Drawn to Life: workshops at The Artistry House for The Big Draw Festival

Ruskin quote pic 1

Above: A drawing workshop participant eyes up her chosen plant specimen. We referenced John Ruskin quotations as thought provoking mottos within the sessions.

I was super pleased when The Artistry House people asked me to host  drawing workshops with them, for The Big Draw in October 2019, in association with The Friends of Winckley Square.

The Big Draw  is the world’s largest drawing and visual literacy festival and this year its theme ‘Drawn to Life’ celebrates and explores the benefits of being actively creative, to make positive change and improve wellbeing. The festival brings people together all over the world, to champion the ever increasing evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that a more creative life really can improve your health.

Our sessions were inspired by nature and we took up John Ruskin’s approach to ‘drawing as a way of seeing’.  Like Ruskin, I believe that drawing is a disciplined and intensely mindful practice. Its a way to learn directly through observation of the world in all its inter-connected complexity, by and for oneself, rather than only learn about it from a distance, through written language or mediated by the education system.

At The Artistry House event, several free drawing sessions took place throughout the afternoon, and artists with a wide range of previous experience, from novices to art professionals, took part.

There was great company, exchange of skills and experiences, working with colour and a variety of drawing media. The beautifully restored interior of The Artistry House, and the many artworks and objects on display,  enforced our sense of art and creativity as a way of being.  We felt a connection to nature and to each other, through drawing, with the mellow autumn sunlight streaming in.

A restorative and inspirational afternoon.  Thank you to everyone who took part.

Proud artists

Wash Big draw 2experienced handsLiulahBig DrawSpecial thanks to Uzma Padia for her assistance and drawing skills.

workshop EwaBig Draw 2worshop tableFamilyHands pencilsB and W drawingrosehip 1

Making our mark in the park.

In addition to the drawing event in The Artistry House, I devised and led a series of group walking activities for The Big Draw and Preston Arts Festivals, in association with The Friends of Winckley Square. These creative walks meandered through Avenham and Miller Parks in the centre of Preston, during October 2019. A sequence of creative exercises took place at points along the way.

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Walkers’ creative ‘kit':  containing A5 notebook/sketchbook, pencil, graphite stick, wooden peg … and in this case, a horse chestnut seed. Other kits contained seeds from different trees.


Slowing down and getting into the right state of mind and body…


Making connections, drawing lines…



A collaborative creative writing exercise took place on the move: on the steps, around the grass circle, by the river,  fountain and in the bandstand.




On each of the walks  we made collaborative artworks, placed midway across the old railway bridge over the river Ribble, as material reminders of the benefits to mind and body of creativity and being fully present in the moment. Feeling more aware and in touch with our surroundings aids calmness and a sense of connection and balance and has been shown to improve mental health and physical wellbeing. Bringing awareness to the present moment can be especially helpful for those feeling weighed down by the past, or fearful of the future.

IMG_0785We made graphite drawings, rubbings and gestural interpretations of atmosphere,  using templates provided, to aid composition. We compiled all the drawings using magnets on the side of the old iron bridge.

We interpreted the perpetually flowing river as a metaphor for time passing and the midway crossing point on the bridge, to signify our NOW moment: neither past or future.




On another occasion, we collected yellow as we moved through the park, sorted the colours into shifting autumnal shades to make a leaf circle.  As an ancient symbol of holism and unity, our circle seemed both enduring and ephemeral.


Thank you to all the walkers for their active participation and creative generosity, and especially to Manda Johnson-Holme and Glennis Hulme for their encouragement, creativity and practical assistance.

Special thanks to Tony Lewis, Park Warden for Avenham and Miller Parks,  for his support and creative input to The Big Draw walks.

Grass art 1









Some touchstones in the development of these creative walks have been

Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) Klee’s highly individual art style was influenced by Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. He was a natural draftsman who also deeply explored colour theory. He taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. https://www.paulklee.net

Hannah Tuuliki is a Finnish/Scottish contemporary artist working in the landscape, with voice, drawing and gesture. https://www.hannatuulikki.org

Richard Long – one of Britain’s best-known land artists. http://www.richardlong.org

Nancy Holt (1938-2014) An american artist who pioneered a unique aesthetic of perception, as a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements. http://www.nancyholt.com

Hamish Fulton – English artist who translates his walking into a variety of media. http://www.hamish-fulton.com

Andy Goldsworthy OBE is a British artist known for his site-specific installations involving natural materials and the passage of time. Andy studied art at Preston Polytechnic. Watch a recent film about his work here: https://www.leaningintothewind.com

C.G. Jung (1875 –1961) Swiss born founder of analytical psychology, Jung was also an artist, craftsman and builder as well as a prolific writer. He cited an intense period of art making as hugely influential in the development of his theories of the unconscious. Suggest his last book, an autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ as a starting point.

‘The Spell of the Sensuous. perception and language in a more-than-human-world.’ David Abram. Vintage Books. David Abram is an American philosopher, cultural ecologist, and performance artist, best known for his work bridging the philosophical tradition of phenomenology with environmental and ecological issues. https://wildethics.org

‘Presence’ is a leading British Haiku journal. www.haikupresence.org

Schumacher College is an internationally renowned learning community in Devon, offering ecology-centred masters programmes and short courses.   https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk

The Big Draw


The world’s largest drawing and visual literacy festival and this year its theme ‘Drawn to Life’ celebrates and explores the benefits of being actively creative to make positive change and improve wellbeing.

The festival brings people together to champion the ever increasing evidence, both anecdotal and academic, that a more creative life really can improve your health.

At The Artistry House 

Winckley Square, Preston.
Saturday 12th October 2019 12 – 4pm

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Live art sessions hosted by artists Fiona Candy and Atlantic Contemporary, will run informally throughout the afternoon. Join the Big Draw with the Friends of Winckley Square on Saturday 12th October for ‘HUMAN-NATURE’ at The Artistry House, 16 Winckley Square, Preston. The Artistry House doors will be open from 12 – 4 and you are welcome to pop in at any time during the afternoon to be inspired by art and explore the house.  You are invited to participate and explore your creative side with live art sessions on portraiture and inspired by nature.”

Please note art places will be limited and provided on a first come first serve basis.

For booking information see Eventbrite: here




for The Big Draw and Preston Arts Festival

Walk in the park frameJoin us for a companionable and creative group walk through Avenham and Miller Parks.

During the walk we will introduce simple ways to tune in to and be inspired by the  landscape: its atmosphere and sensory qualities.  We will draw, write and make, as we trace our movement through the park, working together to experience and experiment, using materials provided.

The walk lasts about 2 hours. Places are limited.

See more on Instagram at  theskyofparadise

Walk 1

The Big Draw event info is here for Saturday October 5th 2019, 14:00 – 16:00  and book at Eventbrite here: here

Walk 2

The Big Draw event info is here for Sunday October 13th, 10:00 – 12:00 and book at Eventbrite here:

A series of other guided walks on a range of topics, organised by the Friends of Winckley Square, will wander and weave through the centre of Preston, during the first three weeks of October 2019 as part of Preston Arts Festival.

More information about all of these walks here