One of the things which helps me in the studio is a ‘mood board’  for my art. It’s good to refresh this and I had become so used to looking at it, that my eyes passed over it and it was no longer serving its purpose.


So what’s a mood board?

You’re probably familiar with interior design mood boards – designers use them to bring together ideas for a new room scheme – they can include swatches, visuals and samples. In this sense a mood board gives you a way to guide the choices you make. It may not contain details, but it gives you an overall feeling and a visual way to play with what you would like to create… things which will make you feel proud and excited to create!

Why does this help?

In art the possibilities are endless, so having a gentle way to keep you aligned can be a big help. It acts a reminder – in a big visual, always visible way – of what interests you. And if you keep following what interests and excites you, then you won’t get bored.

Yes, we can do this in sketchbooks too, but they get left in bags, or the cover is closed and they go back on the shelf. A mood board is a big visual, the overall approach and feel.


If you feel stuck, you have a tangible object to come back to to reignite your ideas, perhaps see what’s missing, or where you have become stuck in familiar territory rather than following your new year excitement. (PS – you can do this anytime!)

Here is my previous board – you can see I have pieces of fabric, photos of road markings, images from magazines and some older pieces of work which I wanted to refer to.

If you like this idea what’s the best way to go about this? There are a few tips which may help you the first time if this feels unfamiliar and you’re not sure where to begin…


Don’t start with pictures!

I like to start with writing. If I go straight to images I end up choosing from what’s available so the choices are coming from outside me. What I’m looking for is my own internal guidance and writing helps with that.

There are a couple of ways you can approach this:

ONE: like morning pages as recommended in The Artists Way; simply write longhand whatever comes to mind about your work until you cover three pages. Julia Cameron advises that you don’t go back and re-read them, but for this exercise I would go back with a highlighter and mark what seems relevant. You may end up with some specific things like “work bigger” or you may find more emotional ties – like a frustration that you never find enough time for your creative work or you are stuck within a particular style.

You won’t find a totally clear answer straightaway – this is a process which can be repeated – and you can adjust your board accordingly.

THE SECOND WAY: is to mind map with single words which feel important. This is faster. If you keep following the spider-arms and questioning what it means to you, you will end up pushing your ideas further. This can be challenging, but being more specific will help your ideas. Instead of ‘work in a series’ what does that mean to you? Will they all be the same size or are you finding links across different mediums.

The answers may not all go onto your board, but could start to create different creative projects for you to focus on.

What materials do I need?

I like to use a cork board and pins. That way you can rearrange and adjust; add and remove elements as you move through the year. I painted my board with leftover house paint – just a pale neutral colour, but you could go for bolder or dark… most of it will be covered, but I don’t like that dull brown as a starting point!

You could also use normal card and stick or tape the elements down.

What should you put on it?

Anything goes, but here are some suggestions:

  • images from magazines – think about the kind of home your work would look amazing in, or use fashion magazines and adverts are especially good for backgrounds with beautiful colour variations. YO could look for intresting textures and shapes in travel magazines. I find it helps to pick magazines where the photography is inspirational or more ‘arty’ or design led – the images are more distinctive
  • fabric strips
  • colour swatches – either from paint sample charts, or paint your own.
  • images of other artists’ work – but think about WHY it inspires you – be specific about what it has which you would like to bring to your own work in your own way.
  • images of your own work – which pieces were pivot pieces for you? What can you learn from them? Those moments deserve to be recorded and reminding yourself that……
  • photographs you’ve taken, or copies from your sketchbook

I also like to write words. Sometimes visuals can be too specific where words give me a looser direction to follow. Cut the letters from magazines, use a stamp, print using your favourite font on your computer or just write by hand (the quickest way!)

You can collect from anywhere, but you are looking for things which raise your excitement level. We want this board to be something which fires you up, which fills you with energy and enthusiasm.

Once you’ve made your board, where should you put it?

I have mine on a shelf just inside my work studio. It’s not directly in front of me while I’m working so I can still concentrate on the painting I’m doing. But it’s still visible all the time. This is something you want to be reminded of, so find a place you will notice it daily.

  • where you will see it when you wake up
  • the room you spend most time in
  • if you are easily distracted, how about putting it where that happens to remind you of what you would really find fulfilling? Prop it in front of the TV, or in the kitchen so that after dinner you spend time on your creative projects.
  • you can even take a photo of it and use it as your screen saver on your phone!


So, what’s on my board for this year?

Overall it’s more spacious – there is a clarity which hasn’t been present before. It feels more single minded. That’s not to say work is fixed or that it won’t deviate from now onwards. Remember this is flexible guide for you, not a rigid set of instructions!

I’ve used small parts of older paintings and visualised them at a larger scale to remind me not to clutter the space. I found the word EDIT in a magazine, and the colours aren’t guides for paintings so much as reminder to play within colour families.

Some things have carried over from last year – that inky streak with the sharp cut out because it reminds to make bold moves, and the list of text…. those are things which interested me last year and still do – what……..(list sample)


What do I need to add?

Something to do with photography…. my iPhone is wonderful, but I would like to use a proper lens more this year to give me more control over the images. I want to collect more of the urban space around me and find a way to use this in my work.


What else could you use this for?

I mentioned this first on Instagram and some people liked the idea of creating a board for each series of work, even each painting or perhaps seasonally would suit you. If you have a go – please tag me so I can see what you make, and let me know below if you think this will be helpful for your own work – or what you might use it for…. holidays? planning a room? things to add in your life?

Here is one I made just exploring autumn colours for a previous painting I was starting. It’s not a formula for the painting, but it’s a good way to explore what you are attracted to and want to include before you pick up the brush and fall into familiar habits of colour mixing!

Want more tips for your art?

Come and join the free Art Explorers group on Facebook where we will be exploring different ways to strengthen your art practice – and how to get it out into the world.







The children rarely hop up and down with excitement when it’s time to take the Christmas decorations down. There is a hesitation to say goodbye and fewer volunteers for this job than the excited unwrapping of the lights and re-discovery of favourite ornaments earlier in December! To me, the house always feels combination of fresh – and a little bit empty. While it’s good to clear and find space, it also feels a little bare and sad for a few days.

This year I’ve kept a set of decorative lights around a favourite painting by Craig Shuttlewood. These are no longer Christmas decorations you understand – I have decided they fall in to the category of mood lighting. Essential!

Candles are the same. We still have a good few weeks of winter to come and anything which keeps spirits high and lets us enjoy the darker evenings is a good thing.

Walking the dog yesterday I saw all the trees stacked up in the park, waiting to be collected and disposed of. The irony is that this is the exact same location they were sold from just weeks ago. How quickly some things can go from being carefully compared, chosen and carried home and then lovingly decorated…. to wasted rubbish.

Thankfully now the children are older there is less temptation for wasteful tat for presents – we were away for Christmas so no one has actually had presents yet! My husband chose himself a new weekend bag – a quality leather one he had had his eye on for a while.

Far better to choose well and pick something you know will appreciate for a good while to come.

I love this time of year for taking stock. I have a list of decorating and maintenance jobs in the house. Some are bigger projects, but making changes to just small items is enjoyable when suddenly the house is clean and clear again.

Moving pieces of furniture, making sure you get photos in frames, a new blanket bringing colour to the arm of the sofa. I’ve moved a few pictures around and have a collection of small art works I’ve purchased which are now ready to be framed and grouped together. ( Simon M Smith, a Mark Charlton collage, an original print by Kathy Hutton and some tiny stiched pieces by Gill Boulton)  Little jobs which are satisfying and make a difference. Things taken care of.

click image to see details of this painting

I’ve also been planning the year ahead… some paintings are currently on show in Laveli bakery in Chiswick ready for anyone looking to fill a bare space on their own wall and the next big event is Surrey Contemporary Art Fair 23-25th February. If you are on the mailing list you will receive links to tickets closer the time.

My wishes for this year?

• a bigger working space
• creating a group or programme to support other creatives
• exploring ways to incorporate photography and more graphic elements back in to my work

I’m not entirely sure yet how any of this will evolve. Maybe you are the same with your plans? If you don’t already, I encourage you to write them down somewhere. Somewhere you can review them in a year’s time – perhaps a journal or the page at the start of your diary.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now and it’s quite incredible how things you write have a way of coming true. Including: unexpected travel (an unplanned trip to Japan), to be featured in a magazine (twice!), in January 2017 I wrote “explore making videos” and there are now more than 26 videos on my Facebook page (click here to view them) which have had 26,000 views!

That’s pretty fun results for an experiment and I’ve had some wonderful conversations as a result of them. So if that’s you, thank you for being part of my year and let’s welcome in new experiments and explorations for 2018.

Do let me know your intentions for the year. In fact a better question may be to complete the sentence and write in the comments below:

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if….”