Monday, 29 November 2010


I have been neglecting you all lately and I'm very sorry! I’ve been to loads and loads of art shows and opening nights in the last few weeks and am finally catching up. As the shows aren’t all on now, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the best ones:

Ben Fist at Electrik Sheep – Ben Fist is a designer based in Glasgow, applying pattern and colour to Victorian photos. Lovely, unusual and covetable (

Newcastle Gateshead Arts Fair at The Sage – a real eclectic mix, generally not my cup of tea except for some work by my Mushroom Works colleagues and Lyn Hagan’s beautiful, embroidered pieces including some maudlin post-mortem photos and quirky samples (

In The Beginning at Brighton Road Studios – First exhibition before the building is converted into artists studios next year. Featured a very diverse range of art/design from both established and emerging artists. Especially liked the lovely handmade wallpaper from Kate Usher and an interactive sculpture by Sophia Fox featuring some gorgeous plaster bunnies.

Get in contact with Brighton Road Studios if you’re looking for an affordable creative workspace (

Northerness at Northern Stage – by Set of Drawers ( lovely, lovely illustrations by 5 artists about what the North means to them. Favourite piece was Clare Armstrong’s mixed media bottle of dog aka Newcastle Brown Ale (

Sorry for the brevity, I promise I’ll not leave it so long between posts next time!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Oh Baby!

When my eldest godson Kyle was born 5 years ago, I looked for an appropriate baby gift to celebrate his arrival. His Mum, my close friend Sarah, said people had generously given her so many toys and baby clothes she didn’t need to buy any, so I tried to think of something else. I think handmade gifts are special, I like to give people things I have given my time to make for them (and I love getting unique handmade gifts in return) but I didn’t know how to crochet a baby blanket or papier maché a bottle steriliser..

I remembered my cousin Richard having a birth plate when he was born 26 years ago – a plate decorated with a baby-themed picture and showing the name, time/date of birth and birth weight. So I found out about ceramic painting, learned some techniques, got some materials and had a go. I was quite pleased with the outcome and gave the finished plate to Sarah, who admired it and put it up on the wall in the nursery. I started to get a orders from people who’d been to meet the new baby and seen it on the wall. Then people who’d seen those new plates started ordering them and word of mouth spread. By the time Kyle’s little brother Finn was born and also given a plate, my technique was much improved.

I found that some people preferred paintings to plates so tried out some little watercolours of illuminated initials. The initials incorporate items beginning with the same letter as babies names – a juggling Jester for Jack, pretty insects and irises for Isabella etc.

I’ve done squillions of orders for birth plates over the last five years and also adapted them for christenings and weddings. They’re fun to do, especially the children’s ones, Noah’s Ark being my favourite. I noticed a trend for different spellings of names and more unusual names, so also started producing different kinds of personalised gifts, such as small canvases, moneyboxes, baby’s first Christmas tree decorations and eggcups with names on (which come with a felt egg-cosy).

I also noticed that you could only buy Mum/Mummy/Mother items in the shops though many people in the North (where I am based) call their mothers Mam/Mammy so I added this as an option with a series of cups/mugs for the parents and grandparents I tried out, with ‘Freya’s Mammy’ or ‘Ona’s Granda’ or ‘Finn’s Godmother’ etc on. I like that with something personalised and handmade specifically for you, you can have exactly what you want.

Have a gander at the photos and tell me what you think. Or even better, place an order! email:

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Just wanted to share this beautifully coloured-in, ferocious little dinosaur we found left on our table at the pub tonight by an anonymous artist. I like his spikiness. And his lovely red jumper.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

What Are You Like?

If you have even the vaguest passing interest in illustration then you should absolutely go down and see ‘What Are You Like?’ - I give it two thumbs up.

It’s housed on the top floor of the DLI Museum in Aykley Heads, Durham, which is also home to the treasures of the Durham Light Infantry and charts its history. I didn’t have a good look – not with free wine and Pictionary waiting for me upstairs - but they have some beautiful and interesting stuff.

The show was in three parts. The titular ‘What Are You Like?’ refers to a Victorian parlour game where players describe themselves by creating images of their favourite things, such as their favourite pastime, food, place and comfort. As someone who is quite nosy by nature, I liked these little insights into the characters of the contributors, which included many famous names. I recognised illustrations by Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes, David Shrigley and Lauren Child amongst others and was interested to see that unusually, non-professional artists had also contributed – there was an Eric Clapton if I remember rightly.. What made it special for me, was how different each person’s response was to the same brief, even when their ‘favourites’ were similar.

Salford Zine Library showed a room filled floor to ceiling with self-published ‘zines. Craig John Barr and Matthew Walkerdine only founded the library at the beginning of this year, so the scale and diversity of the collection was impressive. Their passion really came across in the introduction they gave at the beginning of the evening and there were some amazing pieces Having looked again through their blog, I’ve just noticed I’m actually in the third photo down. Luckily I have my head turned away from the camera so you won’t be subjected to the gormless facial expression I often make when reading. If you actually have any self-published work you’d like to send them to share with the world, their contact details are on their blog.

Thirdly, keeping my favourite ‘til last, was the exhibition by local illustration group Set of Drawers This type of illustration is totally up my street, go and see their website, it’s lovely. Set of Drawers are five freelance artists all successful in their own right: Bethan Laker, Lara Robinson, Josie Brookes, Clare Armstrong and Deborah Snell. They showed a pirate-themed collaboration with ShooFly Publishing which I loved. I’m a sucker for pirates. So is my five year old godson, so I always have an excuse to make pirate hats and hunt for treasure. And drink rum..

Left: Bethan Laker  Right: Josie Brookes

Set of Drawers also showed a selection of their own gorgeous pieces and some Alice In Wonderland illustrations. I LOVE that book, its nonsensical whimsy and drama lends itself perfectly to illustration. You can buy a set of Set Of Drawers cards featuring the Alice In Wonderland pieces for a terribly reasonable 3 squid. Oh, and if anyone wants to buy me one of Josie’s lovely March Hare ‘I’m late!’ screenprints, then please be my guest, they’re very reasonable. In fact, buy one for yourself whilst you’re at it. Apologies for the rubbish quality photos, by the way.

Clare Armstrong
Lara Robinson

Also, Gary Bainbridge and Jack Fallows announced the upcoming launch of new anthology ‘Art.. and that’ by brilliant creative community Paper Jam. I was originally introduced to their work last summer, when the three of us had pieces in an illustration exhibition at Mushroom Works, called ‘Quite The Character’. They do cool, contemporary comic-book style images, totally worth a look (

Then we played Pictionary on giant blackboards, I think they deliberately made the subjects extra-difficult to draw, given the players were arty people.

Was a v successful opening, on ‘til Sunday 5th September 2010

Here is my own little Alice picture. I’m going to have an Alice experimentation at some point, as I think this might work better in colour..

click to enlarge

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Sunday art and fish fingers

The German and I went to Baltic. If you don’t know, Baltic is a great big contemporary art gallery housed in an old industrial building on Gateshead’s quayside. I like that there is no permanent collection but constantly changing exhibitions Baltic attracts big names and lots of visitors and I’ve seen some fantastic work there, but sometimes they show some really pretentious and obscure work which annoys me, as I think it turns people off art rather than getting them interested.

There are several current shows. If you couldn’t give a monkey’s chuff what my opinion of them is, skip to the bottom bit about fish finger sandwiches. If you have a vague interest, continue and I’ll try to keep it short:

John Cage ‘Every Day Is A Good Day’ – I know he was ahead of his time, innovative, unconventional and hugely influential but he’s just not my bag, baby. Neither was ‘Cage Mix’, work by eight artists influenced by Cage, though there was a highlight in an onomatopoeic video installation which included an image of some Cillit Bang..

Cornelia Parker ‘Doubtful Sound’ pushed the right buttons though. ‘Perpetual Canon’ is a selection of silver-plated brass instruments, crushed flat and suspended from the ceiling in a circle, hence the title. They’re lit from inside the circle by a single, bare bulb which stretches their shadows along the walls. Being crushed, the sole purpose of the instruments is gone, which forces you to consider them differently and the silenced, crumpled metal is strangely beautiful, like the feel of the room.

Another piece is a collection of seemingly everyday objects which gain new meaning and new value when you read the text next to each one – the framed record is like any other, until you learn its former owner was Adolf Hitler, the framed feather is like a million other feathers, until you learn it came from a pillow belonging to Sigmund Freud. There are some interesting objects without this kind of provenance if you’re unimpressed by Hitler’s music collection. A little pile of metal shavings looked like something you’d sweep up and throw away but turn out to what’s left over when text is engraved onto metal. I found the idea of the negative of words very charming.

I wasn’t loving the video installation though, a loop of a 5 second clip of a shed-like building with a non-corresponding soundtrack of something rather like scraping metal. I’m not a video installation fan. I always pre-judge them, sometimes unfairly, as pretentious and try-hard and not requiring any artistic talent to produce.

Reeeeally liked the Tomas Saracemo work housed in a 350 cubic metre space spanning all 6 surfaces. He used 800 metres of cord, hand-knotted 23 000 times in an exact replica of a black widow spider web, constructed in zero gravity conditions. The planning and research behind the piece, which is also on display, is astounding. Scientists use models of spider webs, examining their construction to make sense of the origins and structure of the universe and wanted to see how the webs differed under zero gravity. It's fascinating reading. And you get to wear giant, marshmallow-like shoe covers to keep the blindingly-white floor, blindingly-white. I wanted to crawl around inside the web and absorb its detail and complexity but one doesn’t do these sorts of things. Unless one wants to be asked to leave the premises.

And then we poked round the gift shop (which I love) and went to the pub for drinks and fish finger sandwiches (which I also love).

I might try out some spidery-based illustrations. I like working in black/white, pen/ink and enjoy using a lot of detail. I did a small drawing last year of some trees whose branches I warped to look more like spiders webs. I’d been walking in Scottish countryside after the rain and seen ragged, sparkly webs spanning the spindly branches of the peeling silver birches and connecting them all together. I tried to translate the idea into a two-dimensional sketch, decide for yourself how well it works.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Welcome, welcome to my shiny, spanking new blog..

After much talk, a bit of a think and many “you really should have a blog” remarks from friends and colleagues etc, I finally made one. It’s mostly to show my work as an illustrator and artist and will soon be followed by various other bits of ‘online media presence’ (I’m right on the crest of the zeitgeist, me).

Anyhow, I’m Victoria and I live and work in the North East of England. I’ve worked as an amateur artist since I got my first commission aged 14 – a Newcastle United themed painting for a family friend for her teenaged son’s bedroom. Whilst the painting was sitting in a Framers in town waiting to be mounted and framed, a passing customer went into the shop and asked if it was for sale. It was the first time I realised that I might be talented enough to make a living from things I made. Since then I’ve worked purely to word-of-mouth recommendation. Until now anyway, what with getting myself that aforementioned online presence.

I suppose I should keep my blog posts formal and professional, but I don’t wanna. I'd like to be more natural, informal, borderline gossipy and occasionally childish and it’s my blog so I’ll cry if I want to. Short of inventing a super-witty and fantastic online persona my anonymity is out the window anyway. I have no secret desire to be Prime Minister, so it probably won’t matter. Or a spy. Though obviously I could be both if I wanted.

So, I like to design/make/do loads of arty and crafty stuff – paint, draw, doodle, sketch, colour, cut, glue, stick, sew, print, collage, dismantle, reassemble, and photograph. These things make me happy. Selling the resulting stuff I’ve made also makes me happy. It’s a win-win situation.

Alongside my own work I’d like to share work by other artists I love and possibly some random gubbins I see that I think you might fancy a look at, or places/events I’ve been to.

I have lots to do this week, so it’s either a good day to be starting a blog as there’s things to talk about, or a bad day given that I’m trying to finish so many things that I’m writing this at 3am.

On the to-do/halfway-through list this week are: a pencil drawing of a church, a little watercolour of an illuminated initial, a personalised cup, a fancy wedding card, a Noah’s Ark birth plate, a wedding ‘save the date’, design a website and make a dress and fascinator. By end of Friday you say? Easy peasy lemon squeezy..

So, welcome, welcome one and all. I aim to update this regularly, who wants to open a book on how long that lasts? :-)

V x