Beneath the surface

Turtle by Cai BurtonArtist Cai Burton has a unique talent for capturing the natural world. Using fineliner pens, he fills pages, and the occasional wall, with swoops, circles and dots that conjure up a creature or scene that bubbles with life.

“I think I’ve always loved making patterns,” he comments. “You look back to my school books and they were covered in them. My friends used to sit and watch me draw in our physics class (Sorry Mr Gregson and Ms Wales!). But since then, that’s carried through and become an intrinsic part of the work I create today.”

The Great Bear by Cai Burton

The Great Bear by Cai Burton

Cai describes the work of creating his artworks as a mindful experience. “I absolutely love the process that goes into it, and I think that’s as important as the finished piece,” he says. “It’s almost as though I’m watching the illustrations come to life as I’m drawing them, which is a cheesy, but exciting, feeling.”

Mug Designs by Cai Burton

Recently Cai has begun producing mugs and greetings cards emblazoned with his patterns, as well as carrying out mural commissions for clients such as Mercure.

Whale by Cai Burton

His marine series have become an enduringly popular part of his output, but began on a whim. “I just fancied drawing a whale, so I did!” he says. “In all seriousness, though, I’m both in awe and terrified of the ocean, and I was feeling inspired to create something different. I like to think of it as inspiration striking in a flash! Ever since then I’ve enjoyed finding more about the amazing creatures that inhabit our oceans.”

His respect for these animals shows on the page – portrayed usually in black on white, their strength and serenity is vividly portrayed.

Seahorses by Cai Burton

Cai is equally passionate about the work dreamt up by other artists. “Generally, I love finding work from other illustrators and artists! It’s SO inspiring when you find someone who creates beautiful work – I love it.”

You Star Pattern Card by Cai Burton

He thrives on the energy generated by following his own creative urges.

“I really love being my own boss,” he says. “I love the freedom to be able to do exactly what I want and not to answer to anyone – well, except for clients. It’s amazing to be able to come into my studio and decide to just spend the morning drawing, because I can. It means I can really shape my business into something I love and am proud of.”

Octopus2 by Cai Burton

Octopus2 by Cai Burton

Cai’s work frequently appears at art markets and art trails in the Bristol area. “I’m also exhibiting at Grounded in Horfield, where you can see my animal illustrations as well as a few others,” says Cai. “I’ve just launched a brand-spanking new website which has got all of my illustrations as prints and products as well as a collection of most of my work.”

Find it at

Mercure-Mural-Mark-006Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judy(at)



The intrinsic beauty of glass

Fallen Leaves by Simon Alderson

Fallen Leaves by Simon Alderson

Shards of diffused light bring boiled sweets and glimmering beetle casings to mind as you glance over glasswork created by Simon Alderson. Describing himself as “a designer/maker specialising in stained and fused glass”, his love of craftsmanship only flourished after he understood the potential of his artistic urges.

“I loved drawing and painting when I was growing up, so I was always going to follow some sort of creative path,” he says, “but it wasn’t until I got to art college that I realised the numerous options that could take! It’s the practical ‘hands on’ making that I loved the most.”

Splash - in construction by Simon Alderson

Splash – in construction by Simon Alderson

He admits that he’s always had a passion for stained glass. “One of my favourite places is Durham Cathedral,” he says. “I could spend hours staring at Tom Denny’s Transfiguration window. During a gap year after college I took some evening classes in stained glass, and another in ceramics.”

Simon’s ceramics tutor recommended a look at Sunderland University Glass and Ceramics department.

“From there I just fell in love with the material! Glass has an intrinsic beauty and has endless possibilities of manipulation, both hot and cold.”

The Butterfly Effect by Simon Alderson

The Butterfly Effect by Simon Alderson

There are challenges in chooses to work with such a fragile material, however.

“Glass can be a tricky medium, temperamental at times!” Simon exclaims. “One of the greatest pleasures is opening the kiln with that slight flutter of butterflies in your tummy at what awaits inside. Exploring and mastering new techniques, and learning from the mistakes and mishaps along the way is all part of it.”

Arcadia commission by Simon Alderson

Arcadia commission by Simon Alderson

Inspiration arrives in all forms. “At university I did a lot of autobiographical work,” he comments, “and nature provides a constant wealth of possibilities.  My current line of work is about letting the glass itself inspire me through colour and shape.”

Simon has spent the last couple of years exploring the medium, “experimenting and mastering different techniques with in kiln forming. Sometimes I find just letting the glass speak for itself works best, harnessing the flow, and letting one piece inform the next. With the pattern bar techniques I’ve currently been using you don’t really know what’s inside until you start cutting up the blocks of glass. Once open this then inspires the work, such as the piece Rorschach Spine (below).”

Rorschach Spine by Simon Alderson

Rorschach Spine by Simon Alderson

At the heart of it all is a delight in making.

“I just love being able to head into my studio and create,” he says. “I’m lucky to have such a great work space, and one of my greatest pleasures is sharing the love of glass through teaching – inspiring others to create and explore the versatile medium.”

Turquoise Rorschach by Simon Alderson

Turquoise Rorschach by Simon Alderson

Currently Simon is exhibiting work at Glass Designs Gallery on North Street in Bristol, and Bristol Handmade Glass, plus The Marlow Gallery up in Melbourne, Derbyshire. “I’ll be taking part in the Celebrations exhibition up in Stourbridge as part of the International Festival of Glass in August. And there are open studios in September and arts trails in October.”

Find full details at

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judy(at)

Illuminated myths

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

When visiting Cardiff recently, I happened to wander into the Wales Millennium Centre and discovered a mural of such imaginative beauty that it stopped me in my tracks. Emblazoned with tigers, dragons, foxes and more, it conjured up the sense of folk tales, myths and literature from a multitude of cultures.

The Dragons - Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

The Dragons – Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

When I got in touch with the artist, Florence Jackson, it became clear that this was no fluke.

“I remember as a child, my dad would read me bedtime stories including a lot of Roald Dahl books,” she says. “I loved the vivid imagery that came to mind and transport me to a different place, inviting me to take part in the adventure…”

Florence’s interest in illustration sprang from the same source. “Quentin Blake always stood out to me – his illustrations worked perfectly in sync with Roald Dahl’s words,” says Florence. “His fluid lines have always looked so effortless. I don’t really think I actively chose to be an artist; it was and always has been my way of communicating thoughts and ideas (and I have a lot of them!).”

Tiger - Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

Tiger – Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

She adds: “In the day to day, I’m always drawn to imagery and design, whether it’s some rice packaging at my local shop or a quirky poster in the underpass on my way to work, there’s always something visual that speaks to me.”

Florence regards illustration as “an all-encompassing art form, which allows you to work through any chosen medium. To me, it’s all about communicating ideas in a way that even people who ‘don’t really get art’ get. I don’t believe art should be exclusive.”

Kainotophobia by Florence Jackson

Kainotophobia by Florence Jackson

Florence found herself being directed towards illustration after studying Fashion & Textiles at Pembrokeshire College. “I much preferred designing and illustrating the garments than the creating part,” she admits. “Seams and hems were not my forte. When I went on to study illustration in university, I worked in photography, print, ceramics, paint… There were no boundaries. I really enjoyed this freedom of expression.”

Kraken by Florence Jackson

Kraken by Florence Jackson

I love the way Florence’s art often resembles scenes in stories, so it was no surprise to discover that her inspiration reaches beyond Quentin Blake and Roald Dahl.

“I was largely influenced by Eastern philosophy, Folk Art and Indian miniature paintings,” she says. “My projects don’t really have a beginning, middle and an end ­ they’re sort of an ongoing series that started when I first started drawing. I see everything as a story though, always wandering to myself where people at the bus stop are going. Do they live alone? Do they have a cat? Are they in love? I feel sort of obligated to make up stories for them.”

Kakorrhaphiophobia by Florence Jackson

Kakorrhaphiophobia by Florence Jackson

Florence’s commission for the Wales Millennium Centre come about when she was contacted by Lydia Meehan, the Centre’s arts and creative officer.

“Lydia had studied illustration in the year above me and had remembered my work,” says Florence. “Initially she’d spoken about doing something for the Diwali celebration, but instead it opened up into a winter theme.”

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson2

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson2

The main challenge was the sheer size of the piece, stretching a massive 8x5m sq. “I’m used to working on A3 sheets of paper normally!” Florence exclaims. “To be able to reach the space, I had to get a cherry-picker license, which was a pretty scary ordeal. I don’t even drive a normal car, so turning up to an industrial estate to navigate a seven-ton vehicle round some orange cones whilst elevated 10 meters in the air was pretty terrifying.”

Understanding when the artwork was complete was also difficult. “Knowing whether to add another tree or some more stars… It was difficult to walk away and say it was finally done.”

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson1

Winter Mural by Florence Jackson

The mural represents parallels between a wide range of winter-themed stories. “I wanted to look at the similarities within religious winter tales, such as Babushka, Diwali, Hanukah and Christmas,” says Florence. “Most involved a pilgrimage of some sort, often following a light towards warmth and shelter. This is what I wanted to convey – coming out from the cold dark night and into the warm festive spirit with people from all walks of life. I wanted to depict togetherness and safety, which I think is what we’re all looking for, especially when there seems to be so much conflict and uncertainty in the world.”

Florence considers art to simply be her means to live, eat and interpret the world.

“I still have to make money to pursue my artistic endeavors,” she says. “I think it’s just a way of seeing the world that makes things a little more magical, noticing small details that may otherwise be invisible, conjuring up fantasies of great escapes and adventures.  It’s just something I have to do, or need to do… it’s the language I speak best.”

Villains by Florence Jackson

Villains by Florence Jackson

Currently Florence is working on new material and focusing on freelance illustration, with new murals and a possible animation in the pipeline. You can find out more at and

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judy(at)

Writing prompt – promises

Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram photo1 by Judy DarleyHave you ever been made a completely implausible promise? Did you end up disappointed or resigned when it failed to come to fruition, or did you have a moment of wonder when your promiser delivered?

Artist Luke Jerram is currently touring his Museum of the Moon, offering us the chance to promise to take someone to the moon, and actually mean it. Imagine if that really was the moon, however. What havoc could it cause the seas and oceans, our gravitational pull and the night sky?

Write a tale based on an unfeasible promise, and the chaos it causes when it actually comes true.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Art review – Drawn 2017

Ghost Nets of Hallsands (iii) by Frances Gynn, ink, crayon and charcoal_£2000

Ghost Nets of Hallsands (iii) by Frances Gynn, ink, crayon and charcoal

The Royal West of England Academy‘s biannual exhibition Drawn has returned, with a wealth of works that reveal the powerful possibilities offered by ink, pencil, paint and thread and more.

“Drawing is a means of communication and interpretation; it is a building block of creativity and a fundamental part of the creative process,” says  Gemma Brace, Head of Exhibitions.

Eighteen Occasions by Rebecca Swindell, pen on cork_£350

Eighteen Occasions by Rebecca Swindell, pen on cork

The variety of mediums was exceptional, including a selection of atmospheric etchings by invited artist Norman Ackroyd RA. My favourites among the others include Rebecca Swindell’s ink drawings on corks (shown above), titled Eighteen Occasions, Yurim Gough’s Shopaholic on ceramic, and Belinda Durrant’s corset titled Gilded Cage.

Terrain by Dail Behennah, paper and graphite_£3000

Terrain by Dail Behennah, paper and graphite

Dail Behennah’s elegant executed Terrain is a three-dimensional geometric landscape that drew me to my knees for an almost immersive view. In other cases, a few swipes with a stick of charcoal conjure an arresting portrait, while skilled artists such as Kevin Line capture scenes of uncanny realism with the same humble medium.

Bowed to the Wheel by Kevin Line

Bowed to the Wheel (cropped) by Kevin Line

In the adjoining gallery, dim-lighting and a sense of seclusion offers the backdrop to Lines in a Landscape: Drawings from the Royal Collection, a selection of works lent by Her Majesty The Queen.

Guercino, Detail from A Landscape with a three-arched bridge over a river, c.1625, Pen and ink (RCIN 902717), Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Guercino, Detail from A Landscape with a three-arched bridge over a river, c.1625, Pen and ink (RCIN 902717), Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Next door you’ll see examples plucked from the RWA’s own extensive collection for Beyond The Sketchpad, before emerging into the Drawing Lab with the option to create your own work.

In the speeches at the preview, Peter Randall-Page RA RWA swept us away with a reminder of all the ways in which the term drawn can be used: how we can draw curtains; draw people together; draw water from a well; draw swords; be drawn and quartered,  among others.

Even in language, it’s clear that drawing opens up a multitude of possibilities, but in this case it’s the paintings, etchings, sculptures and otherwise realised works that stopped me in my tracks.

The Hounds by Abigail Reed, Charcoal on paper_£950

The Hounds by Abigail Reed, charcoal on paper

Drawn and its accompanying exhibitions are on at the RWA until 4th June 2017.

To submit or suggest an art review, please send an email to Judy(at)

A creative voyage

Clipper by Judy DarleyI’ve just come to the end of an art course at the RWA in Bristol, and am already missing it immensely. The course, Illustration for Picture Books with Sam Church, offered the rare treat of devoting three hours each week for five weeks to playing with ink, paint, pencil and words.

We were each invited to devise or find a story or poem to illustrate. As you might imagine, I went in fully equipped with that side of things, keen to bring one of my short stories to life in new, visual ways.

It was energising to be in a room full of people who have such artistic talent. While I enjoyed figuring out perspective and thrilling with the success of painting a scene that made sense to me, there was just as much pleasure to be had in wandering the room at the end and seeing what my fellow students had been working on throughout the morning. Some produced works of utter beauty!

Boy and merhag by Judy Darley

For me, the biggest challenge was drawing and painting the face of my protagonist, and I’m still not satisfied with that. I think I need to try cartooning to get the character from my head to the page. It was magical, however, to discover I’m able to recreate some of the villains and accomplices from my tale, as well as the setting of the sea, sky and isle.

Evil crab by Judy Darley

The best part, however, was the chance to devote substantial chunks of time to exploring the artistic possibilities of my fiction under the gentle guidance of course leader Sam. It’s focused my growing passion for making as well as writing about art, and given me a new expressive outlet that fills me with joy.

Find upcoming RWA courses.

Writing prompt – rural

Golden Teasels by Jane Betteridge

This painting, Golden Teasels by Jane Betteridge, seems loaded with potential to me. I have the sense of someone wandering along deep in their thoughts, then unexpectedly witnessing something private and possibly awful unfurl.

Or perhaps this is a scene of bucolic beauty and innocence.

What does it bring to mind for you?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Unfettered nature

Snowdrop Wood by Jane Betteridge

Snowdrop Wood by Jane Betteridge

The fragrant half-silence of drawing a breath in, easing a breath out, as a woodland stirs around you is one of the most enchanting things about entering a patch of wilderness.

Likewise the headiness of standing on the brink of a stretch of land with the sea forming itself into endless shifting sculptures just beyond. These are the moments that remind us of  the sheer awe-inspiring beauty around us.

These are the moments Jane Betteridge transforms into works of art.

Blossom's Out by Jane Betteridge

Blossom’s Out by Jane Betteridge

Despite this, Jane never imagined she’d become good enough to be a professional artist, Happily, “years and years of practise and experimenting, in between getting on with my day job and raising a family, finally paid off.”

And the pay-off is enviable, as Jane now has the pleasure of being a full-time artist and experimenting with paint daily.

“In my eyes there is no other medium that comes anywhere near the vibrant characteristics of watercolour,” she says. “The way they merge and mix together on the paper, granulating and changing colour is mesmerising. Their glowing luminosity adds life to a painting.”

Berries and Bindweed by Jane Betteridge

Berries and Bindweed by Jane Betteridge

Jane sources inspiration from the ever changing nature of landscapes, as well as ephemera and other potential new materials.

“Changing seasons, country walks, hedgerows, colours, textures, textiles, old stone walls, rusting metal, and peeling paintwork, the sea, the sky, new tubes of paint or unusual watercolour mediums, old postcards, tickets and wrapping paper can all stir a desire in me to paint.”

Teasles and Honesty by Jane Betteridge

Teasles and Honesty by Jane Betteridge

It all adds texture to her art, and enjoyment to the process. Jane’s ongoing desire to experiment are vividly evident throughout the pages of her beautiful book Watercolours Unleashed. But how did the book come about?

Crashing Wave and Gulls by Jane Betteridge

Crashing Wave and Gulls by Jane Betteridge

“I spoke to Search Press when at an art fair in Nottingham and then sent them some images of my work and they asked me to go to their offices for a chat about writing the book.”

An urge to capture the sense of a moment drives much of her work.

“It’s the atmosphere of a place that makes me paint. For example, an isolated bluebell wood with the sun streaming through can be ethereal, magical and peaceful,” she says. “A rough sea lashing against the rocks can be awe-inspiring. Whether or not I do actually capture the atmosphere doesn’t really matter to me as it’s the fact that it made me create a work of art which is the most important thing.”

Bluebell Woodland by Jane Betteridge

Bluebell Woodland by Jane Betteridge

Looking at her glorious, energetic paintings, I’d say Jane captures the atmosphere with every stroke, offering glimpse of the world that can quietly infuse any room in which you choose to hang them.

Cow Parsley by Jane Betteridge

Cow Parsley by Jane Betteridge

Along with teaching, which she finds “so rewarding”, Jane feels hugely fortunate to be able to devote so much of her time to creating new work.

“I feel like I’m in heaven working as an artist,” she says. “If I wasn’t a full time artist, I’d be painting every spare minute I had anyway, so how lucky I am to be able to earn a living at what is essentially my hobby and favourite pastime.”

Poppy Field by Jane Betteridge

Poppy Field by Jane Betteridge

Jane has studios in Leicestershire and in St Ives, Cornwall. “People can make an appointment to view my work when I’m there. I’m in a couple of galleries at the moment and you can view my work on my website and my Facebook page Jane Betteridge Art.”

Forest Blues by Jane Betteridge

Forest Blues by Jane Betteridge

She adds: “I’ll be taking part in the St Ives September Festival (from 9th-23rd September) this year when my studio will be open to the public. I do quite a few commissions and had solo exhibitions every year for around 10 years until recently when writing the book took all of my time.”

Watercolours Unleashed has been such a success that Jane is now writing her second book for Search Press. I can’t wait to see what she creates for us this time.

Read my review of Watercolours Unleashed.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judy(at)

Book review – Watercolours Unleashed by Jane Betteridge

Watercolour Unleashed by Jane BetteridgeThe cover of this beautiful book offers a vivid preview of the treat you’re about to experience. Mouthwatering shades and intriguing textures abound. Inside, Jane presents an array of wonderful techniques, using everything from clingfilm and tissue paper to threads, seeds and (my alchemical favourite) salt to create effects that will lift and transform your art.

With chapters devoted to materials, colours and preparing your paints, Jane ensures you’re equipped to make the most of any opportunity to capture a scene. A section on composition will help you present your subject in the most breathtaking or pleasing way possible, while a series of projects will ease everything you’ve learnt beneath your skin so that it becomes an everyday part of your artistic arsenal.

With Jane’s exquisite paintings appearing through, the book is also a pleasure simply to pore over for a hit of energising colour.

I spent a very happy Sunday afternoon dabbling with a few of the techniques, and watching the results. My painting, below, created using Jane’s tips and encouragement, turned out a bit clumsy and abstract, but was infinitely satisfying.

Textured Haze by Judy Darley1

As Jane comments in her intro to the book, it turns out that “Watching paint dry can be extremely exciting.” She also takes a moment to remind us that painting should always be a pleasure, never a chore. “Free yourself up. Unleash your passion for watercolour by keeping an open mind, experimenting with techniques, and enjoying yourself by trying new ideas. The watercolour medium has a mind of its own.”

Well, how could you resist? Watercolours Unleashed offers full, unreserved permission to play. Whether, like me, you’re fresh to your artistic journey and seeking the courage to tackle the beauty about you, or experienced and wishing to rediscover that early joy, Jane is the artist to take you there, and inspire you every step of the way.

Watercolours Unleashed by Jane Betteridge (RRP £14.99) is available to buy from

Discover more of Jane’s art.

What are you reading? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a book review, please send an email to Judy(at)

Mapping the world

Installation for Rio Olympics at the Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro by Kristjana S Williams

Installation at the Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro by Kristjana S Williams

From maps to globes to nature’s extravagance, Kristjana S Williams’ art encompasses the whole world.

“I grew up in Iceland where the visual landscape is entirely dictated by nature,” she says. “Whilst striking, I always felt the scenery lacked colour and it was this aspect that I craved. Having been born in the UK, I longed to return to England and discover London and its cultural diversity.”

When she was 20, Kristjana moved back to the UK and studied engineering. “I initially worked in this field, however, I had always dreamt of pursuing my artistic nature,’ she says. “I finally had a chance to do this when I got a place on the Illustration course at Central Saint Martin’s.”

Portrait for RIO 2016 by Kristjana S Williams

Portrait for RIO 2016 by Kristjana S Williams

Kristjana always had an interest in Illustration. “This passion stems from an early age when I discovered maps in a Cartography class at school in Iceland,” she says. “I used to draw the maps and fill them in, I would imagine where I would go and what I would do and that was the happiest I have ever been.”

Globe by Kristjana S Williams

Globe by Kristjana S Williams

At first, Kristjana’s drew most elements by hand, “but I later discovered the technique of using Victorian engravings which I recoloured and reinvented making them individual. I started to combine these with my old love of maps and was pleased with the result I got.”

Falin Viltur Blar Solar Palm III detail by Kristjana S Williams

Falin Viltur Blar – Solar Palm III detail by Kristjana S Williams

Her creations form from three key ingredients.

“Colour, narrative and shape are all equally crucial components in my work and it is the combination of all of them in unison that make a piece successful.”

Mood image by Kristjana S Williams

Mood image by Kristjana S Williams

These days, Kristjana receives commissions from large corporations as well as members of the public, many of whom “have seen a large 3D artwork I have done for a big client, such as The Knowledge for The Shard.”

The Knowledge in the Shard by Kristjana S Williams

The Knowledge in the Shard by Kristjana S Williams

Clients have included a series of glorious butterfly and bird-infused installations for the Belmond Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics.

“Sometimes people fall in love with an element the work and want something of their own,” she says. “Once I have gathered a good body of research on the individual and have got to know them, the design begins to flow quite freely.”

Kristjana relishes the independence that comes with being a freelance artist. “Expressing yourself visually is such a great feeling.”

WBTC London Cushion by Kristjana S Williams

WBTC London Cushion by Kristjana S Williams

You can see Kristjana’s large commissions at The Shard, The Connaught and The Trinity restaurant. “We will soon be opening a pop up shop at Harrods, which will stock new products and limited edition prints, which will be exciting.”

Find out more at

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judy(at)