I am a senior lecturer in the Illustration department at the university of portsmouth where my main practice is in the area of Artists’ Books. I began producing books for my PhD by practice in 2001. I produce limited edition, hand made books and these can be viewed with concepts, sketchbooks and a complete set of their pages at
Map Passion Books.
Book art is increasingly being employed by art students as a creative way to promote concepts through self-publishing. My research in this area has led to an online digital archive and a collection called The Ministry of Books that can be used as a pedagogic resource providing research and creative opportunities offered by the collection to inspire through their diverse formats and references to philosophy, language, history, literature and science. A systematic collection of artists' books within the school began 15 years ago. These books were not archived and were locked away. I have gathered this hidden resource and built it from 27 to about 160 Artists’ Books.
As an educator I believe it is important to put myself in the position of learner too. I registered for a PhD with all the benefits of this for my students and the course. It enabled me to reconnect with a greater empathy to the students allowing a realisation that I was involved in similar academic and creative pursuits and had an understanding of the pressures involved. I see my responsibility as to excite and inspire students, through my own practice and those of other colleagues, to stimulate a desire to become more aware of the importance and validity of their chosen area of practice. My thesis explores how our notion of mapness is related to our knowledge, reading and understanding of the complex visual language of the map, through an investigation of how we relate to the way maps look and the structures that underpin them. The processes of creating map-like artifacts through the author's own practice are reported upon and inform a drawing forth of historical, theoretical and practical perspectives that act in conjunction to influence the artistic and design expression to communicate mapness. My ‘Mappassion’ PhD by practice website was designed to inspire others by demonstrating analysis of a methodology and the creative process introducing sketchbooks and research.
Other areas of research
The ImageXchange, an international collaborative research project with Dr Jackie Batey
from the University of Portsmouth, resulting in an Internet knowledge database hub.
Engagement with progressive technological support and dissemination mechanisms has
initiated a series of projects that have resulted in international collaboration in the field of
thematic illustration archive and production. It involves the curation of a framework for a
number of comparative intercultural illustration projects, involving co-ordinated pedagogic
exercises and exhibitions, exchanged and archived in an on-line environment both nationally
and internationally. This framework holds large databases of visual and textual information
and has led to an improved understanding of the social responsibilities of designers and
illustrators and how to better develop students’ social and interpersonal skills. By
collaborating through projects requiring students to create links and communicate with their
counterparts in other countries they critically analyse work produced by other students
looking at cultural similarities and differences.
Through collaboration with Dr Jackie Batey we have designed and built a visual
research archive ‘The Visual Language of Number’. This integrates our research and
learning and teaching to arouse student curiosity introducing them to the richness of the
Internet to explore scientific subject matter through the arts. It aims to stimulate the students
into new thinking and debate. Success over the years has led to a large digital archive and
gallery exploring numerical and scientific themes showcasing creative work of students,
staff and commercial artists and designers. It supports student research and examples of work
include animations of the life of Pythagoras, an illustrated periodic table and the complete
Oliver Byrne Edition of the Elements of Euclid.
Visual Libraries: Leave Your Mark
With the rise in the importance of sketchbooks evidenced through the Accessart project
‘Sketchbooks in Schools’ through to a global project ‘1001 Journals’ I became aware of the
importance of these to provide a space which can be used to develop creative and critical
thinking skills, through the use of drawing, note-taking, collecting, etc offering great potential
as a medium of expression for all. Through collaboration with Claire Sambrook from Creative
Technology and Portsmouth Libraries we have introduced 100 sketchbooks into the
Portsmouth City Libraries. Workshops are run to disseminate the concept and possibilities for
the community. Our passion is to extend this project to be as inclusive as possible and this has
led to funding from a number of external sources enabling this to happen. This will be
provided by the delivery of workshops to five community groups, the vision impaired, prison
services, MIND, housebound and the women’s refuge. Funding has been approved to
facilitate raising the profile of excellence through International links in 2010 with The British
Council Library in India, Little Flower Convent for the Blind in Chennai India and ArtHouse
Co-op in Atlanta Georgia USA. Our model for this project is already being used successfully
by Forsyth County Public Library, Winston-Salem, NC. US. Its success can be used as a
model to extend this to new audiences nationally and internationally.