An interview with the awesome mixed media artist Jenny Morbey
I discovered Jenny's colourful work through The Thriving Artist's Path, Facebook group run by Bonnie Glendinning. I fell in love with her vibrant, positive, carnival style and was delighted when she agreed to be interviewed by me. Read on to find out more about her life in Barcelona and her path as an artist.
Your work is so colourful and gorgeous, do you find that your work makes you happy?
Thank you, that is lovely to hear!
Yes my work does make me happy. I make things that I personally think are pretty or uplifting or inspiring, and which I love to look at, and have surrounding me on my walls. I always include a lot of flowers, which I find SO pretty, especially roses, (you might be surprised to hear, given my business name!)
The words that I include in my collages too are either quotes that I love that I’ve been scribbling down in notebooks ( I’m obsessed with notebooks and all stationery!) since the age of 14, or messages or mantras that I myself need to hear or absorb at the time.
What is your workspace like?
I count myself very lucky to have my own little art studio in our apartment. It’s a luxury to be able to leave out materials and works in progress, on my desk (or the floor) to come back to later. It’s quite a small space without much natural light, but I’ve made it pretty and cosy with a sofa, lots of shelves, some of my collages and other inspiring art on the walls. I’ve got all my art and creative and inspirational books and magazines together on one big bookshelf, which makes me really happy to look at! Most importantly, it’s my own space!
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to making art?
Great question! I’d say the constant feeling of not having enough time, and trying to juggle my other commitments when all I really want to be doing is making something in my studio.
Also ‘imposter syndrome,’ Who do I think I am to be calling myself an artist, what I do isn’t important or make enough impact in the world etc etc, that I’m starting to learn how to deal with! Mostly by ignoring the gremlin voices that appear in my head, and just carrying on making things anyway, because that’s what makes me happy.
Did you go to art school?
No. I’ve always loved art and creating but I never really pursued anything in any consistent or serious way until my son was born nearly 5 years ago. It wasn’t a conscious decision to start then but I think the reason I’ve (mostly) kept my sanity becoming a mother is due to having something in my life that I absolutely love, which I can get lost in and which is utterly separate from my kids.
Learning-wise, I’ve watched quite a few YouTube videos by Teesha Moore,and I did the painting e-course ‘hello soul, hello mixed media mantras’ by Kelly Rae Roberts,where I learned a lot about techniques and developing my own style.
What inspires and feeds your work?
Let’s see, I get lots of inspiration from other people, mostly women. In terms of artists I love Kelly Rae Roberts, Suzi Blu and Teesha Moore. I LOVE looking at inspiring and beautiful creative magazines like Kireei (in Spanish), Flow, The Simple Things, and of course any of the Somerset Studio magazines, but particularly the art journaling one.
What else…? Flowers obviously, anything colourful and a bit quirky, the strength and power of women, and the idea that I might be able to create something with a positive message to women (in terms of: self-love, being confident in yourself, being your own person, knowing that your individual story matters no matter how insignificant you may think it, and standing shoulder to shoulder with other women instead of being complicit in the patriarchal modus operandi of feeling competitive or jealous.
Why and when did you move to Barcelona?
I came to Barcelona on my own in 2004 to teach English as a Foreign Language. I’d always wanted to visit, and after a couple of years living in Prague and France, I decided to see what Barcelona had to offer! Then I met my husband here (also from the UK) and we ended up staying….
Is the lifestyle much different from the Uk?
The lifestyle is definitely different - here there is more emphasis on working to live, rather than the other way round. Family is really important and kids are adored here, so what with the beach, the myriad play parks, and the great climate it is a wonderful place to bring up kids.
Going out to eat or have a mojito or a coffee is much less of a treat and more an everyday occurrence. On the downside, CUSTOMER SERVICE!!! It’s pretty poor compared to the UK and can obviously make a huge difference to your day. Also, no carpets or curtains or ploughman’s lunches (although I’m getting a little off topic…!)
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start an Etsy shop?
I’d say to be patient, be prepared to work hard (the power of putting one foot in front of the other to get you where you want to go seems to be really underestimated), and to not let fear of failure stop you from trying – we regret the things we haven’t done, rather than those we have, even if they don’t turn out how we expected.
Have you considered running courses to teach what you do?
No. At the moment I’m more interested in developing my skills and my work, and making a name for myself. Teaching a course could perhaps help with that, but I don’t want to spread myself too thin! Lately I’ve been focussing on quality not quantity, as someone with a predisposition for rushing around madly, wanting to do everything and afraid of ‘’missing out’, I’m enjoying the calm that comes with doing less but with more intention. Or at least trying to!
What are your favourite things to do when you are not creating?
It really relaxes me to make things that have nothing to do with collage (although of course I also find creating collages really relaxing), or that I have no intention of trying to sell. So this sounds really nerdy, but my latest obsession is hand sewing lavender bags! I love choosing the material, threading the needle (!), the fact that I can do it anywhere and don’t have to be in my studio. I also love the fact that you can gather wild lavender in the countryside here.
I also love yoga, buying myself flowers, reading ‘self help’ books, listening to creative podcasts (such as Gretchen Rubin, Jess Lively and the Unmistakeable Creative), taking myself off to cool little cafes to read or write my journal, watching series and playing board games over a gin and tonic with my husband Joe (when we’re not completely zonked out after a day looking after the little ones) and of course tickling my kids till they are crying with laughter.
Thank you so much Jenny for sharing your life and art with us. If you have fallen in love with Jenny's work as much as me then please connect with her on Facebook and even better buy something from her fabulous Etsy shop!
My competition to win a custom print was amazing! I had so many great entries and there were lots of ideas that I was really drawn too. In the end I picked this entry by Lous Crowe: "I would love one of these pictures, not for myself but for my niece (aged 10). She loves to dance - has often been on stage even at this age - also is musical, sings, is learning the violin... And has an immune system that doesn't work. She knows Addenbrookes hospital far better than a child her age should. But even when she's had to go through procedures that would give me the screaming ab-dabs, she has just coped with it all and the only thing she worries about is whether she'll miss her dancing. What would I like for her? Maybe a fairy that dances through sunlight? Or an angel that will always smile for her? I'm sure you'd know what was best."
I was inspired by the idea of this resilient girl who was facing life courageously inspite of difficulties.
Lois sent me a couple of pictures of her niece and I saw what a shining spirit she had. I knew that I wanted her to be a fairy and also that I wanted her to look like a dancer. The most important thing for me is to get the energy of the piece right. It took a little while to balance the colours and the shapes and then the idea of the hearts came to me.
I think rainbow colours are very healing and I also wanted her to have a rainbow heart necklace - like it's her special secret power. I'd love to get a necklace made like that myself too!
Anyway, I really loved creating this and I really hope that it helps to spread a little happiness in tough times.
I think that when you have a child your perception of time alters. It is no longer measured as a working week, with hours to start and stop by, no weekend, no evenings off. Instead life is broken into baby milestones, first words, first foods, first poo.
Your life becomes so shifted that it can even take a while to remember who you are. The person I was before Tabitha seems like something of a distant memory. I have the odd vision of myself surfing, taking on wild seas, reckless and free. Practising yoga every morning, without fail, absolutely happy and able to fulfill my body and my mind's needs.
Now my needs get squeezed in where I can find time. I attempt yoga, but like a strange dream my practice metamorphosises and I become a horse, being ridden around the living room floor before I am fully awake.
The first couple of years as a mother were pretty undeniably intense. I didn't really have much in the way of back up. My husband and I had moved away from London to live in Cornwall and so we didn't have any family to help. At the same time as I gave birth to Tabitha my husband realised that his job with the NHS was causing a crazy amount of stress and so he quit to start his own raw chocolate business 'Food of the Gods'.
While he made and sold chocolate, I looked after the two dogs, cat and Tabitha. And created art.
Creating art has always been part of my life. I'd made work for exhibitions, designed cards, worked on commissions and experimented to my hearts content. It was great, but it was unreliable and so I waitressed and took housekeeping jobs to supplement any freelance opportunities.
I was quite happy really, with enough money to pay the bills and go out for the odd meal. The Cornish lifestyle was and still is, one of simplicity. Surfing was such a big part of our lives that it met most of our needs. 'Why live in London?' We would say. 'Everything has a price tag there. Surfing is free.'
So when I had Tabitha everything changed. Including my relationship with art. Where once art was something I played with on the edges of my life, it instead filled all the cracks that surfing had left. It created a new mould of me and it gave me back my sense of self and purpose and moments of reckless freedom.
And now nearly three years have passed and the sunshine is awakening my spirit. I feel as though the intensity of the past few years is floating away and I am seeing opportunities to surf and connect with parts of myself that have been given to my little girl.
I have learned so much about art and the business of making and selling commercial art. I am in a fortunate position as my husband's business is meeting the basic needs of living and so I have a little bit of space to develop my business without too much pressure. Of course, I want to be able to contribute and whatever it is that I can generate will go towards increasing the fun factor in our lives.
We all have a passion for adventure and I think that there is going to be a lot of fun ahead. I can't wait to share the things I love with Tabitha, to go splashing in the ocean and go for long walks. Time is a funny thing though. I know that I am already looking back and seeing time measured in how much she has grown, in all the things she can do now and I marvel in it.
How amazing and how precious life is and how much meaning my girl has given to my life. I see my art growing now as she grows. I want to create things to inspire and delight her. To give her a positive impression of the world and also to give all girls images of strength and courage, so that they can be a force for good. I want to be able to share the magic that I have found and it is my pleasure to be able to do it.
I met Annie, many years ago when I first moved to Cornwall and loved her positive energy. Annie has a shining spirit that radiates through to her work which is full of magical dancing tree spirits, Angels, guardians and feminine energy. She is a very spiritual person and has had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama, which caused a significant shift in her artistic direction and led to the creation of her first book for children, ‘The Hare and the wise old Apple Tree’.
What was it like to meet the Dalai Lama? How did the experience lead you to create The Hare and the Apple Tree?
I was honoured to do three days of teachings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama many years ago with a large group of students. The whole experience was amazing, as even before he came into the room I could feel his gentle loving energy, which brought tears to my eyes…
The teachings were very profound and hard to follow at times, but the energy was incredible as he is such a humble man full of peace and compassion. On the last day of the teachings we were allowed to ask questions and one of the Buddhist students asked, “What can we do about all the violence in the world and terrorism?” To which the Dalai Lama replied: “We cannot change the past, but we can change the future by teaching our children of love, kindness and compassion.” It was this answer that really struck a chord and at that moment I decided I would like to illustrate a positive children’s book full of such messages.
Three weeks later a writer friend met a lady on a train who was looking for someone to illustrate a positive children’s book! And so the story began. That was over ten years ago now, but the Dalai Lama’s answer still resonated strongly and thus I went on to write and illustrate my first book, ‘The Hare and the Wise Old Apple Tree’. I have also teamed up with a child psychologist and together we have launched ‘Bear Books’, a publishing company where we were guided to use the wisdom of animals to tell children’s stories with teachings dedicated to their wellbeing. The stories will cover issues such as: seen but not heard, feeling alone and misunderstood, it must be my fault, bullying, claiming back our power and other challenges children face.
What were the biggest challenges for you when you were creating your book?
The story came through to me in about an hour which was incredible, but then it took nearly two years to illustrate and publish the story, partly because of not having the confidence in myself as a writer which I had to overcome, and partly because it was my story and so it all had to be perfect and flow..
The process was actually the same as creating my paintings, as I would start with a meditation and tune in to the message I was trying to get across, then an image would come in the form of a rough sketch and then in tuning in again the feeling of the illustration would emerge along with the colours etc…and the paining would unfold…
I find the process of painting intuitively fascinating and I know that you are able to connect very deeply with the energy of your subjects when you are creating spiritual portraits. Can you describe your experience with this?
It is a magical experience each time I create a spiritual portrait, and a process of me having to totally hand over and let go and really trust, which at first was terrifying. But now several years of creating such intuitive channelled paintings I am more relaxed and go with whatever is knowing it is the right thing…
For example I was painting a portrait for a small boy, one of the first ones I had created, and the first visualisation that came to mind was him swimming with a rabbit! This was in the early days when I would sit in meditation with the person I was creating for, so I asked if he had a rabbit, to which he replied no, and if he liked swimming which he also said no…but that is clearly what I saw, and then angels came, a lion protecting him and other symbols. His mum then came into the room and I asked her if he had a rabbit, to which she replied, “oh yes but he doesn’t really like it but goes flying with it in his dreams every night..”
I was so relieved and knew trusting that what I saw was exactly right. When the painting was finished and delivered to the boys home, a week or so later his mum called me to say he sat and meditated with his painting daily, was sleeping better and doing better at school. This was incredible news, and gave me the confidence to continue with the portraits and totally trust the process and know it was for the highest good.
Do you ever feel creatively blocked and if so how do you overcome this?
Actually I have never felt creatively blocked but run ‘painting with meditation’ workshops and work with artists and creative people who are…The process of beginning with a meditation brings us back to the moment and our true creative selves allowing all fears and limitations often causing such blocks to disappear and amazing things happen.
What artists are you currently inspired by?
I am and have always been inspired by Klimt, Monet, Van Gogh, Susan Sedon Boulet, and any artist that is coming from the heart and paints intuitively.
Your workshops Art From the Heart, sound lovely! What could someone expect to experience?
I run the 'Art from the Heart Painting with Meditation' workshops primarily from my garden studio now, as I find the nurturing experience of being in a secluded tropical garden really helps people to feel safe and open their hearts.. During the workshop we use guided meditation to connect to the present moment, our hearts, and creativity to allow the paint to flow onto the paper and any fears and inhibitions to remain outside.
It is a magical journey tailored to the individuals attending. The meditations often reveal messages and intuitive insights as well as healing experiences leaving the student in a place of peace and connected which then inspires amazing creative expression. People come with no painting experience or lots but feeling blocked, and always leave with at least two paintings they are pleased with and a smile on their faces.
What is the best thing about living in North Cornwall?
I love the energy of the north coast. The aqua blue turquoise ocean ever changing as it crashes onto the long white sands. I also feel very lucky to live in a wonderful creative community where the children can play freely outdoors.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on our first Bear Books publication, ‘Bodhi Bear’, hopefully to be out by Christmas. Also my own paintings are moving more into a deeper place as I reconnect with my shamanic roots and soul journey.
Do you have any plans for the future direction of your work?
I always go with the flow of how I am feeling in the present moment… For example I have been really into mindfulness meditation this last year and this really has developed into quite a few of my paintings. So for now I will meditate and see what comes, but my feeling is an exploration of my deep spiritual path, and the ongoing question of why we are here.
Many thanks to Annie for sharing her story and thank YOU for reading! I hope you have enjoyed it.
You can read more about ANNIE and her work here: http://www.annieb-art.co.uk
Join her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/annieb.artist
This is the result of a 3rd Thursday (Svslearn.com) project idea to illustrate a fortune cookie. The first quote I found was 'a beauty surrounds you because you create it.'
3rd Thursdays are great as they give you 'real world' assignments to help build your portfolio and you also have the potential to have your work picked for critique by the awesome teachers on the Svs site: Will Terry Jake Parker and Lee White.
The forum is is also a great way to get feedback from your peers and is really useful to get feedback, support and encouragement.
I tend to visualise my work first, before I even sketch anything. I like to be confident that I am happy with the concept first and then I start working on basic shapes and placement.
I wanted to work on my lettering and so I decided to learn a bit more about the process. I watched a tutorial on Skillshare and found it really enlightening how the conception process for designing lettering is as involved as working on images. Lettering is actually fascinating and now I'm a little hooked!
I wanted the words to be curving around so that it echoed the idea contained in the word 'surround' and to look pretty and sweet.
The image itself I wanted to look as though pretty things were all coming from the play in the puddle.
This was a different style for me but I really enjoyed it and now want to work on a series of fortune cookie pictures! Stay tuned for more!
Interview with Lucy Magicmaker
Lucy Magicmaker is the author and illustrator of the charming Marmalade the Mouse books. After reading The Cornish Adventure to my little girl I wanted to learn more about the creator of this quirky series and find out why a little mouse has become such a big character.
Marmalade's story begins with Marmalade's Jammy Adventure, where he is frustrated at living such a normal life. He falls asleep and has a vision where he is then inspired to go and make lots and lots of jam.
When you started the Jammy Adventure, did you also have a vision of his future adventures around Britain?
Yes. I knew the Marmalade the Mouse books would be a hardback watercolour illustrated series, and that the journey for me as a writer would take many years to complete. I hadn't yet reailsed that Marmalade would travel county by county around Great Britain, in fact, after the Devon book where the little mouse finds the courage he needs to step forth into a bigger world, I thought he would go to London, and then I even thought he might board a ship for New York. Marmalade does set off for London in the second book, but he ends up by mistake in Cornwall, and this was as much of a surprise to me, as it was to the mouse. Marmalade does seem to go where the wind blows him, and I am also taken along on that journey with him. I did know that the Marmalade the Mouse stories would involve travel, history and nature. And, as the Cornish Adventure came into being, it dawned on me what the little mouse was up to. Marmalade had a plan to "county hop" around Great Britain. You think you know where a story, or a series of stories, is going, and when you sit down to write, things work out differently ... and if you have the courage to just let things unfold, I think the adventure for everyone is much more fun ?
Have you always created stories and characters?
Yes, in my head I have always imagined characters living and speaking alongside me. I always had imaginary friends. I was born as an extremely creative, curious child. I loved art and encyclopedias and illustrations and dictionaries and phrase books containing antiquated English sayings. I loved from the age of five years everything that I still love today. As a child, from the first years that I could wander off, I would disappear across the fields for hours, and if people in my village thought I was alone, they were mistaken. I lived on a farm near Salcombe in South Devon and from a very young age would walk the lanes and cliffs and beaches. I could be gone all day, and no one would think that odd. It was different in the countryside back then. I would climb trees, collect pebbles and lug them up the cliff path. I would turn seashells into mice, and I actually made an entire family of little stuffed felt mice, just like the ones in Marmalade the Mouse's shopping cart today. In the winter time or evenings, I would make little books with stapled spines, and would spend hours writing stories and illustrating them ... and I oddly always put copyright Lucy and the year on the back cover. I was publishing in my bedroom by the age of about 5. I always had stories and characters with me in my world.
There is a lot of love for Cornwall in Marmalade's Cornish Adventure - is this something that you share?
Yes. The Cornish Adventure is totally personal to me. There oddly wasn't much research to do. I just gathered all that I knew of Cornwall from my childhood visits, and time living there in later life and put it into one story. All the myths and legends and everything that I have held dear for a lifetime went into the pages of the book. It was actually a very emotional book for me to write. I felt a great sense of ancestral homecoming. I wrote the story for my ancestors. They were tin miners called Trewartha and lived on the rough cliffs out near Gwithian as far back as Cornish records go, and probably a good many years before records began. They had a hard life. Many of my ancestors died in the mines. They had to struggle just to survive, and I felt that they might be proud and happy to know that they are remembered. Although I was born in South Devon, I feel as though I've come home as soon I get over the Tamar Bridge and start journeying into Cornwall. I feel such an ancient connection to the land and the memories that are held in the landscape.
What is your favourite place in Cornwall?
Probably more my favourite landscape than place ... I would have to say Wendron and Porkellis .. Carnmenellis way ... I love bracken, especially in autumn when it turns copper red and brown, and when the skies are dark and moody and the autumn afternoon sun sets over this rugged landscape, There's a certain point in the afternoon early evening, when the sun catches the bracken that the whole place lights up like a movie. the landscape becomes so strikingly beautiful, and then I know I am home. I like places that are untouched and ancient ... rocky and craggy. Zennor would be another favourite spot, and of course that has the advantage of having both bracken, rocky outcrops and the sea. I like places where the landscape is bigger than the people.
How have you found your journey as a writer/illustrator?
There have been many ups and downs. Too many to tell you about. When you know that you are born to write, and when you finally accept that you will spend the next few years writing about a charming but cheeky mouse who is going to drag you around every 'blooming county' in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, then you know you've utterly surrendered to your fate. And once surrendered, you don't fight the daily ups and downs anymore. They are just a part of the journey. I focus on the positive too, and at the end of each day, I run through all the good stuff in my head, and give thanks for the luck and good fortune that has come my way. You need an incredible amount of passion to throw yourself wholeheartedly into something huge ... no matter what line of work you are in, or what kind of project you have undertaken. Once you are committed, the bumps in the road don't matter. You just keep going, and as corny as it may sound, you learn to love the journey each and every day.
If you could give yourself any advice when you first started knowing what you know now, what would it be?
To not rush, or set yourself harsh deadlines. To not be in such a hurry, or believe that you would write your first book and everything would fall into place immediately, and to not feel such personal disappointment when stockists and bookshops and buyers didn't throw themselves at your feet to order 100 copies, but just to better understand that anything worth its weight takes time, and that the pieces of the jigsaw will fall into place when they are ready, or when you are ready. I would have allowed myself more time to breathe out and relax. I often now think of an Irish saying that goes something like ... "Let love grow like the green grass in the fields." If you can let your writing and illustrating and business grow at about that same pace, and find the time each day to watch the leaves on the trees change colour, then you will have slowed your world down enough to marvel at the magic of everything around you. This is my world today. It was not my world when I started the mouse books.
Where do you see Marmalade going in the future?