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'Paintings of birds and animals set in jewel colours with gold leaf tell the story of a paradise garden.'

We mostly live in cities where we might long for an enclosed garden in which to find an hour of sunlit peace. In a time of intense change I aim to celebrate what’s important in this world.In my paintings you will find the natural world; birds, animals and trees in an imagined landscape. I create a complete dreamlike world using colour, pattern and narrative. I build up layers of paint in intense colours to give depth. Pure gold leaf adds a rich, warm glow.

I’ve been an artist all my life. Born in Zimbabwe, I grew up from the age of four in the North East of England, moved to Cambridge then lived in Europe and Kenya for some years. All the places I traveled to influenced the way I paint. I now live in a town house in the Shropshire Marches on the border with Wales.

'I am self-taught as an artist.'

My curiosity about the world drew me to Cambridge to study geography – one of the first women at my college in its 400-year history. Then, finding myself a single parent with two small children, I turned my passion into my career. I started working as a freelance illustrator, illustrating children’s books, designing cards and licensing art for merchandise. The stories I brought to life were myths and folktales from around the world.

'My paintings offer a golden sanctuary – a magical paradise garden outside of time.'

In my current work, I have gathered all this experience into imagining original fine art paintings in paint and gold leaf. More and more I worry about the fragility of our planet. In my own lifetime I’ve noticed fewer insects and animals around me. I want to celebrate the Earth’s wonderful diversity and richness in my art.

Drawing on Indo-Persian and Medieval traditions, such as illuminated manuscripts, Renaissance art and Moghul miniatures, I use a strong composition to draw the viewer in. Details then gradually emerge that you may not have seen at first sight.

I apply gold leaf with paint, on paper or gesso board and use sgraffito to create varying textures that enrich the surface and catch the light. Gold leaf has a fascination for me – it can 'illuminate' a painting. At different times of day it will change as the light changes, animating the room.

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A painting might be a forest – you see the trees and the stag. There is the sense of a chase. You may not notice at once the monkey holding a branch – perhaps he is escaping with the tree of knowledge? Then you see the peregrine and lark in the tree tops, and the rabbits and plants in the undergrowth, and the story is developed. Allusions to ancient art give us a sense of security, yet anything might happen. There is room for the viewer’s own interpretation of the scene.

'I love working to commission, weaving precious elements from individual lives into a unique and very personal work of art.'

My light-filled studio sits in the town centre high above the River Severn. I find endless inspiration in the river and the beautiful Shropshire countryside. Drawing on memories of living in different parts of the world, deep childhood impressions from the North York Moors, the Essex coast where I used to stay with my Gran, and Zimbabwe where I was born.

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My rambling old house was once part of a nursing home: more than one visitor has told me their mum or their uncle was born in the room where I paint. It gives it a very positive vibe. I’ve lived in this house for 30 years, filled it with books and textiles and created a garden, with winding paths, turns and surprises – and always full of birdsong!