Wednesday 31 October 2012

Affordable art for all! Well, until 13th Nov!

'Top Bunk! has now become the best-selling Cornerhouse Projects exhibition in recent memory'

This was the news on Facebook this week! The show co-curated by Bren O Callaghan and myself which launched earlier this month has already sold more work than any other Cornerhouse Projects exhibition and it's not even done yet!

With just under two weeks left you can still see work by The Hammo, John Powell-Jones, Simon Misra, David Bailey, Tasha Whittle, Adam Cadwell and Bryony Jackson and myself in the Cornerhouse cafe-bar.

All the work is for sale and is made up of limited edition prints and original art work at very affordable prices! So if you're looking for a Christmas present with a difference this year get down there while you can!

For a list of work and prices you can download the exhibition guide HERE

Cornerhouse 70 Oxford St Manchester M1 5NH

Other news:

Sketch-O-Matic which was launched in conjunction with Top Bunk! to promote accessible and affordable art was also a huge hit with well over 1000 visitors in it's 10 day run! This simple idea of an automated photo booth where an artist replaces the camera really captured the public's imagination.

On the opening night I got filmed for a short piece about the booth and you can see me amongst other Manchester artists talking about our experiences with Sketch-O-Matic in this one off video :)

Tuesday 16 October 2012

I wanna booth with you!

 Some of last nights portraits while I was in the Sketch-O-Matic booth

This week sees the return of Sketch-O-Matic at the Cornerhouse Manchester. Held in conjunction with Top Bunk! currently exhibiting in the cafe-bar, Sketch-O-Matic is a full size photo booth where the camera is replaced by an miniaturised artist studio and one very cramped artist!

Only on until this coming Sunday come and catch it while you can and get you portrait done by one of over 40 Manchester artists including ME!

My confirmed times are:
Friday 7-9pm
Saturday 7-8pm

Thursday afternoon tbc!

I was in there last night for two hours and had a blast drawing a host of beautiful Mancunians! I love your faces people! See my Facebook page for updates and photos of portraits done so far!...

Friday 12 October 2012


It's tonight, it's new art and it's Top Bunk!

Affordable limited edition prints from artists both local and from around the UK:

Hammo, John Powell-Jones, Gemma Parker, Simon Misra, Emma Mount, David Bailey, Tasha Whittle, Adam Cadwell and Bryony Jackson
6pm Cornerhouse Cafe-bar
Runs until 13th Nov 2012

70 Oxford Rd
M1 5NH

Monday 24 September 2012

Top Bunk!

I was always drawing. Give me some paper, give me an old telephone book, hell, let me loose on my bedroom wall and I would draw on it! (which indeed I did, it had a lovely scene I like to call 'Dinosaur Utopia' around it's entirety, my Mum and Dad were very understanding towards the creative soul). Such was the pattern of my childhood when I was an artist before I was an 'artist'. 

I drew cats, mermaids the occasional A Team reference, made up historical scenes and girls, always girls! Girls in big dresses, girls with huge boobs and hair, girls with punk attitude and killer heels. Above all, girls with glamour. Nothing much has changed, it's just now I can officially call it art because I am offcially an artist.

That is one of the reasons I am so excited about Top Bunk! a new show taking place in the Cornerhouse Cafe-Bar next month. As the press release states;

Artists don’t tumble from moulds in institutions, the innate spark is not taught but fanned to life beneath catalogue-bought duvet sets and candlewick throws. Sprawled across the floor or hunched over a hand-me-down desk, doodles become sketches, words become poems, wild imaginings scurry for shelter at the back of the wardrobe; soft, pink and glistening, yet to form a hard shell to deflect the criticism that awaits.

Top Bunk! is a Cornerhouse Projects exhibition that seeks to capture the spark of enthusiasm before it bends to fit the restrictive moulds that await; from academia to peer review and the cost of living. No subject is unsuited, no method discouraged. A range of responses include wistful juvenilia, rampaging robots, melancholia, psychedelic daydreams, teen-fan adulation, the allure of adulthood and beginning of sexual fruition.

I am showing two pieces in this show, which I have also helped to curate alongside Bren O Callaghan Cornerhouse's Visual Arts Programme Manager. The first is the pin up girl for the exhibtion; my portait of Layla as seen in the poster, who encapsulates the quinisential 1950's idealised teen. The second is a new piece inspired by my many hours studying the 1970's Jackie Annuals I was given as a child. They were from a bygone era even when I was a kid but I used to love reading them from cover to cover; taking in the problem pages, and fashion tips, loving the picture stories with their super glam illustrations.

 A photo of 'Jackie' in progress, prints of the finished piece can be seen at Top Bunk!

'Jackie' is a painting I created remembering those 70's style hints and Bay City Rollers posters mixed with the awkward feelings of first love and trying to fit in. Being not quite completely formed as a person but doing your damnedest to stand out while not standing out too much. For me, this painting is a girl waiting to be noticed, standing in a field on a Saturday morning watching the boys play football, while her new heels sink futher and further into the mud. 

Top Bunk! runs from 12th Oct to 13th Nov at the Cornerhouse Cafe-Bar featuring limited edition affordable prints and will coincide with this years Sketch-O-Matic...more details to follow!

Cornerhouse: 70 Oxford Street Manchester M1 5NH

Friday 3 August 2012

The Marilyn Mystery

August 5th will be the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. You may have noticed her presence more in the press lately; a blonde woman with big half closed eyes, a heart shaped face and cherry lips. Her image is instantly recognisable and has been a constant apparition in popular culture for the past 60 years or so. She is probably the greatest sex symbol and feminine icon in modern history and has come to represent the ultimate in tragedy, beauty, star power and glamour.

As a glut of new material claiming to add extra substance to the Marilyn myth is published and broadcast I can't help wondering just how horrified Marilyn would be to know that her every move has been examined down to the last detail. Everything from her dry cleaning receipts to her love affairs and personal diaries have been forensically studied and put out for mass public consumption.

Long lost lovers, friends and family have all queued up to sell their own version of the Marilyn experience, and I'm sure the list will never cease because the demand is always there, we all want to know what she was really like. As she once said about the frenzy of press and fans that followed her during her life, "... everybody is always tugging at you. They'd all like sort of a chunk of you. They kind of ... take pieces out of you.... but you do want to stay intact -- intact and on two feet."

Marilyn lived her life in the glare of the spotlight and it has to be said gloried in it; she shone and turned herself into whatever people wanted her to be; a malable female figure, the template for every woman in the public eye since; to just be herself wasn't enough, she had to fit the ideal. In modern day it's safe to say many women feel the same pressure to conform. 

Even half a century after she died we are still the owners of her image, we loot it, study it, borrow it, pull it apart and stick it back together to fit our needs. Marilyn Monroe is, I think, the modern western world's most iconic female. She has become more than the sum of her parts because we invest so much into her legend.

I worry though that we will never cease to keep wanting more from her. Her privacy has been invaded with reckless abandon, her life has become a series of moments to be consumed. But here's where I feel the real enchantment kicks in. Because no matter what we think we know, or how much we find out in the future, Monroe the woman is a total enigma.

During her life she was multi-dimensional, she craved attention and longed for retreat. She played up her character of the dumb blonde but wanted to be taken seriously. She was completely self absorbed yet she was a great friend, generous and giving to the last. Her life was a constant battle to balance out all her complex contradictions.

In death we are no closer to finding out who Marilyn Monore really was. We'll never be able to fully understand her, she is a like all the greatest goddesses that came before, unattainable. We believe in her but her existence is nothing but a mystery.

Thursday 21 June 2012

News and updates

Today Fiona visited the studio to pick up her portrait. Even though I'd completed this painting a couple of months ago it wasn't until today that Fiona saw it with her own eyes.

I'm very pleased to say she loved it and said she thought it was beautiful! I love to see the finished article in the hands of the person who commssioned it as it gives me a sense of real satisfaction!

Other news:

Currently I'm busy putting a profile together of who my audience is based on the results of my online survey. Thanks to you lot who helped me out! And congrats to the prize draw winner, Mikey from Stoke, who was lucky enough to gain a limited edition print just by answering some questions about my art practice!

I plan to use my survey information in marketing my work. It's been fun because this is a totally different aspect to the creative hands on side of being an artist and I feel I'm learning new skills as I go.

Art news:

In between the pie charts and data analysis I've been putting together some ideas for a new series of paintings; I recently read a book based in the early 1800's where reference was made to a 'tatez-y' (pronounced tat-ay-zee). To put it into context, a lady's freckle was being admired and was refered to as a 'tatez-y' or 'touch here', to translate the french slang.

I thought how wonderful this idea was; subtley sensual but sweet at the same time, to focus on a blemish or mark on the skin and turn it into something desirable and decadent. I've looked online for more about this phrase but so far have only found reference to it as a low lacey neckline from the same peroid. I'll continue to research to see what more can be found and I have an idea to make this an interactive project turning the intimate into a celebrated theme. It's all a bit hazy at the moment but I'll keep you informed as I go...

A long long time ago I told you about my femme fatale diptych I planned to embroid based on historic themes. Those of you who visit my Facebook page will have seen this photo before but I have now completed Madame Guillotine (I just haven't got a finished photo of her yet) and I'm going to start work on Lady Gunpowder in the next few weeks!

When they are finished I plan to frame them, unlike my past embroideries which I have left in the hoop to be displayed, I think these ladies need a gilded window in which to look out of so I'm hoping to find for some antique style gold frames. I'll let you know how I get on :)

Saturday 2 June 2012

Jubilee cheesecake!

In 1953 two fabulous things happened, firstly Elizabeth Winsdor was crowned Queen of England, Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith, and secondly one of the best films ever was released, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes!

To celebrate this eventful weekend and get us all in the jubilee spirit I created this image in honor of Her Majesty with a little inspiration from that Hollywood era which gave us Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe in fine glamorous form! 

It's easy to forget that our Queen was once a young woman too, and quite a fox at that! So happy Diamond Jubilee weekend Your Majesty, thanks for the last 60 years!

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Marilyn: London trip part 2

While I was in London one of the things that HAD to be ticked off the list was seeing the Marilyn Monroe exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery.

A treat for any Monroe fan, this simple exhibition housed hundreds of beautiful black and white photos of the screen star (many I'd never seen before) alongside outifts that had belonged to her and costumes from her films. 

 A showgirl costume from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

As a life long fan I found the experience thrilling. To see a row of Marilyn size and shaped mannequins all wearing such familiar clothes was probably as close as I'll ever get to the lady herself. I took lots of photos but couldn't use flash because of the glass so some aren't as great as they could be.

I have to admit I got a little bit sentimental while viewing these great pieces of modern history and got glassy eyed when I saw her red sequin dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, my favourite Marilyn movie. I've probably seen that film near 50 times and it still fascinates me.

Marilyn with Jane Russell wearing matching red gowns in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Even though Monroe was the 'blonde' in the film she only recieved a tenth of the fee Russell got. However despite this the two bombshells got along just fine. This famous red dress is sewn with thousands of red sequins of different sizes. I wonder where Jane Russells version is?

 Marilyn in her 'Mermaid' showgirl costume from Bus Stop

The Bus Stop costume has a very sweet and patched up feel to it. A showgirl in hard times, this piece perfectly described the character of Cherie, beautiful, damaged and badly mended.

 The Pink Wiggle dress from Niagra

I've a feeling the bottom of this dress has been been cropped away ar some point as it doens't seem as long on the mannequin or have a split in the front. It is still undeniably a very sexy number outlining Mariyn's curves to perfection.

 The white muslin dress from The Prince and the Showgirl

This dress is very fragile and several mends can be seen in the front while a sizable tear can be found round it's side on the hip. I was quite surprised to see just how sheer this piece was. It's the kind of dress that would be very unforgiving on the wrong figure. As you can see she wore it wonderfully.

 Black beaded dress from Some Like it Hot

It's hard to believe that this dress was so tight Marilyn had to be lifted onto the piano for this scene in Some Like it Hot. The actual dress is pretty stunning and again, only a very specific figure could fill it out in all the right places. 

 Marilyn wearing her cream showgirl dress and headdress from There's No Business Like Show Business

I was really impressed with this outfit. It was so detailed and well made, a true tribute to the costume departments of the studios of yesteryear! The ironic thing for me is I really don't rate the film, it's one of Monroe's worst, one she only took as a deal so she could work on The Seven Year Itch.

This is a fantastic show so go and see it while you can. The great thing is it's free! But it's only on until the 18th May, thats two more days!!! If you can't get there I hope these photos and blog give you an idea of what it's like to witness the presence of a true icon through her clothes.

Sunday 13 May 2012

A Brush With Burlesque: London trip part 1

Yesterday I returned from London after spending a packed few days taking in some of the glamour currently housed in the city. It seems very apt that this was also London Burlesque Week and the perfect time for East Gallery on Brick Lane to host an exhibition of artists from across the UK who all have been inspired by the British burlesque scene.

 With my Bon Bon's paintings at A Brush With Burlesque

I am so happy to have been part of this exposee proudly presenting contemporary burlesque in all it's forms; From the comic to the seriously sensuous, A Brush With Burlesque covered it all, and it was fun to walk around the exhibition and recognise so many performers I either know or have seen on stage immortalised in paint and ink.

Works by Charlotte Rhodes, myself and Ella Guru at a Brush With Burlesque

I particualarly enjoyed works by Ella Guru, whose reclining burlesque figure Missy Macabre packed a punch! I could imagine this painting in a national gallery alongside Victorian nudes. There is something about it that has history, narrative, glamour but also grit; there's definately a story waiting to be told here.

 Linda O Grady's paintings at A Brush With Burlesque

I also enjoyed work by Linda O Grady whose detailed pieces captured performers almost unawares, heightening their mystery and glamour but also reminding us that they are real people too; confirming that burlesque cannot be confined by age or form.

Becky Ryan's pencil drawings were a delight to see; beautifully executed on brown art paper she creates small and complete pieces that make you want to look again and again.

Work by Mark Bell at A Brush With Burlesque

I also admired work by Mark Bell one of the curators of the show, whose paintings ooze atmosphere and elegance. Anyone who has been to see a good burlesque show will recognise the laughter anticipation and intimacy seen in his work.

 Work by Charlotte Thompson Morely, Charlotte Rhodes, Nick Beedles and Kev Grey at A Brush With Burlesque

The show was full of great artists, in truth I could talk about them all, if there was a 'like' button in the show I would have pressed it until it broke! The standard of art was incredibly high and varied and the good news is that if you missed the chance to see this treasure trove in person, the official website is staying online as a directory to all these fab artists. Plus you can catch a glimpse of the private view and more on the A Brush With Burlesque Facebook Page!

 Beatrix Von Bourbon next to her portrait at the private view. Photo by Alex Small

A big thanks to Mark and Sarah for curating the show and putting in all the effort, it certainly paid off.

 With Sarah in front on my painting 'Beauty Marked'

Tuesday 8 May 2012

A Brush with Burlesque, a visit to London

I'm off to see A Brush With Burlesque this week. I can't wait to see the selection of burlesque art by the UK artists which I am exhibiting alongside! The show features paintings inspired by the British burlesque scene and is a who's who of UK talent, so I'm going to play guess the burlesque perfomer while there! Also while in London town I will also be catching a Marilyn Monroe exhibit featuring clothes worn by the great lady herself, so I should be completely full to the eyeballs with glamour by the time I get home! Will report back soon***

A Brush with Burlesque
East Gallery
214 Brick lane
E1 6SA
1-7pm daily until 13th May 2012

Sunday 29 April 2012

Paintings from the movies

I've just spent a wonderful Sunday watching Laura, the classic film noir starring Gene Tierney. The film is part of the matinee classics being shown on the big screen at the Cornerhouse, and it was great to see it as it would have first been viewed all those years ago at it's premier in 1944.

The story revolves around the murder of beautiful advertising executive Laura Hunt (Tierney) who soon becomes the infactuation of detective Mark Macpherson (Dana Andrews) as he falls in love with her stunning portrait and learns her story.

The portait in question is quite beautiful and has it's own interesting story to tell;

The first version of the picture was painted by the wife the of the original director, Mamoulian, but when Otto Preminger took over as the film's director he found the painting to his dislike. He wanted mystery and captivation, but instead thought the portrait was inflattering, flat and boring. 

To remedy this he sent Tierney off to studio photographer Frank Polony and had her picture taken. The best shot was enlarged to a portait size and the photo was then painted over with oils to give it the quality of an original painting. In this way Premigner felt he had captured the allure and power the painting needed to draw the audience in and be believable as the object of Macpherson's desire.

But what intrigues me perhaps more is what happend to this wonderful object after the film had wrapped? The IMDB website states that the painting can be seen in two other films; On the Riviera 1951, starring Danny Kaye and, Woman's World 1954 starring Clifton Webb who also starred in Laura.

But where is it now? Indeed the painting of Laura is not the only art from a movie which has made me ask this question; There have been numerous works of art created just for films that seem to have disappeared into the great abyss, some more classical than others but in my opinion just as wonderful, not only for their asthetics but also because of the history they hold.

My favourtite movie painting is that of Scarlett O Hara, as seen hanging in her and Rhett Butler's huge town house in Gone With the Wind. An imposing piece of portraiture I'd love to know who painted it and if Vivien Leigh actually sat for it. On further investigation, I've found out that it now hangs safely in the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.

However another piece of movie history that probably HAS gone with the wind is the saloon painting of entertainer Katie Brown from the film Calamity Jane starring Doris Day and Howard Keel.

This (purposely) unfinished painting shows the newly discoverd showgirl Katie Brown after she made her debut, coming out of the shadows of stage star and former employee, Adelaide Adams.

Used simpley as a prop for Keel to sing to, this painting is still a super pin up girl of the era, with all the cute cheese cake allure of a Gil Elvgren. But where is it now?...

If you can think of any other paintings or art from the classic movies of yesteryear I'd love to know what they are and perhaps what happened to them, who knows, an historical movie gem could be sitting dusty in some attic right now just waiting to be discovered....

Friday 27 April 2012


 Fiona, acrylic on canvas 2012

Here's Fiona's portrait commission all finished. It was a real pleasure to paint. I really enjoy painting hair and as you can see Fiona's hair is very abundant in this picture! I completed this piece a few weeks ago and now I have a special 'Commission me' section on my website. There you'll find how easy it is to commission me for your own portrait or original art work with each stage broken down to explain the process. Whether it be as a gift for a loved one or an indulgence for yourself just get in touch to chat about ideas and we can take it from there.

Click on my 'Commission me' link HERE to find out more.

Here's some examples of other commissions I have worked on, in most cases I work from a few photos to capture the subject. Other times the image is mocked up by myself and approved by the client. To see more of my work visit my website HERE:

I was so impressed with Gemma's work that I asked her to commission a painting for me. I honestly didn't think that I would be so amazed by the finished product; it exceeded all of my expectations. Gemma is a true credit to her profession, and my painting takes pride of place in my bedroom.

Miss Chambers 

Your art is mesmerising and brings characters and features to life and each piece has it's own unique story to tell. My portrait still has pride of place in my house. Big fan of your work, it's fabulous.


Just wanted to say what an amazing portrait! I love love love it! You have captured the essence of me beautifully and your talents are second to none. Every woman should have a painting by you hanging on her wall! Thank you so very much.

Rene La Rouge 

I had never commissioned a painting before, but any fears were soon allayed by Gemma's enthusiasm and willingness to help me through the process. The result was a beautiful picture that each day brings a smile to my face.


Gemma Parker is a truly talented young lady. I was fortunate enough to be part of a project Gemma was undertaking and I had my portrait painted and it is literally a work of art!

Scarlet Fever