Monday, 19 March 2012

Sketchbook Peeks - Amy McCarthy

Before we start, tell us a little about yourself/how did you get into art/craft/design career and how it all started and where you are now.....

An old school friend told me that even when we were very small she knew I would end up being an artist! After school I studied textiles and art first at college; then Leeds University. I took a long break from art after my degree and worked as a mental health worker. In 2003 I started a stained glass course at the local college as a hobby, and I have never looked back really! After a couple of years so many friends and acquaintances were getting me to make them windows and gifts that I decided to take the plunge and make it my ‘proper job’. Being an artist is excellent for working around my children (they are playing in the next room whilst I write this) and through glass I have found a way of expressing myself I have not experienced in other mediums; the freedom to really revel in colour and light is fabulous. As well as traditional stained glass, I experiment with fused glass and recycled glass and I also make public sculptures from recycled materials. In 2010 I won the South West Artist Award for one such sculpture and last year I was awarded an Emerging Artist Bursary by Devon Artist Network. I have shops on Folksy, Etsy and my own website and I exhibit in galleries across the UK from Devon to the Scotland!

How long have you been using sketchbooks?
I honestly can’t remember a time of not having special books to draw things in, something I seem to have passed onto my daughter whose eyes light up at the sight of a notebook!

How often do you sketch?
I would love to say I sketch every day, but my skills would be much better if I did! It tends to come in fits and bursts. A new commission will always get me furiously scribbling and a trip to the moors or coast usually ends up with me scribbling something down somewhere. However, increasingly I take photographs and then make sketches at home in the evenings as I usually have my small children with me in the day, who aren’t always sympathetic to me sitting down drawing!

How do you feel about the prospect of starting a new sketchbook?
Full of good intentions and a little thrill of excitement, like getting into a bed made up with crisp, fresh, white sheets! I always intend to date the start point and ONLY use that sketch book until it is full before moving onto the next. I usually do date the start point but then I will draw on ANYTHING when the mood is on me, so my sketch books have turned into a huge explosion of any old bit of paper!

When/where do you get your inspiration for your sketchbook pages?
Details from nature and fabric patterns are a really rich seam of inspiration for me as is the landscape of the South West, where I live. I love the history and legends of the ancient rock formations of the Moors and I often pencil in text explaining the stories behind the Tors to help me keep hold of the atmosphere I am trying to keep hold of

How would you describe your creative process?
Impulsive and a bit explosive! This is why my sketch books are such a big pile of a mess. When an idea strikes I don’t care where I get it down as long as I get it down on paper. I often start with a photo I have taken and then I keep drawing and simplifying until I get an outline suitable to be translated into glass. This process of simplification is central to how I work and I can spend a long time striping back lines and forms until I have something I can translate into glass.

Have your sketchbooks evolved over the years and if so, how?
I have developed my own sketch language which I find very useful for translating things from paper to glass. But this often makes my sketches seem cruder and certainly less beautiful and finished than they used to be. They are very much short hand for inspiration and not nearly as considered and composed as they used to be. I used to work much more with colour than I do now. I think this is a matter of time, now I scribble down a pencil sketch, but in an ideal world not full of small people I would always colour my sketches.

What is your favourite medium to work with?
Gorgeous, amazing, magical glass!

Do you have a favourite sketchbook?
My sketch books from travelling around Italy in my mid 20’s. I had time to draw, all the inspiration of the art and scenery of Italy and lots of nice balconies to work on!

If you had to pick one favourite page which would it be and why?
My sketch of a waterfall in Tivoli near Florence, Italy. Even though it was years ago it instantly takes me back to sitting in the balcony of the ancient converted monastery we were staying in and having a ‘sketch off’ with my friend and drinking wine; he won, he is a much better artsist than me!

If you would like to see more of Amy's work you can check out her Folksy shop here and her website is here, you can see how her colourful and exuberant sketches tranform into stunning work of art in glass. Amy also has a blog too which you can find here where you can follow what she is up to... Thanks for taking part Amy.


  1. thank you for putting me on your gorgous blog x

  2. Another interesting insight into an artist's creative process.


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