7 February 2020

Meet The Artists – Mary Woodin

Posted in: Artworks news, Illustration, Meet the artist

Suffolk based Illustrator Mary Woodin has been with The Artworks for over 30 years. Joining the agency just after she graduated the RCA, Mary’s distinctive and traditional style has seen her work with clients such as Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Wedgwood and The National Trust (just to name a few!).

Mary’s Favourite Project, since joining The Artworks, has been her Illustrated book ‘The Painted Garden’. “The first book I wrote and illustrated, ‘The Painted Garden’, was very special because it was a) my first book b) I had complete free reign over its content and c) I painted and hand lettered every single page. More importantly it gave me a love for recording and diarising my surroundings and led to The Painted Garden Cookbook, in which I wrote recipes using the ingredients I was growing in my country garden.”

We spoke to Mary to hear more about her life as an Artist…

Where do you live?

I live in Suffolk, in a crooked old farmhouse surrounded by fields and orchards, near the quaint and ancient market town of Eye… (heads up, early closing on Tuesdays, and a fish van on Fridays, if you should be visiting!)

Where is your studio located?

I share a light and airy studio in the garden with my artist husband.

The commute is 62 paces down the garden path, and usually involves a catch up with the chickens and a detour into the greenhouse.

Can you describe your creative process?

I work with good old tubes of watercolour paint, brushes, coloured pencils, pen and ink etc. I simply love the tactile quality of moving colour around on paper. There’s no doubt though, a bit of additional jiggery pokery in photoshop has saved many a piece of artwork. Increasingly I’ll paint separate elements and put them together in photoshop to give me more flexibility with composition and scale.

What does a typical working day look like?

My working day starts with ten minutes of stretches, a freshly laid egg and strong black coffee.

I’ll glance at my ‘to do’ list, and push it aside, again. If I’m starting a new project I might well mooch round the garden for reference material but then I’m basically sat at my desk all day! Great view though… over the pond fringed by Dawn Redwoods, an Indian bean tree and American Oak and visited by an itinerant gang of gossiping ducks.

Lunch in the summer months will be a handful of salad leaves from the garden, eaten outside under my personal palm tree. In winter I’ll be hunched over a bowl of homemade soup.

Do you listen to music or the radio whilst you work? If so, what’s on your playlist?

I listen to Radio 3 while I’m working, it’s become a comfort blanket, but if they dare to play Philip Glass or Steve Reich I’ll switch to some Jan Garbarek jazz in protest. If I need to crank up the pace I might sing along to Mika full blast.

How long have you been with the Artworks for?

I’ve been with the Artworks since I left the RCA in, ahem 1988. Work that one out.

What drew you to Artworks?

Serendipity brought us together. An illustrator friend of mine came to see my final show and mentioned that his agent was looking for someone who could paint flowers! My background was in textiles and ceramics but I was young and fearless and up for a challenge, so I took my floral folio round to The Artworks the following week! The rest is history.

What books or programs did you love as a child? Have they influenced your work in any way?

I grew up in a television-less household, so spent a lot of time turning the pages of my absolute favourite book ‘The Butterfly Ball’ 1973! I can still remember every detail in the exquisite illustrations by Alan Aldridge. I guess a fascination with detail is innate within me and definitely comes through in my own work. A generation later I have loved reconnecting with picture books through my own children… John Burningham won my heart.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be instead?

Ohhh definitely a chef… or a garden designer, I’m as passionate about food and plants, as I am paint and paper.

What was the most important lesson your learned at Art School, if you went!

At art school we were brow beaten into drawing plants one day a week. That discipline of observing and drawing, not just plants, has stuck with me.

What inspires you the most to create?

I am surrounded by the wonderful light, and colour of the countryside, which seeps under your skin through osmosis. A lot of what I create aims to capture the essence of that beauty. However, I get very excited by hugely contrasting trips to the city and enjoy scribbling that buzz down on paper too.

Name three artists that you admire

Off the top of my head, David Hockney big time, John Nash, Glynn Boyd Harte… but there are soooo many more.

What kind of commissions do you enjoy the most?

I love something that chimes with my passions, so all things ‘nature’ is a safe bet. I relish designing packaging across a range of products or getting thoroughly involved in a book project.

What would your dream commission be?

Right now I’m enjoying drawing urban architecture and country house interiors; I would love to turn that into a book project somehow.

Do you have any pets? If so, what and what are they called?

Two cats, Lily and Frostie, seven chickens, Ziggy, Marley, Beth (Chatto), Gertrude (Jekyll), Brownie 1, 2, and 3. I’m on the lookout for more Muscovy ducks to replace Ted, Maud and Toby who got eaten by a pesky fox. But then again… we ate our pig Joan!

What 5 things could you not live without?

My sourdough starter, my vegetable plot, sunshine, my running shoes, lemons.

What is your very favourite meal?

Impossible question for a foodie, can only narrow it down by saying definitely savoury…vegetables, fish, cheese.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

You’ll find me charging round our three acre garden with a wheel barrow, baking bread, cooking for friends, making curtains, covering sofas, practising ungainly moves at HIIT classes, beach-combing, and checking the local weekly auction for things I don’t really need. Or for a real break, I’ll visit my grown up kids in London and hit the galleries.

What is your current dream travel destination?

Considering the nip in the air today Arizona has shot to the top of my list.

See more of Mary’s work here.