Q1. Have you always been creative?
Yes – I was always in trouble at school for drawing in the margins of my maths books instead of doing my sums! As a child I spent every spare moment drawing and painting and won my first art competition at the age of 7. Following school I spent 5 years at Art College.
Q2. What is the first thing you can recall making as a child and who was it for?
I always hand painted birthday and Christmas cards for my closest friends and family.
Q3. What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?
I had two ambitions as a child – to be an artist or a petrol pump attendant!! For some reason I was deeply impressed by the people who put petrol into cars. Fortunately, I think I chose the right career – petrol pump attendants don’t get to travel to some of the most remote corners of the world to study endangered wildlife in their natural habitats – and nor do they get to be guests on Create & Craft! (And now that all petrol stations are self-service the novelty has worn off somewhat...)
Q4. Why/when did you decide you could make a living out of crafting?
I always intended it should be a career, but the one thing they don’t teach you at art school is how to make a living from your painting, so when I first graduated, I taught art in schools for a couple of years, before taking the courage to go freelance. My big break came a couple of years later when a publisher approached me, and my work first went into print, and sold throughout Europe.
Q5. Do you have any other hobbies?
No, not really as my artwork is very time consuming and in the evenings I give talks about wildlife and conservation - over 100 talks a year! However, I do love ballet and the theatre.
Q6. What craft item can you not live without?
My sketch folders – they travel with me everywhere and are full of the field studies which then inspire my finished paintings.
Q7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take 5 items, what would they be – and why?
Well, the first would be my sketch folder & pencils! On a practical level, a tent, matches, water purifier, mosquito repellent..... and a hairdryer!! That is almost the packing list for a lot of my expeditions....
Q8. What’s your biggest ambition in life?
I have been very fortunate to achieve many of my ambitions. Receiving an honorary degree a couple of years ago was very special, and I have been lucky enough to win over 30 international awards for my work. Next year I have been invited to stage a one man exhibition in a very prestigious gallery in America, which is very exciting. I have painted on every continent in the world except one – so it will be a major ambition realised when at the end of this year, I travel to the final one – Australia, after which I will be able to start work on my next book ‘Round the World in Eighty Paintings’.
Also I would love to sketch a snow leopard in the wild – the only big cat which has proved elusive so far.
Q9. What’s been the highlight of your crafting life so far?
I made my first ever card live on TV!! Lynda Chapman who designs and creates all the wonderful craft kits featuring my artwork was standing by ready to help me out...
Q10. Any advice for beginners?
Practise, practise, practise!! Experiment, be creative and above all have fun.