Tell us a little bit about how you became an artist
I grew up surrounded by wonderful photographs from all over the world as my mother is a travel photographer. Growing up I drove my parents mad by drawing on every surface I could find. I was academic at school and didn’t visualize becoming an artist as I had lots of other plans! Despite that I always found myself in the art room because the creative process gave me incredible energy. I love finding new ways to tell stories through drawing and painting. After a year of studying economics and politics at university I realized that I wanted to go to art college and become an artist. From the moment I got there I was sure this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What do you feel has been your greatest professional achievement?
The work I made in 2008 on Obama’s Presidential campaign, In Seven Days…, is in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams when I was at art college that I would achieve that in my own lifetime!
However, I feel my greatest achievement on a spiritual, personal and creative level is a project I am still working on: The Light. The Light has been a ten-year odyssey sitting in on the private meetings of religious leaders all over the world including the Pope, the Dalai Lama and the Grand Mufti of Egypt. I am trying to bring to life the 21st century story of how we understand each other and define ourselves spiritually.
What does strength mean to you?
Wow, that’s a tough question! Strength to me is finding the space and humility to understand other people, not just myself (which is a big enough job!). It’s the ability to constantly reassess competing priorities and most importantly it is finding the blessings in difficult situations and life's challenges.
What motivates you?
I feel so grateful to have a job where no day is the same. I never know where the creative process is going to take me and the thrill is in understanding new things about human beings, as well as devising new techniques and ways to communicate this through my art.
My amazing husband and my three children inspire and motivate me on a daily basis. My work In Seven Days… was made for them. My boys were babies when a mixed-race man who looked like them was elected President of America.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The early mornings are all about getting my three children up, breakfasted and ready for school. Once they are at school, I begin planning my day and thinking through what I am going to do. I try to get urgent phone calls and admin tasks finished before spending as many hours as I can making art. I aim to have meetings at the beginning or end of the day or my creative time gets swallowed up. The great thing about having a busy studio is that I’m working on lots of exciting projects, but I have to be careful to keep my quiet reflective time, which I need to make new work. Late afternoon I become a taxi driver, homework monitor, and mum again. I sometimes go out in the evenings for work but try to limit it to two nights a week.
What do you do just for yourself to relax?
I have acupuncture and reflexology as often as I can.
What is your advice for achieving a good work life balance?
Having boundaries, not checking my phone when I am with the children, keeping weekends for the family and finding time for myself so that I stay healthy and can plan my time properly.
3 foods you can’t live without?
Spinach, eggs, and at Christmas: Italian Panettone!
What would you like to do more of?
We recently had a third child and I haven’t been exercising as much as I used to. I am looking forward to getting back to running in the park. I would also like more time to see my girlfriends, and my fantasy is having a bit of time to do nothing at all!
What does wellness mean to you
Apart from my physical health the most important thing to me is having the emotional energy to engage deeply with all the activities I do in my life, as well as connecting with the people around me.
Three women you admire
Frida Kahlo, she nailed issues on femininity, motherhood and what it is to be an artist. Michelle Obama, I can’t wait to see what she does next! Elle Macpherson, she’s shown me how to look after myself and feel good, and she inspires me to continue to reach higher.