When I first met Hannah, I was already a bit of a mess. For months, we lived in a muddy industrial estate, slipping past each-other like grinning ships in the night.
"How are you?!"
Both of us were in our twenties, trying somehow to manage teams of volunteers in the never ending battle
to provide aid and a little more dignity to the inhabitants of the now-demolished "Jungle" refugee camp. Whereas I was mostly a deranged clothing and bedding woman, Hannah worked in "Calais Kitchens". This home-grown set up provided tinned food, ingredients and a degree of independence to the whole camp. They were inspirational as an organisation and Hannah's smiling, approachable demeanour appeared to surround her as a bubble of calm (whatever she might have been feeling like inside).
Though I could probably dedicate this blog to the creativity of Calais volunteers for the rest of the decade, I've been particularly struck by Hannah's style. She will not appreciate the comparison to Picasso and I have never made such a leap before without implying that someone was meaning to imitate his work; she isn't. The level of energy she exudes in her drawings make it obvious that this is purely her. I'm a little in awe.
Now that you’ve finished volunteering in Calais, what are you up to?
I left Calais in November with my brilliant partner Johann who I met volunteering there, and we spent three months "wwoofing" on organic farms and gardens in England and Wales. In March we moved to Iceland! So, now I work in a great cafe in Reykjavik, and we're saving money to get back on the road, this time in a van like Burt. I started a blog called Being and Seeing, and that's become my creative outlet here, I write and draw stories about food and seeking well-being.
What’s your background? Have you ever studied art and what got you interested in it in the first place?
I never really thought of doing anything else than art. I loved art as a child. I always wanted to tell stories. I did an art foundation, then an illustration degree, then got part way through a postgraduate drawing course in 2014 when I crashed out with depression. It took a long time, but I finally became an art school dropout. Haha. I quit the Royal Drawing School and instead spent what would have been my final term there enrolling in a vocational horticulture course, which was brilliant.
Studying art was the best of times and the worst of times, but friends I met at each of those courses have made my life so rich and I'm extremely grateful that studying art gave me the chance to meet them.
What sort of things inspire you to draw?
A rugged landscape with windblown trees under stormy sky will get me itching for a sketchbook, but over the last year, as I have relearnt how and why to make art and found again my love of drawing, I find that everyday life is inspiration enough. The spaces I live in, the interactions I have with people.
Recently I've started illustrating my own blog posts, I mean making images specifically to accompany my writing and tell a story, and I feel like I might have found a process that works for me. I never really felt happy with 'final' drawings before. I think I'm becoming less critical of my work while I'm making it which for me is helpful. These drawings are clearer, easier to read and less ambiguous than my usual work because I think I am so anxious to get the story and characters across faithfully.
What sorts of mediums do you enjoy using?
Charcoal, ink, pencil, biro, I yearn to use colour but I rarely make the plunge. I don't understand it. Black and white is my comfort zone and a restriction that liberates.
Who are your influences or idols in the art world?
All my friends making art. Really. Even though I am far away from all of them at the moment! I savour their work on Instagram and it reminds me why to make things. Two of my dearest friends are Pia - @piabramley, and Gabrielle - @gabriellelockwoodestrin.
Where can we find more of your work?
This is Hannah's blog where she illustrates and writes about her travels and living with Johann in Iceland, food, wellness, gardening and farming amongst other things.
Here you can find more of Hannah's artwork and her contact details if you would like to buy a piece or give her a commission.