I have always been driven by a desire to share my passion for art and making with others.
As an Inclusive Arts Practitioner, this drive is coupled with an openness to continually adapt and improve my practice, let go of personal agendas and place the interests of others at the forefront in order to offer people the best experience possible. Not knowing all the answers but being prepared to go on a journey to discover something new about art-making together, is something I have learnt to embrace. This is underpinned and supported by an ever-evolving and more personal visual art practice.
Over the past ten years I have sought to work with people from a range of backgrounds with differing abilities. I have found great affinity and reward from working with children, young people and adults with additional support needs, including autism, learning disabilities, mental ill health and acquired brain injuries.
A recent graduate from the University of Brighton’s MA Inclusive Arts Practice, this course has supported my wider knowledge of art practice across different spheres and deepened my understanding of academic theories and responses within the field of Inclusive Arts. In undertaking a research project in my second year, I have actively learnt about inclusive research methods, creative evaluation and ‘making’ as an avenue for self-reflection. The process of forming and exhibiting a personal creative response to the research has added a new dimension to my practice; a deeper relationship between the ‘doing’ and the ‘thinking’, and a heightened awareness of what my work is communicating. The research project also highlighted for me the importance of ‘space-making’ and helped me to identify the factors required to build a successful and accessible studio. (Please see the Research Project page for more information.)
My approach when working with others is to create a calm and reassuring atmosphere which allows people to feel comfortable to explore and experiment with materials, where individual choice is primary and there are no right or wrong answers. I encourage self-belief and confidence in people’s abilities which in turn allows them, and others, to see themselves as artists.
Whilst painting and mark-making are where I feel most at ease, being able to offer a wide range of creative experiences is incredibly important to me as a practitioner. Through self-driven continuing professional development, I have broadened my offer to include print-making processes, mosaics, felt-making and 3D sculpture, as well as more sensory, immersive and installation-based experiences. In being able to utilise a range of creative skill sets I endeavour to open as many doors as possible for someone, which in turn may reveal a new interest or enthusiasm for them.
During the last two years, after recognising a lack of alternative day opportunities for adults with autism and learning disabilities in Bedford, I have initiated, set up and grown a supported art studio under a larger umbrella education organisation. From this space people can explore personal interests, find out what they enjoy, where their strengths lie and gain recognition and meaning from the work they produce, alongside socialising and developing life-skills within a safe and supported environment.
In a freelance capacity, I currently work with Headway Milton Keynes, MK Arts for Health and the newly re-opened MK Gallery, nationally recognised as one of the UK’s leading contemporary art venues. In these varied settings I provide a range of visual arts workshops and opportunities, including exhibitions and partnership working.
My close involvement with MK Gallery’s Art and Us programme for the past year has added an exciting new dynamic to my practice which is much more exploratory and play-based. Working with children with complex and multiple learning and physical support needs, it has stretched me out of my comfort zone to provide creative encounters which are sensory-based, process driven and focused on building stimulating environments. This has been a valuable opportunity for both personal and professional growth, expanding my view of what art can encompass and the importance of ‘in the moment’ discovery and play. (Please see links to specific projects on the ‘Current work’ page).
There is a constant interplay between the work I do with others and that which occurs in my studio, with one inspiring and influencing the other. I generally consider myself to be a painter and no matter where my work takes me, working with acrylics is where I always come back to. The physical act of using paint allows me to work freely and expressively, and I strive to capture both energy and calm within my work, bringing together colours, surfaces and textures, drawing stimulation from the natural and urban world around me.
Other mediums including photography, collage and natural forms will often feed into my work to generate ideas and create interesting juxtapositions, as well as combining the abstract with more illustrative forms.