Thursday, 29 October 2009

Looking daggers at him

On Tuesday I was watching the Specsavers Crime and Thriller Awards - otherwise known as the Daggers - with great interest. Rather bizarrely at the same time as Harlan Coben was being interviewed and picking up his award on ITV3, he was also talking to me on Facebook.

My best beloved could not quite get his head around that idea. As the interview continued and he learned more about Harlan, his bemusement grew.

"So he's American?"
"Yes. From New York."
"So he's sitting there at (checks his watch) 5.15 in the afternoon in New York and talking to you on Facebook?"
"Why would he want to do that? I mean, he must know lots of people. Why is he talking to you?"
"I don't know - because he's met me, because he likes me, general 'fancare', because I'm watching him on the Daggers, who knows...?"
"But he must have better things to do than be talking to you."

All said without a trace of irony.

This conversation continued for quite a while. My husband does not see the point of social networking sites and the idea that people want to communicate appears to confuse him.

One thing is for sure - regardless of how successful my writing may become, even if I myself end up winning the bestseller dagger, I will never be allowed to grow a big head - not as long as I am married to someone who thinks that talking to me is pointless!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Where has the time gone?

The painting arrived successfully abroad and the client was happy. That is all you can ask for.

I have therefore been able to afford to be more social for the last few months and have been to many events, exhibitions, shows, dinners, signings etc. I loved it. It has reawoken my desire to be social and has fed my creative soul. Unfortunately the funds won't now support that kind of behaviour!

I have one more event to go to - a day long workshop on harnessing your creativity with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and the person whose book gave me the original metaphorical kick up the arse to get me started as an artist and author. If I hadn't worked through the course in that book I would not have had the courage to do three things that have changed my life:
1)Taken on a studio at the art centre
2)Booked an exhibition space (when I had no artwork to go into it)
3)Gone to the 2006 Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Those three actions propelled me into a whole new life and a whole new sense of self. This also led to me having more strength in my general life and meant my home life wasn't my whole world - which is healthy, I think. I'm a happier person.

I'm also really enjoying spending time with quick-witted and like-minded people. Creative people do not think the same way as other people and sometimes you can feel like an oddball in a room full of 'normal' people. I now feel as if I have found my tribe and this has made me happy.

All that is left for me to do is to make a living!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Change of Direction

Life has been hectic for months, as usual and my internet access has been erratic. However this week I deliberately stayed offline in order to get some work done and catch up with home things while the kids are off school.

I'm about to ship a large painting off to the French Riviera and the prospect terrifies me.

I also found a book token that my friend Daryl gave me for my fortieth birthday and went out to gratuitously spend it. It was in Waterstones that I discovered Derren Brown's other skill - painting portraits. His cartoon - like style immediately inspired me. I used to do a lot of cariacatures and I decided to try again as Peter Reeds wanted me to paint him. I also wanted to experiment as I get so caught up in detail that I felt that taking a less photographic approach to a subject would help loosen up my paintings.

I will leave you to judge whether it worked or not.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Today was the day when I had to go back up to the East End again and collect my unsuccessful entry for the BP National Portrait Award. It wasn't an entirely depressing affair. I met and chatted with another artist outside called Beka Smith and after a while we exchanged cards - it was interesting discussing the 'business' of portrait painting. She previously came third in the competition and had some great insights. I look forward to meeting her again.

A few people were grumbling that they weren't going to bother entering again. I am, but my painting will be pocket-sized! I'm fed up of lugging such large paintings around.

The guest judge this year was Twiggy. At least now I know she has seen my work! Not necessarily liked it, but seen it...

Incidentally, I just changed my profile photo and this site told me 'fetching profile photo' - I love compliments!

Saturday, 18 April 2009


I was invited by Stuart Pearson Wright to the Private View of Anopseudononymous - a group show that he co-curated at a gallery called Five Hundred Dollars in East London, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Stuart is my favourite contemporary artist and his painting of John Hurt at the National Portrait Gallery always draws me, despite me having seen it before, so I could not pass up this chance to meet the man in person and despite a raging hangover, I went along - alone. This was a deliberate decision as I felt I would be more likely to speak to strangers if I was there on my own, rather than hiding behind the security blanket of a friend.

The three people I ended up talking to mainly during the evening were coincidentally all Jerwood Prize nominees/winners. Robbie Rush has been shortlisted for this years contemporary painting prize and gave me advice about shipping work overseas, David Ben White was kind enough to give me a good name-remembering technique (and look - it worked) and then David Harker and I spent the rest of the evening chatting as we seemed to be the only people there who didn't know everyone else - although there were some very recognisable famous faces there. I could not help being extremely uncool (but it made her laugh) with Julia Davis who is a comedy genius, could not even begin to get up the nerve to speak to Steve Merchant (who is taller than he looks on telly - seriously, he's a giant) and briefly spoke to some guy from The Mighty Boosh but as I don't watch it, I hadn't a clue who he was. Everyone was very cool and confident and 'London' and I felt very out of place in a way that I never have before. London has always been my city. I've been going there alone since I was twelve years old. I'm sure the hangover wasn't helping. I had been violently ill throughout the night and had woken up still drunk that morning - not the best way to find scintillating Sarah! And I felt positively drab next to David's friend Leanne Elliot who produces work as Elliot Young. A more delightful, vivacious and sparkling character I have yet to meet and I can tell that the moment when she poked her finger through her glassless glasses (there to distract people's attention from her eyebags) will stay in my mind for a long time.

And then of course came the point when I finally got up the nerve to speak to Stuart, wishing I could be all casual and cool and interesting but because of nerves, turning into a complete idiot. I told him he is my favourite artist and thanked him for inviting me. I explained how much I loved his portrait of John Hurt and for some bizarre reason I said that I like it so much that if I could get away with it, I would nick it! He gestured at his portrait of Tom Jones that I had been standing by most of the evening and suggested it would be easier to take that one! He asked me what I thought of the exhibition and I said I liked some of it and didn't like some of it. Immediately he asked which ones I didn't like.

How can you answer that? I knew all the artists were there and I didn't want to be specific, so I explained that I like detail and find more naive art less appealing, although I am trying to move away from being so obsessed with detail. I could have been more specific, I guess - I could have said that I don't like crudely daubed paintings of knob-guzzling blow-jobs. I don't see the point of it. And so many young male artists produce that sort of thing. It isn't new; it isn't inventive; it isn't aesthetically pleasing and it isn't titillating. It doesn't even raise any interesting questions in my mind and make me think about life in a broader context. It just bores me. Again it leads us back to the question, 'What is Art?'.

But is that just me? Am I too obsessed with technique? Is it getting in the way of my creativity? I know I paint too slowly and I only really like the last couple of paintings I have produced - I'm almost embarrassed by most of my older stuff as my technique is changing so rapidly. I'm actually really excited by what is happening with my work now and my head is buzzing with ideas. It is time for some brutal experimentation - and I need to enter more competitions too. But I also need to produce work that has been commissioned. Yet again it is all down to time management - something harder to deal with as more and more is piled on my plate.

It is time to become organised, efficient and capable - and maybe open my mind a little more. Maybe my lack of understanding of some kinds of art is less to do with the artist and more to do with me? Maybe this is when being a self-taught artist is a real disability.

In the meantime, I hope no-one half-inched the picture of Tom Jones...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


I have had a very good weekend!

One of my paintings and one of my prints were both sold at the shop, and it is always nice when a stranger buys your work without you there. I sold another painting to a friend whose son has been on at her to get it for him and was even prepared to give up his bike at Christmas in order to have the painting. I also had someone agree to buy one of my larger pieces of work. At this rate there will be nothing left on my walls.

I finished my BP National Portrait Award entry in time (just) and then yesterday when I was on my way up to London to deliver it, I received a call about the awkward personal situation which has already had a partial resolution. Everything is working out for me right now.

I was happy with my artwork until I arrived at the drop off place and there was a beautiful painting propped up against the wall; huge, moody and captivating. My work looked like the crayon drawings of a two-year-old by comparison. I unwrapped my entry and handed it over, telling them that it was very off-putting to have something so good within view, but they said, 'You just never know what they are going to pick,' and told me not to worry about it. One woman put on her white gloves to handle my artwork, which made me feel a bit more special!

After meeting an old friend in Covent Garden for a brew, I popped into my favourite bit of the National Portrait Gallery on my way back to Charing Cross station and looked again at the paintings in the contemporary section. My favourite artist had two pieces in there and I spent ages studying them. What surprised me is how small they are. My postcard of John Hurt is larger than the original painting and I didn't expect it to have been painted on a block of wood. I also noticed that there were some effective paintings done on aluminium. I intend to do a bit of experimentation over the next few weeks. Tomorrow is gesso-purchasing day.

So now I'm having a day off, then I am back to the large painting to finish it off ready for shipping, and then I will be combining my writing with some new commissions (with no time limits) and in three months I will be starting my Hilary Halpern commission. I was sitting having coffee with Hilary last week before he went on his world tour and he casually mentioned that he used to sit and have coffee with Picasso...

Thursday, 12 March 2009

It's all getting a bit hairy...

This week has been the last possible week to work on my BP National Portrait Award entry.

This week has also been the week that both my children decided to get ill.

I know it is probably very picky of me to want to do my work during daylight hours but I feel that 4am is not my most productive time.

I've now worked my way through the facial hair and the head hair and am trying to do the chest hair... my subject is way too hairy.

It is being framed on Sunday and delivery day is Monday.

I will be having Tuesday off!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

And If You Wanted More...? is hairy close-up.

One Week to Go

I could not be panicking any more than I am about how little time I have left to finish and frame three paintings. If I knew for certain that the school would not call me and stop me working at any given moment, I would panic less. I have been working most evenings as soon as hubby comes home and not getting back until two or three in the morning. I am wiped out!

I've discovered that the work goes along better if I do it while listening to audio books rather than music. I don't know why. Maybe it is harder to stress about things or be self-conscious when you get into a story. Maybe it enables me to be freer in my painting. I am now halfway through the BBC's adaptation of Lord of the Rings and for some reason, listening to Gollum and Sam bickering makes me more able to paint hair...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

More Delays

I did the school-run, had a couple of official phonecalls re. our current awkward situation, went to work, painted for less than an hour on the third (first) painting - the grumpy one - and was phoned by the school to pick up my youngest daughter who they thought was about to have an epileptic fit.

I took her home and she was fine - perfectly well and healthy. So my day is wasted, I'm already tired and in the next five minutes or so I have to go back and do a night stint to catch up.

I don't have time for this.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Too busy to speak, eat or think - but not too busy to smoke and drink...


I am working myself into the ground as the deadline for the BP National Portrait Award looms. I could do with another two months. I have two weeks. I can't see how I am going to be ready in time. Lots of late nights and early mornings.

Sleep is overrated...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Start of School Half Term

This morning started the same way as a holiday always starts - with my kids arguing. It takes them a few days to get used to being around each other. Usually I can cope with it but there simply are not enough painkillers in the world to stop me caring about them fighting. My hubby is working on his boat today and won't be back until much later so I had no help.

My only consolation was that in a brief lull from my kids' tirade, I heard my next-door neighbour in her bedroom shouting '...if you two can't get on...' to her own children.

Guess it isn't just me! Happy Valentine's day!

Friday, 13 February 2009


Big panic today, trying to get my entry form for the BP National Portrait Award in before the deadline. I filled in all the relevant details but when I clicked on 'proceed', nothing happened. Repeated clicks produced nothing. I called the NPG and they said they'd had 60 successful entries today via their online system (too much competition for my liking) and that maybe I should try using a friend's computer. I rang a friend I trust who then filled in the forms on my behalf, but with much larking around (which she would not have done, had she been within strangling reach) and she was able to send my entry off at last.

I am relieved. I had a lot of pain last night which I put down to not keeping on top of my meds - they have a cumulative effect and I missed two doses the previous night. As a result, there is no way that I could go out today and post my entry. I also did too much housework yesterday. I probably should not have hoovered. It is hard to ignore it and I have itchy feet and fingers, desperate to do things. In the meantime the pile of washing that needs ironing, folding and putting away grows bigger and bigger...

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Enforced Time Off Part 2

It hurts.

Today may have to be a morphine day.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Enforced Time Off

Yesterday I finally came out of hospital. Shortly after my return from the funeral I had extreme pain and had to call an ambulance. On the Saturday I had a CT scan and was told I had a kidney stone. They sent me home with some pain killers but later on that night the pain came again and the painkillers might just as well have been little tablets of air for all the good they did me. The morphine at the hospital (following another trip in the ambulance) worked a lot better and on the Sunday they operated on me. They couldn't find the stone. I had evidently already passed it but the stone and the op had damaged the tube from my kidney to my bladder and caused a blockage and I had a third night of bad pain while my kidney held on to a litre of water! It seems to have cleared now so I am recovering at home, with strong painkillers. An X-ray showed that the stone has definitely gone.

I do not know how I am going to get the National Portrait Award entry completed in time for the deadline. I can't do anything more this week as I cannot sit or stand for more than twenty minutes without having to lie down and recover but today is already much better than yesterday. I am itching to get on with things - even the hoovering - but am trying to hold back as if I have another blockage, it will mean another two operations; one to insert a stent and one a week later to remove it.

I've had enough of being interfered with! I want to get back to the studio. At least I can lie down there now if I have to have a break. The futon is very comfortable. I took it down there so that my models can use it to pose for life paintings and also so that when I am editing my novels I can do so in comfort, with a nice cuppa...

Friday, 6 February 2009

The National Portrait Award 2009

I am continuing to work hard on part three of the triptych. Part one still hasn't been started and there is still work to do on part two... and I only have a couple of weeks left. Of course I'm not panicking.

The nice thing is that I don't have time to fiddle with it. I usually become too pedantic and lost in the detail but now the way I am painting is changing and it constantly surprises me that it happens without a conscious decision to change. Art evolves and the changes are exciting, a mystery tour where the destination is unknown. I love that my style is changing on its own, but unfortunately it makes me loathe my old work. I am now considering throwing some of it away or painting over it - I can't even bear it enough to want to flog it to someone.

I guess I'm evolving too.

In the meantime, it is the rerun of the funeral today - assuming the snow holds off for long enough. I am not looking forward to it but at least I get to spend some precious time with my mother.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

I Love My New Studio!

Have I mentioned that before?! I really love it. It is my favourite place in the world and I long for it every moment I am away from it!

Yes, okay - I'm strange. Normal people don't feel this way about their workplace do they?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

There's Snow Room for Mistakes

My stepfather's funeral was cancelled due to the snow - personally I think he would have found it humorous if we had sent his coffin down the road to the church like a large toboggan, friends and family scattering...

The snow stopped everything - except my work. As my husband was unable to get to work and so provided free childcare, I was able to spend many hours down at the Art Centre and be the first to walk on the lovely unspoiled fresh snow. The paintings are coming along nicely although I am stressed about the deadline.

I'm also looking forward to doing a bit of teaching. I'm still in the process of trying to work out in what order to tackle things, but I will sort it all out in time for the first lesson.

For the last few weeks, I have been doing most of my work at night, as days are taken up with calls to and from Solicitors, Adult Protection, Social Services, The Public Guardians Office and also all that childcare malarkey. It was nice yesterday to be back there with people. Peter Reeds suggested that I bring my student up to see him at work so 'she can see what a real artist can produce' and I said that it was a good idea as I didn't want to set standards at too high a level and that she would need to feel the goals were easily achievable... then we giggled for half an hour.

I've missed the banter!

Thursday, 29 January 2009


Apparently a man can move in with his dad and his dad's wife, torment her and make her life hell, gradually cut them off from their friends and family, intercept phone-calls by diverting the house phone to his mobile, ban all their friends from visiting, phoning and writing, can hound the wife about a fad diet he is keen on to the degree that she gives up cooking and he takes over the food preparation, can abduct them, be arrested and sectioned, released, move back, can cause so much stress to the dad's wife that she develops early onset Alzheimers, can insist she is a burden right up to the point where her mother dies and he realises she will be very wealthy. He can then try and get her to sign a homemade power of attorney putting him in charge, can start really waging a war to get hold of her money, can refuse her medical treatment and dentistry and dementia check-ups, can change everyone in her life who disapproves of him, can change her doctor repeatedly, steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that her own daughter might know her better or have more rights. He can ask a family friend to support him in seeking power of attorney. He can refuse to provide invoices for carers, yet still expects money and complains about her attorneys to the OPG. He can refuse to allow Social Services in to check on his stepmother except for a pre-arranged monthly slot in the evening - and only one man. When his dad dies, despite the fact of everyone in Social Services knowing he is a risk to her, they still make her stay there because they are worried about his litigious nature.

More importantly, despite having been told over and over again and made to promise during every visit that she must not let the woman stay in the house with this man when her husband was dead, the daughter is completely powerless to get her mother out. And so are the authorities because the laws are not in place. So every day, this poor woman is having her personal care provided by the man she hated most in the world, while he fleeces her for money, but legally.

And get this - he can now refuse the daughter access and she has no right to see her Mum, despite being her attorney and next of kin, because the house is now his home and he is claiming squatters rights...

The law is useless.

Otherwise... I have started painting no. 3 of the triptych - but I haven't done no. 1 yet!

Friday, 23 January 2009

A Private Hell

The personal life has been getting in the way again and I have spent all day looking at Care Homes and then getting various bits of bad news, writing letters and emails, wishing I had studied Law, not Art...

I cannot wait until things settle down so I can concentrate on my work properly - what with the issues with my mother (dementia), my youngest daughter who has disabilities who we are trying to get statemented, my eldest daughter soon going to a new school and then all our own home troubles, I do envy all those people for whom life seems to work. I am still managing to do 40 hrs plus a week at work but it is not enough - to get this to work out for me I need to treat it like an obsession.

I'll get there eventually.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Moving Day

No - we haven't been evicted! Last night I finally moved all the rest of my work stuff down to my studio with my ever so helpful father-in-law, and when I say everything, I am of course not including the office chair that was accidentally left at home. I will have to wait to enjoy rolling across a large expanse of laminate flooring whilst striking artistic poses. I'm thinking of making a short film - something to accurately convey my joy at having a large space to work in, through the medium of interpretative dance...

I still have some boxes left to unpack but as soon as I am set up, I will post pictures.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


In five days my husband runs out of work. On the one hand this will give me much more uninterrupted time to work, with no school runs and a real chance of producing something worthwhile.

On the other hand it means we could lose everything, so I am also looking at article writing and greetings cards and any other sort of possible fast cash - barring prostitution...

It will be interesting to see if the result of this extra pressure will be good or bad writing. Sometimes a deadline can really help me to focus on what I am doing, so we shall see.

In the meantime Harrogate looks like a definite no.

Sunday, 18 January 2009


I was going to blog about Big Brother yesterday and how almost every crime writer I know watches it, but I have been a bit thrown by the news three hours ago that my stepfather passed away at 6.30am Saturday morning.

He was a lovely man, 97 years old and will be greatly missed.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Three into one

The problem with a triptych is to have all three paintings looking like they are part of the whole - hopefully style and pallette will be enough to tie them together, but this is the first time I have tried something like this so I still have a lot of things to decide. Does it matter that the third picture is zoomed in a little more than the first? Will it throw the balance off? Do I paint the two close-ups at the same time or individually? It might be easier to match colours if I do everything simultaneously but...I'm a professional! I'm sure I can reproduce any colour I need to so I think it is more sensible to paint them individually - especially as they have different moods. I now cannot get back down to the studio until Sunday - then on Tuesday I finally get to take the rest of my furniture down there and the studio will be complete. Finally - after about three or four months! I can't wait.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The person before the person

Before the resemblance hits my painting of the person I am trying to depict, there is usually another one that sneaks in there first. I don't know why.

At the start, Mark Billingham resembled Osama Bin Laden, Ian Rankin resembled Ian Ogilvy and now the close-up of my husband's face looks like Kenny Everett - all because I put his mouth a little bit too high.

In case you were wondering, I bought all sorts of canvasses yesterday and was finally able to find a pretty close match, so the previous day's work was not wasted.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Ooaarrr me hearties!

I had to take a rare break from work today to go to the dentist. I've been putting it off, hoping to be able to afford the money for a white crown, but I can't so I am now the not-so-proud owner of a gold tooth. Avast, me shipmates!

It really isn't me.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Assume makes an ass out of u and me

I spent all morning at the studio drawing out part two of my National Portrait Award Entry. Then I picked up a second canvas from the set of four and put it on the board next to the previous one - it wouldn't sit flush. So I tried the other two. Not one of them is the same size as another, despite being packaged together as a set of four identical canvasses. One of them was a full inch out. Silly of me to assume they would be the same size. So now do I buy another set of four in the hope that one of them matches the other one I have already drawn, or do I buy two box canvasses (which are better quality and will be the same size) and redraw the picture I spent all day working on in excruciatingly fine detail today?

I hate wasting a day.

On the plus side, I didn't smoke at all today, despite being around other people smoking, and I walked back home up a steep hill in the wind and rain. The idea of walking back was more appealing than doing it but despite it being horrible, it only took me 22 minutes so there really is no excuse for me not to do it every day.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Why oh why oh why...

...did I spend that money yesterday? That was half the cost of the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. The money is due at the end of this month. What a fool! I could have paid for my publicity next month.


Ah well - my one remaining chance is that now I have stopped smoking and am on a fitness kick, I may manage to save enough by not getting taxis and buying cigarettes.

It's going to be a lean month.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Server not found

One disadvantage of working for yourself is that the working week tends to bleed into the weekend. One advantage is that you can work in your pyjamas, which is why I am sitting here in the late afternoon in my fuzzy pink dressing-gown! The intention was there to be very productive today, but it has all been blown by dodgy internet access. As I write this, I have no idea whether or not I will be able to post it. It's frustrating.

My internet access did stay on long enough however for me to spend a small fortune on internet publicity.


Friday, 9 January 2009

Styles and Techniques

Part of being an artist (or a writer) is to constantly challenge yourself and experiment, so that you don't stagnate. A creative person also becomes bored very easily so there is no choice. Even if you hit upon a style that is so popular that all your work is being snapped up, the sad thing is that you cannot continue with it indefinitely. Dissatisfaction will set in and before long the work looks forced. It's all about honesty.

I have decided to move back to smaller work for a number of reasons:

- Materials are cheaper

- Unsold pieces don't take up as much storage space in my studio

- I am more likely to sell it as it can be less expensive and also that it will fit in an average-sized house.

- The reason I started painting big in the first place was to get away from producing paintings that felt like illustrations and also to celebrate having space of my own. I think I have crossed a line with the last two paintings and have improved my style. Now I can go smaller again as long as I don't fall back into bad habits.

- The work doesn't take as long to produce so I don't get fed up with it after a year and it is more likely to be cost-effective. If a painting takes me a year to produce, I can't charge the equivalent of a 40 hr a week year at minimum wage. Most people cannot afford it. I have to be practical.

Despite needing to finish off my last portrait and work on the rewrites of my novel, I am also painting the middle section of my entry for the National Portrait Award (see above). It is a triptych and no, I am not sure that is the correct spelling. I am enjoying every moment of this painting but there is still a lot to do. I would love to get this one exhibited in 2009.
Today I received my issue of Paint magazine - the newsletter of the SAA. It described a technique I knew nothing about - adding water to pastel. I can't wait to try it. One way dilutes the pastel and spreads it around and the other way intensifies the colour. I think it will work very well with the Rochester scenes I am planning to produce at speed for our shop in the High Street Rochester.
I'm excited - it's a good feeling. Means I am not stagnating yet...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Starting Again

It is a new year, I have moved to a new studio, I am painting a new portrait and I have a new draft of edits on my novel to complete. My old blog on my website never worked properly and is a random mismatch of fonts and sizes which will not be altered back - so I'm making a new start with everything.

The reason I am blogging is to chart my attempt to become successful working for myself in the creative world. I hope that it will be of help to other amateurs. I started a couple of years ago and in that time I have made some headway. I was an unemployed mother of two but I now have my own business as a portrait artist and writer. I have moved to a larger studio at the New Art Centre in Chatham and have had some successes. I exhibited for the first time and was surprised how much I gained from the experience. Over 5000 people came through the gallery and I learned a lot from watching them and listening to their comments. The biggest change though was feeling the freedom to call myself an artist and the biggest surprise was the next time I visited London galleries. I walked around them, seeing the building as just another exhibition space - something achievable - not out of my league. This gave me the confidence to start entering the big competitions. I was also published in a book along with some other Medway Artists and one of my portraits was chosen to be made into a digital mosaic. As a result I had some of my paintings projected onto Rochester Castle in 2008 as part of the Medway Cultural Olympiad.

I have also been writing for many years now and have been working on my first novel for a looooong time! The past couple of years have seen me concentrating on bringing it together into a complete thing. I've also been torturing myself by networking - something that does not come naturally to me. I now have a whole bunch of agents who are interested and I finally found the nerve to send my novel to a legendary agent in July 2008. He phoned my house the very next day but I was at a Crime-writing festival so he wrote to me instead with his critique of what I need to change for the book to suit him. They are all valid points but I must admit, I have been licking my wounds a bit! He is right though, and I need to alter it now - if the home life hadn't become manic shortly after, I would have aimed to get it back to him within the month but it can't be helped. I just hope the delay hasn't put him off. I have a special needs child and a mother with Alzheimers. Life can really get in the way at times...

I keep in mind one line from his letter: 'No doubt about your creativity and potential.' I was also tipped as 'the next big thing' by a journalist from the Sunday Telegraph which is a nice boost to my ego!

I am proud of what I have achieved in the last two years. I have gone from being a secretive arty type, hidden away at home to a self-employed more confident person who is (I hope) on the cusp of becoming successful. The thing that had held me back in the past was being told that I had to choose between art and writing. It was when I read 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron that I realised I could do both and call myself 'a creative'. Yes I am over-stretched and over-worked, but I am loving every moment of it. If you want to join me on this journey, I will be glad to have your company.

This will work!