drawing and painting so will often use both in works, and believe there are no rules in mark making, but play is an integral part of any practice.

Leith by Dominique Cameron

Leith by Dominique Cameron

Leith by Dominique Cameron

Leith by Dominique Cameron

Can you outline the process of making a piece of work from start to finish?

The question of process changes with environment, materials and support. Yet the one constant is the use of gesso. I prime every surface I work on whether that be canvas, wood, panel or paper. I like the ground of gesso that gives a slight tooth and makes the support more durable. I will then go in and out of drawing and painting, building as I go until I either think its time for a cup of tea – and therefore the need to walk away. I will return to sneak up on the work, catching it by surprise almost. I immediately will know where I’ve gone wrong, what needs to be changed, and be startled by my previous decision making – it is almost as if I have not encountered the work before, it feels so new.

Tell me about your studio or creative space.

My studio is a room at one end of the house. It’s the only room that has not had any work done to it. There are doors that open out to the garden and I have a view of the sea. It’s very messy, dirty and piled high with all manner of things. Every now and then I have a clean up as I find I no longer have space. It is not very large but it’s fantastic to have the space close by. If I choose I know I can work in the middle of the night.

The Farm by Dominique Cameron

The Farm by Dominique Cameron

The Farm by Dominique Cameron

The Farm by Dominique Cameron

What artists (living or dead) inspire you?

I take inspiration from many sources, not only painters, and this list can and does change, but the artists that have remained with me would include the painters Ivon Hitchens, Joan Eardley, Cy Twombly, John Virtue and writers Virginia Woolf, Kathleen Jamie, Alice Oswald, and the filmmaker Margaret Tait.

I love learning random facts about people, tell me three things about yourself.

Three things about myself – this has proved the most difficult question. Umm…. I like to dance when I work in my studio. I used to be a fire fighter and I do like clothing with roomy pockets - for all my collections of things.

Finally, where can people follow your work online?

You can follow me on twitter - @bourbonandwolfe, and on my website – dominiquecameron.com.

Thank you to Dominique for agreeing to be part of my artist interview series. I first found Dominique on Twitter and was immediately attracted to her black and white depictions of woodland, for obvious reasons if you know me and my own work at all. I’d love a studio like hers, with doors that open on to a garden and a sea view to boot, it sounds like the absolute dream. Remember to take a look at Dominique’s website where you can find many more examples of her work on the portfolio page.

Dominique’s interview marks the end of my artist interview series, at least for now. Thank you to all of the artists that have taken part this year and to all those that have read the interviews too, I hope you have gained as much from it as I have.

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️

Artist Interview: Lucy Springall

I'm a curious type; I like to know what informs an artist. Who or what do they look to for inspiration? How do they work? Each month I will be asking an artist I admire a few questions, this month is Lucy Springall.

Bird of Paradise by Lucy Springall

Bird of Paradise by Lucy Springall

Lucy, I became familiar with your work very recently. Your bright paintings and collages of deconstructed pool scenes were what first drew my eye. What inspired these vibrant pieces?

Until recently I lived 5 minutes from Brockwell Lido in South East London and found that going there always gave me an enormous sense of wellbeing. Being by the poolside reminds me of childhood summer visits to Finchley Lido (no longer in existence) and the escapism of holidays to sunny destinations. I think UK outdoor pools and lidos are really special places and really wanted to try and do some work inspired by them. I didn't want to just paint them as they were but rather try and capture the different common elements you find at the pool. I was also admiring a lot of work with strong graphic design elements at the time so I tried to use this to arrange the various imagery. As well as taking photographs and drawing on location I also researched well-known artists that had used the swimming pool as a muse for their work. Hockney is an obvious inspiration but I particularly took inspiration from Claes Oldenburg's Pool Shapes (1964) and the simplicity of his design. 

Bunting by Lucy Springall

Bunting by Lucy Springall

Rubber Ring by Lucy Springall

Rubber Ring by Lucy Springall

Until last year your practice explored physical and mental health themes, I'm curious to know what your art practice involved and what caused you to change direction?

Yes thats right. It was and still is a theme close to my heart and I hope to eventually incorporate some of these elements into my more recent work. I guess, looking back, I've struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager. My way of dealing with it was to run from it and to work harder and faster in order to chase an elusive 'happiness'. It caught up with me in early 2010 in the form of a physical burnout and then again in 2013 as a period of extreme anxiety and depression. What surprised me was how physical the illness was, it was like my fight or flight response was switched on all the time for 6 months! When I recovered and returned to full time work I felt passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness and also raising the awareness of just how much of a physical illness it is. I started doing art again at about the same time and undertook a 2 year part time fine art course at City Lit, the second year of which is developing your own personal project. I started to look at 'self-comforting repetitive behaviours' that we all use, such a foot tapping, pacing etc. through performative mark-making. My tutor encouraged me to go bigger and really exaggerate these behaviours so I got a life model in who luckily happened to be an artist and dancer herself and directed her to produce a series of large scale artworks whilst I videoed and photographed her. It was a really fun and freeing process and not one I'd ever thought I'd do! I really wanted to be a painter though so I tried to take the process back into more of a formal painting which was my final piece for the course. Around the same time as the course ended I was offered voluntary redundancy at work. I could see that the office was going to close and I really wanted to have more time for my art so I took the leap. I continued for a while along a similar theme with my art and looked at doing an MA but decided that as it was so early on in my art journey I wanted some time to explore other themes and experiment with other ways of working. That's when I started the swimming pool inspired work. It was tough as I had a clear why and message behind my previous work but sometimes you just have to follow your instincts. I'm now working on more botanical inspired pieces and I've found doing them so relaxing that I've realised the mental health theme carries through. This is something I'm really keen to explore with my work in the future - the relationship between nature, greenery and mental health.

Lament 4 by Lucy Springall

Lament 4 by Lucy Springall

Lament 3 by Lucy Springall

Lament 3 by Lucy Springall

Do you have a preferred method of creating work or is experimentation key to your practice?

It's so early on in my art career that I've yet to settle into a preferred method of working. At the moment my way of working depends very much on the project I'm working on. I do tend to 'projectise' my work as I think its important to explore one subject or methodology for a significant chunk of time before moving on to another. Although it's important to allow time for play too, especially if you're feeling a bit stuck or have lost the joy in what you are doing. With my current work I'm enjoying the contrast between quieter calmer watercolour painting where I sit down to create, often with a cup of tea and a podcast playing, and more vigorous acrylic and oil painting which I do standing up or on the floor in quite a physical way. When I start a project I often, but not always, research other artists and do a lot of sketchbook work to feel out the idea. I've just started a one year (one day a week) advanced painting course and really hope that this will push my acrylic and oil painting to another level.

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Recent Botanical Inspired Work by Lucy Springall

Tell me about your studio or creative space.

I am lucky that I have my own studio space in Lewisham, SE London. It's within the Bow Arts run Leegate House studios and is part of the Leegate Centre in Lee Green that has been earmarked for demolition and redevelopment. As it's a temporary let the studios are relatively affordable compared to other studios across London. The old building does mean that the heating and ventilation is often a bit wild! I'm on the 7th floor and so have great views across SE London. I only moved in towards the end of last year and have been steadily making it feel like home. I got a plan chest from a friend of a friend which needed quite a lot of TLC so I took some time to restore it. I also have a steadily growing collection of plants that I use for inspiration. My studio is either super tidy or totally chaotic depending on where I am with a project! We have a shared kitchen where I make endless cups of tea which often go cold whilst I'm working. It's nice to be able to speak to the other artists in the studio and the Leegate community of small businesses are also really lovely.

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

Plantation Palm by Lucy Springall

What artists (living or dead) inspire you?

This is a tough one as so many different artists inspire me! Currently I'm inspired by the lush greenery paintings of Hurvin Anderson who uses both the Caribbean jungle and UK parks as source material. Jonas Wood is another one, particularly his large scale potted plant paintings - the plants have so much character! I also follow a lot of early career artists on Instagram - Tamara Dubnyckyi has a great sense of composition and space and Lucy Smallbone uses such luminescent colour combinations and mark making.

I love learning random facts about people, tell me three things about yourself.

1. I previously worked as a Lead Exploration Geoscientist within the oil industry

2. My husband and I love to wild camp and we spent New Year 2017 halfway up a fell in a cave - it was freezing!!!

3. I'm a total water baby and will swim pretty much anywhere. I once swam(ish) in a Greenlandic Fjord where there were icebergs in the distance! 

Finally, where can people follow your work online?


My most recent work can be seen on Instagram @LucySpringallStudio. My website (in need of a little updating) is www.lucyspringall.com. I sell my work online via Etsy. I am also sporadically on Twitter @lucyspringallstudio 

Thank you to Lucy for agreeing to be part of my interview series. It’s fascinating to learn how an artist is inspired and how one project leads in to another. I’m also quite jealous of Lucy’s studio situation, I really miss the community of artists I had around me in a shared studio. Please take a look at Lucy’s Etsy store as she has many affordable original paintings for sale.

If you'd like to take part in my artist interviews series then please do get in touch at claireleanneleach@gmail.com. 

If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them. ❤️