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At the beginning of this year I received a phone call from Radio 4 asking me if I would be willing to make prints to illustrate the 2018 Reith Lectures.  Well, I hardly needed to think about it, the answer was "Yes". It sounded interesting and definitely something I wanted to be involved in. The BBC had seen the work I had produced for The Greenbelt Festival and wanted something with a similar feel. Later I found out a little more about the lectures I would be illustrating. The speaker would be historian, Professor Margaret MacMillan, talking on the subject of War and Humanity. I was asked to produce an illustration for each of the five lectures, plus one more to be used as the series image.  These pictures would be used across all the Radio 4 social media platforms, their website, other promotion and invites, as well as the physical backdrop to each lecture itself.

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Amazingly, MacMillan planned to talk with just a few notes, so there was no transcript for me to work from to ascertain the details of each talk.  I was given a loose  idea of the subject of each lecture and with guidance from the producers and media team worked through lots of ideas to arrive at the final six designs.

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I made each print using the reduction relief printing process. This essentially means that instead of having a separate printing block for each colour, just one is used by cutting away each layer of colour in between prints until all the layers have been printed on top of each other - this means that the printing block gets cut away to nothing and can't be used again, there is no going back to make changes once all the cutting has been done.  


I knew that these illustrations would all be shown either digitally on a screen or as commercially printed media, so the original prints themselves would not be the finished work - a new thing for me. After I had completed the first 'Series' image as multiple 2-3 colour reduction prints, it was decided that the colours weren't right.  As I mentioned before, completed prints can not be altered once the layers have been cut away.  Fortunately I'd had the foresight to print each colour separately as well as a completed print and so these separations were each scanned and the colour altered digitally and compiled again just like when a traditional print is made, layer on layer.


I made the decision from this point on that for the remaining five images that I would print each one in the same colour separation way, but still use the reduction print technique so that I could be sure that the registration [lining up] of all the layers would be accurate. I printed each layer in black ink as this would be best colour to scan.  Some of the lecture images had as many as 7 layers.  The prints themselves were relatively large to make sure enough detail could accurately be cut into the image as I knew they would be blown up to cinema screen size.  This makes for  a lot of cutting!

It might seem strange to go through this whole time-consuming printing process when actually the final image is compiled on a computer, but the style of illustration the commissioners had seen of mine and wanted to use in their own work was a 'printy' style.  There is a particular quality to relief prints that I love - the lively little marks that are part of the image, showing the artist's hand in the carving of the block and the only way for me to do this authentically was to actually make the prints the old fashioned way!


I worked alongside graphic designer, Wilf Whitty, at Ratiotype who helped me by scanning and digitally layering all the finished images, while I cut and printed late into night in order to get the work completed in time for the BBC's deadline.

The lectures take place in London, York, Beirut, Belfast and Ottawa and are broadcast in June and July 2018 on BBC Radio 4 - you can listen again via their website, where you will also find all my illustrations.


Last year I was invited to be involved in World Turned Upside Down, an exhibition in Leeds curated by illustrator Si Smith with support from Leeds Inspired. Artists and poets were asked to make work in response to the Beatitudes – the 8 statements from the Sermon on the Mount.

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Initially I found it hard to see how these words relate to us at this time.  They are words that invert our power structures.  The opposite of the power-hungry, greedy and ruthless values we often see in the people that run our countries, who don’t seem to consider the meek and those without a voice; the poor, the very young, the sick and the elderly – the most vulnerable in society.  This is particularly marked at a time of fallout from Brexit, which seemed to bring out an openness in racial hatred and the USA voting for a person as self-serving and prejudiced as Donald Trump to become their leader – both are shocking and depressing.

Si Smith’s inspiration for the exhibition came from an unlikely source:

'At Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony, the Beatitudes were read.  That struck me as a truly dissonant moment and – whether deliberate or not – a pretty direct rebuke to the values that he represents.  Because whilst we’ve succumbed to the belief that it’s the richest, the strongest and the most powerful who’ll always and inevitably triumph, the message of the Beatitudes is that in the end, it is actually the meek who’ll inherit the earth.’

The idea of re-imagining a world turned on its head is a refreshing starting point for making new work.  Using the classic visual style from revolution posters from the past as an influence, I was drawn to the Beatitude about meekness;

Blessed are the meek, 
for they shall inherit the earth.

The idea of meekness, or gentleness, being of greater value than power, status and riches is alien in our society, but at the same time I can’t help thinking people need to know the bullies don’t have to always win.  I’ve never considered myself a particularly political person and am naturally quite shy, but last year I felt compelled to join marches and rallies to support change.  I am supporting a gentle revolution with kindness at its centre.  A rise in gentleness, thoughtfulness and compassion for our fellow humans.  It is important not to confuse gentleness with passiveness or apathy, it is just a different way to communicate – meekness can be very powerful.  Making this piece of work has made me mindful of the fact that we don’t always have to make big showy gestures to make a difference.  The small act I can make each day to show an individual some kindness is equally as powerful and important.

I have never made a piece of work that has received responses like this print.  I have been encouraged by the passionate and inspiring conversations it has provoked in people of all ages.  Some people felt compelled to buy the print to share these values with their family every day.  Other people may not have found the print to their aesthetic taste, but have told me that it made them cry. When I hear things like this it makes me feel quite emotional, I think this is due to a feeling of solidarity, the idea that my values resonate with someone else.  That maybe we really are having a gentle revolution.

You can buy one of these limited edition 'Gentle Revolution' lino prints from myonline shop.

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Colour CODED, a group exhibition at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, 29th Jan - 29th Feb 2016.

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Devon Guild Members, Ruth Broadway, Stuart Low and Angie Parker, are three distinctive makers working in print, glass and weave.

In Colour Coded, each maker has drawn upon skill sharing sessions and group discussion to explore personal responses to the themes of colour and shape.

Open daily, 10am-5.30pm. 01626 832223
Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Riverside Mill, Bovey Tracey, Devon TQ13 9AF

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