When I was younger I was always content with a few sheets of paper and whatever else I could lay my hands upon to make my mark. I loved to draw, and colour-in, and I even made my own picture books! I was also really captivated by animals and nature, a fascination probably fuelled by living in some interesting parts of the world, as work took my parents from place to place.
Throughout secondary school I continued to do art and it never really crossed my mind that I would do anything else with myself. However, after much deliberation in my final year of school, I thought a career in science might actually be my calling. So off I went to do a BSc in Zoology to study animals! I did keep the art going though, by doing various pieces of wildlife artwork and displaying them at a couple of exhibitions… I even sold a few!
After my degree I returned to the idea of a career as an artist. I was particularly interested in becoming a children’s illustrator, so I completed a short distance-learning course in children’s illustration at the London Art College. It was early days and I sent my portfolio to a few prospective agents. Needless to say, I was rejected. So I shelved that idea for another few years and went off to pursue a PhD in Arabian bottlenose dolphin genetics (as you do). This research took me to Oman where I worked with a team studying the amazing diversity of marine life in the Arabian region. To name but a few, humpback whales, sperm whales, dolphins (of various shapes and sizes) and of course sea turtles! It took me six years to complete this research on a part-time basis, doing bits of environmental consultancy work as well as the occasional graphic design and illustration project to keep baked beans in the cupboard, all the while keeping one eye on the children’s book industry.
Having finished my PhD, I’m now, officially, a “doctor” in genetics and I have the opportunity to revisit the idea of becoming an illustrator. My artistic method has evolved and matured considerably over the years but I invariably start by putting pencil to paper. I then scan my drawings into the computer where I manipulate them and paint them digitally in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. I also love to play around with textures and often incorporate watercolour washes I make myself or use textures from my personal photo library.
These days I live in the picturesque city of Durham in the north-east of England, where I enjoy eating cake and going for walks along the beach at Tynemouth to keep the sea and nature nearby.