Interview: Claudine O’Sullivan

17 July 2014

Interview: Claudine O’Sullivan

Who’s your favourite artist/ illustrator or designer?
It’s so hard to pick even a handful! My artist inspirations have always been Francis Bacon, Henry Matisse and Lucian Freud. Nowadays, more of my inspiration has come from fellow illustrators. Many of my close friends are illustrators, designers and photographers, all of whom I admire, not only for their beautiful and individualistic work but for their hard working ethic. I’m really lucky to have a close circle of like-minded and extremely hard working friends, which makes the hard days (and months) much easier. Many of us struggle to fund our practice, with almost everyone working full or part time ‘jobs on the side’. Why do we keep going? Because we love what we do so we just have to do it!!!  That’s what I respect most about the industry – the hard work and unwavering passion.

Interview: Claudine O’Sullivan

What do you listen to when drawing? Anything and everything – depending on my mood! Drawing is quite a natural state for me – no matter what my mood! Sometimes its very minimal chill out music, sometimes its folk music from my childhood, harder beats from my youth, cheesy 90s RNB or a Game of Thrones audio book! Sometimes it’s absolutely nothing at all, usually when I’m back in Ireland - just that rare sound of peace and quiet.

How do you get your head in a creative space?
It can be difficult! I weirdly enough find it easier the busier I am, as I have less time to procrastinate!! I work full time in London, so illustrating is crammed into evenings and weekends. I’ve just moved into a really lovely flat in South London with my boyfriend. We have a cosy little collaborative desk space, which makes it easy to bounce around ideas and encourage each other. I think time away from what you do and space to think is really important too. I carry a notebook and sketchbook everywhere as I usually have the best ideas and reach conclusions at random points of the day – be it in the supermarket or on the bus home after a night out.

Interview: Claudine O’Sullivan

What’s your background in art and design? I’ve always studied art and art history in school and it was definitely my main hobby as a child – I was (and still am) awful at sports. I come from quite a creative family, my Mum was very musical and theatrical so I grew up with a lot of singing, dancing and creativity – drawing was always the way I best expressed myself. I was a horrifically shy child and awkward teenager, but drawing and art always came quite naturally. Two years after finishing school in Ireland I finally had the confidence to apply for an Art based university course in London and the rest is history!

What kind of source materials do you use in your work?
I tend to draw a lot from my own travel photos and travel sketchbooks. I also have a nice collection of old photo books and encyclopaedias. The Natural History museum is also brilliant – I recently visited the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford which was beautiful! So much to draw!! During university I used to spend my free afternoons sketching in little museums around London – the Huntarian Museum in Holborn was a favourite – full of gruesome pickled organs in jars! I also love life drawings classes, such a relaxing way to unwind and practice! – I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone.


Interview: Claudine O’Sullivan

Top tips for students looking for a career as an illustrator / artist
If you love it, stick with it. It’s an extremely difficult industry to stay afloat in, and can be quite lonely. Weirdly enough I would say try to not be too influenced by other artists and illustrators; particularly in terms of style.

Other than that, be yourself and be nice to people. Oh and always sharpen your pencils and clean your brushes, there’s nothing worse than blunt pencils and grubby brushes.

What tools can you not do without?
Space to think, a notebook and (sharp) pencils.

Describe your studio or workspace for us.
A desk, a window, a drawing board, stacks of paper and lots of pencils. Although my desk sits at one side my living room it’s quite chaotic – but I think that important, it’s a creative space. For bigger pieces I roll back the rug and work on the floor – the height of humble London living! A huge bonus of the set up is the neighbouring desk space – my boyfriend who is a software engineer, video game enthusiast and part time illustration critic!

Interview: Claudine O’Sullivan

Tell us about you! What, aside from drawing takes up your time?

I’m originally from Dublin and I’ve been in London for 5 years. I go home a lot as it’s really nice to get out of this massive city, to see my family, friends and the sea!! I love to travel and dream of being able to see more of the world…. next on my list is Dubrovnik in 2015. My last excursions included craft making in rural Slovakia and travelling around North India. I’m a vegetarian and since moving to London and travelling, I’ve massively broadened my culinary palette. I’ve quite recently started to recreate flavours at home, I’m in no way a pro, but I do find it really relaxing and fulfilling to cook for people. I’m currently getting to grips with the delicate flavours of Korean cuisine, which I have yet to perfect, but I’m getting there!

Where can we see more of your work and what’s up and coming for you this year?

Keep an eye on my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as I post everything there! I have a few collective art events coming up, one at the start of August in Shoreditch. I’ve also been doing quite a few collaborations with a number of musicians and also a Fashion label – it’s all really exciting! After that…I’m not really sure, fingers crossed its onwards and upward!


12:09 by Kirsty Vickers Kirsty Vickers

Make your own Ink Sprays with Inktense Blocks

10 July 2014

Today I'm sharing how to make your own Ink Sprays using Inktense Blocks and an art journal page I made using my own homemade sprays!

To start, you will need: Inktense Blocks, Grate 'n' Shake, water and some Spritzer Bottles 

Make your own Ink Sprays with Inktense Blocks

Start by grating an Inktense Block into the Grate 'n' Shake, the amount will depend on the intensity of colour that you want for your spray (you can always add more colour to it later if the colour isn't strong enough).

Make your own Ink Sprays with Inktense Blocks

Roll a scrap of paper into a cone and use it to funnel the powder into the Spritzer bottle, add some water to the bottle (put the lid on!) and shake to mix.  

Make your own Ink Sprays with Inktense Blocks

You can also grate two blocks into a Spritzer bottle to mix different colours! 

Make your own Ink Sprays with Inktense Blocks

You can then use your custom Ink Sprays on all of your craft projects (even fabric, as I accidently found out by not checking which way round the nozzle was and spraying my top!) I used mine to create this Art Journaling page... 

Make your own Ink Sprays with Inktense Blocks

I used a Doodle Doll stamp, a chipboard heart, a stencil with opaque white spray and added some doodling and Dymo label text. Here are a couple of close ups... 

Make your own Ink Sprays with Inktense Blocks

I hope you'll have a go at making your own ink sprays with Inktense Blocks. If you'd like to share your projects over on the Derwent Facebook page we'd love to see them! I’ll be back soon with another project.

Sarah x

11:11 by Sarah Hurley Sarah Hurley

Donating pencils to charity

4 July 2014

Mary's Meals is a charity that helps some of the poorest school children in the world. They have a simple idea that works - they provide one good meal in a place of learning, children are drawn into the classroom where they can receive an education that could one day free them from poverty.

So when they came to us to ask for pencils to take to a school in Uganda we were more than happy to help!

Donating pencils to charity

Donating pencils to charity

Donating pencils to charity

It's just lovely to see how a simple pencil can mean so much! To find out more about Mary's Meals visit 

10:12 by Kirsty Vickers Kirsty Vickers

Sponsor me!

17 June 2014

Sponsor me!

So, you might have already heard but we launched a sponsorship program earlier this year. The scheme aims to help and inspire artists, as they study art subjects at college, university or 6th form. Successful candidates receive packages of Derwent art materials throughout the year.

Here's a little bit of what some of our students have been up to so far....

Sponsor me!

Azalea Rodriguez, Drawing pencils.


Sponsor me!

Cherish Coupland, Graphitint pencils.


Sponsor me!

Lucy Watkins, Coloursoft pencils.


Sponsor me!

Trudi Wilson, XL Charcoal blocks.



Sponsor me!

Tyler Berry, Graphic pencils.



Sponsor me!

Daniel Jamie Williams, Graphic pencils.


Some great work so far! If you're studying an art subject at college, university or sixth form and would like more details on how to apply for our Sponsor me scheme visit our website

12:01 by Kirsty Vickers Kirsty Vickers

Patchings Art Festival, 5th-8th June 2014

9 June 2014

Patchings Art Festival, 5th-8th June 2014

Patchings Art Festival, 5th-8th June 2014

Patchings Art Festival, 5th-8th June 2014

Another great year at Patchings Art Festival!

Joined by artist David Winning, we ran workshops using XL Graphite, XL Charcoal and Inktense Blocks. Artist Sian Dudley was available on the busy retail stand to give her expert advice on Derwent products. And visitors were given a chance to win two places on a Derwent tuition workshop at the Pencil Museum in Keswick, including a luxury two night stay at the beautiful Brackenrigg Cottages

You can visit us again at Art in Action, Oxford 17th-20th July

See you there!

14:17 by Kirsty Vickers Kirsty Vickers

Art Prize 2014 Judge: Anita Taylor

28 April 2014

Derwent Art Prize judge, Anita Taylor tells us about herself and her thoughts on the Prize.

Art Prize 2014 Judge: Anita Taylor

Would you like tell us about your background?

I am an artist, educator and exhibition-maker, with a particular focus on drawing. I drew my way through a Fine Art degree at what is now the University of Gloucestershire and then studied MA Painting at the Royal College of Art in London. I then went on to be Artist in Residence at Durham Cathedral, Cheltenham Fellow in Painting and started teaching across the UK in numerous art schools. I became Head of Painting at Gloucestershire in 1991 and in 2003, as Deputy Head of Art, Media and Design, I left to work at Wimbledon School of Art where there was an innovative Centre for Drawing exploring the role of drawing in artistic practices and the first MA Drawing course in the UK. The Jerwood Drawing Prize, which I founded in 1994 (for the first year it was the Rexel Derwent Open Drawing exhibition), moved with me to Wimbledon and became part of the Centre and retains an affiliation to Wimbledon today. In 2009, I relocated to Sydney for four years to lead the National Art School. I returned to the UK in 2013 to take up the role of Dean of Bath School of Art and Design at Bath Spa University. As an Adjunct Professor of the University of Sydney, affiliated to Sydney College of the Arts, I am able to sustain and develop the many vibrant Australian links in drawing practice and research I have made. I passionately believe that the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to convey and to analyse our experiences of the world(s) we inhabit.

This is the second year of the Derwent Art Prize – did you feel particularly drawn to any of last years’ shortlisted works?

I enjoyed a number of the drawings including Full of Stars Drawing, CHRIS DUNSEATH; Pillar, CHARLOTTE HODES; Fanfare for a common man, BERNARD NAO KITAMA; brill, VICTORIA LOCHHEAD; Noon, RYOTARO YAMANAKA.

Art Prize 2014 Judge: Anita Taylor

Ryotaro Yamanaka: Noon

What will you be looking for when judging the 2014 Derwent Art Prize? 

Drawings that have an authentic voice, and that are superbly rendered.

In your view, what attributes does a successful drawing have? Is it the pencil lines, movement within the piece, the translation of the subject on paper? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Inherently, a successful drawing is one that is fit for purpose and inventive within its means - a consummate synthesis of idea, form and content. One that creates equivalence to the experience or communication at hand, and one that can apprehend and captivate the viewer (and maker) to find a new or renewed relationship with, and understanding of, what it conveys.

Who inspires you in the world of drawing?

An enormous range of artists, writers on drawing, those who use drawing in the course of their professional and personal lives, and those who have taught me and who I teach with. I am incredibly fortunate to work with many really inspiring people in the world of drawing through the Jerwood Drawing Prize project, and in higher education. Inspirational drawings I have recently seen include those by William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, Philip Guston, Agnes Martin, Kathe Kollwitz, Mike Parr, Sheela Gowda, Utamaro, Matisse, Rembrandt, Michael Craig-Martin, and many more.

How important is drawing in education? Do you feel there’s enough emphasis on drawing and translating ideas with pencil and paper?

The role of drawing in education is critical, and not just to the creative disciplines in art and design for which it is foundational. Drawing is a primary visual language, essential in terms of communication and expression, and as important as the development of writing skills. Our need to understand the world through visual means is more acute than ever, as images transcend the barriers of language, and enhance communication in an increasingly international world. Drawing functions to distinguish and aid us in understanding our complex world through signs and symbols, by mapping and labelling our experience. It can also enable us to discover through seeing – either through our own experience of seeing and observing or through the shared experience of looking at another’s drawn record of an experience. It can have a transitory or temporal relationship with the world; or provide a record of lasting permanence. It can be propositional, preparatory, visionary, imaginative, factual, generative, transformative, or performative, in the realisation of ideas and concepts.

The need for greater drawing skills in those entering employment has been identified by a range of industries in the creative sector, including animation, film, architecture, art practice, design, theatre and performance and in the communication industries. Drawing is widely used within a range of professions as a means to develop, document, explore, explain and interrogate. This includes the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine, sport, and law. I see drawing as an essential part of the curriculum at all levels for all subjects, and something for which a clear commitment needs to be made. With pencil and paper in hand we are able to explore, depict and make a universe.

What advice would you give to those wishing to enter the Prize this year?

Make drawings you believe in and ensure you submit good reproductions for the selection process, along with all the necessary details (title, size, medium, date).

To enter the Derwent Art Prize 2014, please visit for more information.

14:17 by Kirsty Vickers Kirsty Vickers

Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks

12 March 2014

Today I'm sharing a scrapbook page using Inktense Pencils and Blocks on card and burlap...

Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks

I started with two pieces of kraft 12" x 12" card; I was using one as my base and one to make a custom paper for my background and to punch the butterflies out of. I set aside my base piece of card and sprayed my custom paper with water, using Inktense Blocks to build up colourful paper - the colours seem to pop even more on kraft card!

Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks

Once it was dry I used it to mount my photo on, creating a border around the edge. I then cut some pieces for layering behind and punched the butterflies out of the left overs (the butterfly punch is a Martha Stewart punch)

I wanted to try using the Inktense onto another material, as I wanted to add some texture into my layout. I used a piece of this 6x6" DCWV burlap paper - this has been matted onto a base paper so it's really easy to use in your crafting! I used a piece of repositionable adhesive to affix it to my desk and masking tape to secure the mask over the top.

Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks

I then lightly misted water through the hearts (don't use too much water or it will blur) and coloured through the stencil using the bright pink Inktense pencil.

Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks

Once this was dry, I assembled my layout, making sure I was happy with the position of everything before adhering it to the base. I stenciled another couple of hearts onto the ledger paper I used (from Basic Grey) I misted them with water and allowed them to blur and drip slightly down the page...

Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks

I used glossy accents to attach my butterflies in the centre, bending the wings up slightly to give them more dimension, then added a doodled border around the edge of the layout.

Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks Scrapbooking with Inktense Pencils & Blocks

I hope you'll give Inktense Blocks & Inktense Pencils a try in your scrapbooking and on different materials! If you'd like to share your projects over on the Derwent Facebook page we'd love to see them! I’ll be back soon with another project.

Sarah x

10:30 by Sarah Hurley Sarah Hurley

Meet Derwent's New General Manager

9 March 2014

We'd like to introduce our new General Manager here at Derwent. Simon Wells joined us in January and we took the opportunity to interview him about his new role in the company.

Hi Simon, tell us a little about yourself and how you came to The Cumberland Pencil Company

I was born and educated in the North West and following university education in Dundee, I first moved to work in the Aerospace Industry in Liverpool and then London before joining the NHS in London where I had responsibility for the human resources function supporting women’s and children’s services in a new teaching hospital in Chelsea.

What attracted you to joining the company?

I joined ACCO Europe in 1997 based in the Aylesbury head office and headed up the HR function for the last 16 years mostly as Vice President Human Resources for the European region.

What are you looking forward to bringing to the company?

I have worked with a number of the Derwent team for a significant period of time and have always admired the innovation and creativity within the business and its people. I am looking forward to continuing growth with this great business.

Throughout my career I have always been people centric and believe if you look after the people they will look after you and the business. I am looking forward to working with our exceptional people to deliver an even more rewarding experience to our customers.

Who is your favourite artist?

My favourite artist is a very difficult question to answer. I was astonished at the quality of work submitted by all of those who entered the Derwent Art Prize in 2013 and I am looking forward to the submissions for the 2014 prize. That said, I bought a piece entitled 'Last 3 Remaining' by David Brammeld at the Derwent Art Prize exhibition at the Mall Galleries and this hangs proudly in my office as a testament to the quality of work that can be produced with our products.

Have you got a favourite Derwent product so far?

I am a traditionalist at heart and whilst I am very proud and excited about our new products, my favourite product is the Derwent Artists range followed by the XL Charcoal range. That said, the more you look at the endless possibilities with all of our varied and innovative product offering it is very difficult to choose a personal favourite.

Have you had a chance to explore the products? Will we be seeing an artist emerging?!

I have very limited artistic experience or ability but will be attending some of the art classes offered through our Pencil Museum. That said, my brother is a professional artist and has successfully used our products for many years.

You’ve recently moved up to Cumbria? What are you enjoying about the area?

As a young man from the Fylde Coast I spent a lot of my formative years in Cumbria playing sport and utilising the recreational opportunities available. The area has always held a fascination for me so in part it feels like being home.

14:24 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

Tania Dreelinck - artist

6 March 2014

We first saw Tania Dreelink's striking wildlife drawings on Facebook and were struck by the life in her work. Here, Tania tells us about her work and why she loves drawing wildlife.

Tania Dreelinck - artist

Hi Tania. Please tell us a little about yourself and your life as an artist.

I was born and raised in Belgium and I have a big passion for nature and animals.

My full time job is making portraits of pets and I’ve recently started drawing wildlife. It’s my goal to do my first exhibition this year.

How did your interest in drawing begin?

Having been interested with all kind of things to express my creativity since I was a child, I taught myself different kinds of techniques.

That is how I found out I had an affinity with drawing, especially with pencils and from time to time pen and ink drawings.

But the real daily drawing and painting started when I got the opportunity to make exclusive hand-painted eggs for Disneyland Paris and Los Angeles, but I wanted more.

I wanted to be able to draw live animals, in which I could bring out their souls as well. That’s how I started to draw pets for people whose dear ones had passed away or

who wanted to eternalise their best animal friends on paper. And since I’ve always had a huge love for wildlife, I began to make my own drawings and paintings as well. I’d take pictures of those animals that touched me in different ways.

Tania Dreelinck - artist

Have you a favourite animal to draw?

There isn’t one animal in particular; every animal is unique and special in its own way. I choose them according to their way of being.

But if I have to make a choice then my preference goes to African animals such as elephants and rhinos, because of their charisma and their power. As well as the awareness that they deserve, some of them being threatened with extinction.

What are your 3 top tips for drawing animals?

Make sure you do some observing and studying on the animal you are about to draw. So you can let their natural behavior shine through.

If you want to create a real life portrait make sure you have a whole range of colours. Choosing the right colours when making a real life drawing or painting is very important.

Try to make contact with the animal’s soul, so you can bring out its lively true nature.  

Tania Dreelinck - artist

Do you have any advice for someone starting out in drawing?

First of all, work with the material that you are drawn to. Pastel, pencil, oil paint, acrylic etc.

Try to practice as much as possible and don’t be harsh on yourself when it doesn’t immediately work out the way you want it to be.

When you feel you’re “stuck” in a drawing, don’t push it. Put it aside for a while and come back later to it, with a fresh view.

Use quality materials; your final results will be much better and profound.

And last but not least - have fun!


For more info and work please visit my 2 Facebook pages:

Creations of Life – Art from the Heart

Tania Dreelinck: Fine artist

Or my personal websites:


Tania Dreelinck - artist

12:28 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

Michael Campion - drawing for charity

3 March 2014

We spoke to Michael Campion of Monochrome Art about using his drawing skills for a good cause. Inspiring!

Charity work is always something that has been close to my heart. If I can help in any small way, then that’s what I will do. I’ve been involved in a couple of things for charity.

The first time it happened was a little bit by accident! Back in 2012 I started a drawing of Brian O’Driscoll. My intention was to sell it off and give the money to charity. However the drawing got damaged and I was unable to finish it. At this stage, Ciaran Kelly from Twitter stepped in. His idea was simple. I would do a drawing of three rugby players and he would get it signed. He would then auction it off and anything raised would go to three charities, Hospice Ireland, SOSAD and Clane rugby club.   

Michael Campion - drawing for charity

That drawing gave me a good feeling and I enjoyed being able to use my talent to make a difference to other people’s lives. A friend of mine asked if I could do something for her charity cricket4cancer (Saint Frances hospice) which she tirelessly fundraises for every year so I gave her a voucher for a commission to be raffled off. The winner was David Smith and he got a drawing of his parents which he was very happy with.

Most recently I got involved with Action Ireland Trust. My sister Laura is involved with the charity and they were looking to raise money at a gala dinner event they were holding. It was set up independently and has recently started work with transition year students. I offered to donate a commission which was auctioned off at their black tie event in the Grand Hotel in Malahide. The commission raised about 10% of the overall amount raised. The money was used to ship equipment to Africa.

Charity work is something that I think we all forget about in these tough times. All it takes is just one kind gesture to make someone else feel good. I’d like to think those on the receiving end of my drawings gain a little happiness and if I can do that and help out a charity at the same time then that makes me very happy too!

To see more of Michael's work visit his Facebook page.

Ireland to ship equipment to Africa. 

11:00 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson