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Discovering Design

This blog began by me writing about how artists and designers gather inspiration. And one of the main influences for artists is, well, other artists. With that in mind, in this episode, I'm sharing some of my favourites with you, including how and why they have inspired me. Who knows, maybe you'll discover someone new whose work you love, here too?

For me, it all started with Matisse. When I was first becoming really interested in art at school, Matisse was my first love. He remains one of my all-time art heroes. His work always looks so fresh and modern to me. With his love of colour and pattern he's a firm favourite for many textiles designers. Likewise, he was a great lover of textiles, and amassed a huge collection of world textiles. The painting above is called 'Interior with Egyptian curtain' 1948. I was lucky enough to visit Musée Matisse in Nice some years ago, and there was an exhibition of his fabric collection alongside his paintings.

I really admire his creative sprit and diversification - in later life, when his health left him unable to paint, he switched to creating vast paper-cut collages, which he called simply 'drawing with scissors' He also designed murals, and stained glass windows. He was endlessly creative and he didn't let anything stop him making. Here is the man himself designing murals from his sick bed, in Hotel Regina, Nice in 1950.


Around the same time I was discovering Matisse, in the 1980s, I also discovered the fabric designs of Collier Campbell. They are artists Sarah Campbell, and her sister Susan Collier. This iconic fabric called Cote d'Azure (below) by Sarah Campbell from 1983 is also a nod to the work of Matisse. Described by Sarah Campbell as 'The story of a summer holiday I once missed', here are the same shuttered windows, flung open onto waves and palm trees, with patterned drapery, bright sun-drenched colours and free expressive brush strokes. I loved it for its painterly quality, it was so joyful and colourful and energetic. And for the first time I realised, here was someone making a pattern that was not a floral, not a geometric, but a pattern based ON A PLACE.


As a lover of landscape , growing up in the Derbyshire Dales, this seemed interesting to me. I had seen patterns which included landscape before, but they had usually been very traditional Toile du Jouy patterns that seemed very staid in comparison. Furthermore, it was at this point, that I realised that designing fabric patterns was someone's actual job. Both od these things felt like revelations to me!

Sarah Campbell is still designing, painting and collaborating with some fabulous brands. Working in her own name, following the death of her sister Susan in 2011, here's a lovely pic of the lady at work, from Selvedge magazine.


A little later, maybe art college, I started looking more at mid-century design. I especially loved the work of Lucienne Day. I was playing around with drawing with ink, making experimental marks and making splodgy lines using sticks and pipettes. It's still one of my favourite ways to draw! At the time it felt like fun, but I wasn't sure where it was going. Discovering her work validated what I was doing, I think. Here was a ground-breaking designer, some of whose work looked rather like my art school experiments. Her designs weren't perfect. But they were exciting, and textured, and rough around the edges. My love of mid- century design had begun!

Lucienne Day, Larch 1961


Lucienne Day, 'Bouquet Garni' Tea towel.


Discovering Lucienne Day led me to discover what would become another of my all-time art heroes : John Piper. The range of his mark- making, his versatile mixed-media, 'use what ever works' experimental approach makes him endlessly appealing to me. He gives other artists freedom to play, experiment, layer materials and try things out - it feels as though there are no rules in his work. Of course he was an excellent draughtsman, but the end results always feel spontaneous and unlaboured. Also, he is primarily concerned with landscape, architecture and places, which ironically became even more important to me once I left Derbyshire and moved to a city.


This is part of Piper's 'Nursery frieze' of 1936 and shows him working with collage, graphite , ink and paint, and as ever, always knowing exactly which details to include and which to leave out.

John Piper Petworth Park Gates. 1958 Lithograph


Piper was commissioned during the Second World War as a Official War Artist, and his role was to travel the UK documenting and painting historic and architecturally important buildings. He also painted many buildings that had suffered bomb damage, including Coventry cathedral, depicted here as a ruined shell.

Piper would later go on to design stained glass windows for the rebuilt Coventry cathedral which stands alongside the bombed out ruins of the original on the same site.


Like Matisse, Piper was hugely prolific and versatile. As well as painting, lithography, and stained glass, he designed stage sets and fabrics. His furnishing fabric 'Stones of Bath' 1962 for Sandersons, (below) is fascinating, with snippets and glimpses of the architecture and landmarks of Bath fragmented, nothing discernible, rather like passing though a landscape on a high speed train.

In turn, my fascination with Piper led to me discovering Edward Bawden, and Eric Ravillious and later the other artists at Great Bardfield, such as Enid Marx. To my shame, I think I had already begun teaching design, before I really started to look at the work of Ravillious. Here was an artist who as depicting landscape with a much lighter touch than Piper; a lighter, cleaner palette, much finer lines and marks. Ravillious depicted landscape, seascapes, interiors, shops, gardens, and people at work. This is 'Wet Afternoon' 1938 and always reminds me somewhat of the Derbyshire I had left behind.



I discovered his friend and contemporary, Edward Bawden when I first started Lino printing. I love the humour in his work, there is a playfulness and a decisiveness of line that is needed for this type of print making. Somehow he seems bolder and more confident than Ravillious; I loved his work at first sight. This is 'Autumn' by Edward Bawden.


In thinking about my ongoing series of Lino prints of British native wildflowers, I recently came across this print by Bawden which I had never seen before 'Campions and Columbines' 1947 which show the inherent pattern and repetition which is a feature of his print work.

Not all of my influences are from way back when, but many of the contemporary artists I most admire today have their roots and influences in this time period too. And many of them are British, depicting landscapes full of patterns and expressive energy. I don't want to reproduce a lot of current artist's work here without their express permission. However, if you'd like to take a look at some of the contemprary artists I most admire, here's a list and links to current websites and instagram pages:



This is not an exhaustive list, and of course, although I am influenced and inspired by these artists, it's really important to me that my own work is original. I try to ensure there is no direct copying or plagiarism. This is always much easier when you have a range of artists to inspire you, rather than just one or two. As I've outlined here, many different artists have influenced me for different reasons, although the common threads running through all of their work are colour, pattern and landscape.


I hope you've enjoyed this little dive into some of my artistic influences. There'll be more from me next month. In the meantime, if you'd like to read more about how artists gather inspiration for their work, please take a look back through some of the older posts. You can also sign up to my monthly newsletter for more on my own work and practise. You can receive this free downloadable art print (below) as a thank you when you subscribe.


Hope to see you there!








































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