An Unconventional Path to Art and Design

In my latest Youtube video I shared the story of how and why I do what I do. I wanted to show that there is no ‘right’ way of achieving something. If you have something you want to do and are working towards doing it then you are already on the right track. The important part is finding your own path and deciding what works for you.


Making things is my passion. It’s how I express myself – since being a child I have always drawn my experiences, whether it was days out or illustrations to sit beside my stories.

Beyond school I never had any art lessons. I believed for a long time that I couldn’t paint, that I could only draw, because my style didn’t seem to fit the way that art was taught in school. I was eighteen when I sat down with a drawing and some watercolours and decided to paint without thinking about composition or technique or colour, and to work in a way that felt really natural to me. That was when it all came together, and I realised I had my own style and my own way of working.

Since then I painted constantly. While I didn’t study art after school, I always painted during my spare time at university, setting up mini painting studios in my rooms. I went back to art in my postgraduate degree, where I studied the history of art and art theory. I still completely believed for a long time that there was no way to earn a living from art. I don’t deny that it is difficult, but it took a while for me to stop believing it was impossible.


Since deciding to go my own way I have worked on some really amazing projects, from curating and exhibition design to metal work and ceramics to graphic design and illustration, as well as starting my blog and my Youtube channel and planning some longer term projects, mainly my books and animations.

It took a lot of indecision and travelling down the wrong path to find out where I want to go. Don’t worry if you are still in that place – I find that the world has a funny way of righting itself. Keep exploring, and more often than not the right way is around the corner.

Do you have a passion that you’re pursuing? Let me know how you are doing it in the comments – I’m looking forward to reading your stories.


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Gaea: The Process

The goddess Gaea weaves through Greek mythology as the personification of Earth and the creator of all life. Greek vases show her as inseparable from her native element, rising from the Earth. In mosaic art she is clothed in green and surrounded by infant gods of things that grow. Described as the eldest of divinities, a giver of dreams, a nourisher of plants, Hellenistic worship of Gaea was a celebration of nature.

The ancient Greek explanation for the creation of the world was written by Hesiod in his poem Theogony in about 700bc. In the beginning there was only Chaos, a great void. From the void appeared the Earth, Gaea, who gave birth to the sky and the sea. The Romans called her Terra, and almost every culture on Earth has a name for her; the Aztec Coatlicue, the Inca Pachamama, the Celtic Dea Matrona, and the Hindu Add Para Shakti.

‘Gaea’ began as a sketch in November last year. I had been reading a lot of Greek mythology and while there are many strong female characters – Artemis, Athena, Nemesis – Gaea stood out to me as a powerful and creative force. I think there is a strong sense of duality about her that makes her such an interesting figure. She is maternal but also the strongest of all the gods, she destroys as well as creates, she brings into being both good and bad, she works in both the physical, natural work and the intangible world of prophecy and dreams.

Gaea, Hannah Rose Shaw, 2016, ink and watercolour on A4 watercolour paper.
Gaea, Hannah Rose Shaw, 2016, ink and watercolour on A4 watercolour paper.

I started this piece by sketching the face and then the leaves and flowers. The drawing process took several hours. I don’t like to rush my work, and I create best when I am in a calm frame of mind and simply let the piece develop.

To colour the drawing I used bold pinks and oranges intermingled with more natural blues and greens, allowing the colours to melt and merge. For this piece I used Daler Rowley watercoloursPebeos’ Colorex watercolour inks – the brightness of which I absolutely love – and tried out my new Finecolour markers, which are subtle but wonderful for adding detail.



I had so much fun working on this piece and working in a slightly different style to usual. The outlines in black pen makes it look more illustrative than my usual work, but I think it fits the boldness of the subject and colours. I’m looking forward to creating more mythology-inspired work. Have an idea which figure I should paint next? Let me know in the comments.

‘Gaea’ is available as an A4 print in my shop.


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How to Always be Developing Creativity

I’ve been getting a lot of questions via my Facebook page asking about being a self taught artist, using different materials, and where to find ideas.

To answer some of these questions I’m making a series posts about my work and some of the techniques I use. Todays post is about creativity, and how to always be developing it.

Creativity is the foundation or any type of creative work, but what is it? I have had friends tell me that I am lucky to be a creative ‘type,’ as if creativity is something that certain people are born with and others aren’t. Sure, maybe some people are more naturally creative than others, but often, creativity comes from hours, weeks, even years of practice.

Sometimes I feel creative and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’d much rather scroll through social media. But I do think there are things you can do to develop your creativity and get your creative buzz going even when you just don’t feel like it.


You have to go out and see things. I don’t mean that you have to go see most beautiful scenery in the world. I mean that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, really look at things. Even the everyday things. Notice them, look at them in a different way, let them take hold of your imagination. If you’re on a bus look out the window, if you’re in the supermarket notice the people around you. Sometimes you see little architectural details and colour schemes, other times you hear a conversation and a scene unfolding. Anything can spark an idea.

To get you started, I really recommend Keri Smith’s books, they’re really fun with simple creative exercise to help you start creating and see the world in a different way. I particularly enjoyed How to be an Explorer of the World and The Wander Society.


Once you begin to notice some interesting things, start to collect. Again, you don’t have to go to exotic scenes for inspiration, just go out on your street and see what you can find. Pick up, keep it, put it in a box or a scrapbook. If you find something that doesn’t give you the spark of an idea, can you use it as a material? Can you collage it, paint it, write on it?

If you don’t want to make a physical scrapbook, use the Internet. Store pictures that you like on Pinterest or Tumblr, refer back to it when you want some inspiration, and soon you will have a personal archive of things that are interesting and mean something to you, and when you need inspiration you will have an amazing resource.


Other creatives are often the very best source of inspiration and advice. Creative friendships where you can bounce ideas off one another are one of the very best ways of improving your work. My friends have helped me develop my work so much and are literally invaluable.


Daily sketching or journaling has helped me to generate regular ideas. Recently, I’ve been filling up sketchbooks every one to two months. As they say, practice makes perfect, and according to the author Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Don’t worry if you’re work isn’t perfect right away!

Sometimes the simple act of doing something that is familiar can help you to create good work. Practice being creative, being disciplines in your work, not getting distracted, letting your creativity flow.


Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. It is only by experimentation and practice that you will learn the types of colours and materials that suit you and develop your own style. Get over the fear of being wrong. I often don’t realise my ideas because art materials are expensive. Why would I want to waste money on a piece of work that I’m not sure I’ll get right? But it is only through practice and experimentation that I will ever become really good at my skill. Sometimes, the most important thing is simply starting.

It’s a process of development. It won’t come together right away, but the important thing is that you are taking action. You are learning. Creativity does not magically appear under the right conditions. It comes through practice, it comes once we open our eyes and put pen to paper.

So, what are you waiting for?


Photo credit: Oliver J Cooper.

Model: Hannah Rose Shaw. 

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