I grew up in a small village, and from a young age could always be found drawing anything around me. From still life to people’s pets, I’d draw whatever I came across! I also grew up inspired by amazing visuals. As a child I loved cartoons like Tom and Jerry, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, He-Man and She-Ra, while also devouring comics like the Scottish publications Oor Wullie and The Broons. The adventures and mischief of these characters, combined with vibrant visuals, still influence me to this day. At age 16 I also joined Newcastle Deaf Drama; we did a lot of shows including comedies, classics and a show called Deaf not Daft. We entered the BDA theatre shows in Blackpool with our show Deaf Life, winning the award for best theatre show.
Despite my passion for these art forms, school was often a cruel environment for me. While I loved subjects like drama, I also spent a lot of time in audiology classes and sign language wasn’t allowed, to the extent that when my friends would try and sign to me teachers would hit us, throw things at us, and make us sit on our hands to force us to use our voices. I constantly faced communication barriers and bullying in a place that should have supported me. I didn’t go out much, because if I needed to communicate it involved writing or trying to speak to people, which I didn’t feel comfortable with. I used this time to draw instead, and wanted to become an artist from a young age.
Unfortunately, when I told a teacher about my love of art they told me they didn’t think I was suited to it, and recommended I become a bricklayer instead. I let go of this dream for a while, and went to work in professional kitchens. While I loved cooking (and still do!), these working environments are extremely busy and stressful, with constant rushing around and a wash of communication. Colleagues mistakenly thought I was slow or couldn’t keep up, when the challenge was actually down to communication barriers.
Fortunately, I was able to find the right support when I decided that professional cooking wasn’t for me, and looked into returning to college. During my interview I showed a portfolio of old drawings. They weren’t fantastic, but the teachers saw my potential. They immediately talked about all the different routes I could pursue, whether it was an artist, painter or graphic designer. After being told for so long that art wasn’t something I was good enough to do, having someone say that not only was it possible, but I had multiple options I could pursue, had a huge impact on me. I just needed the right support and training, and went on to study both graphic design and illustration and animation.
After studying I began to create children’s books, travelling back and forth to London for book festivals and to make contact with publishers. During this time I met Nicole Vivien Watson, and our collaborative work began. I told Nicole about my idea for Gothrella, a tale inspired by the