Lynne Chapman: Learning a new creative language

Lynne Chapman is a Sheffield based artist. Her 35-year career has, at different stages, incorporated working as both a picture book illustrator and a reportage artist, but these days Lynne principally works in fine-art textiles, creating hand-stitched embroideries and multi-media constructions. During the lockdown period though, she has been exploring the possibilities of abstract painting.

"My practice is a little unusual, as it has rambled around somewhat, since my degree in Printed Textiles, in what seems like another life. After a 30-year career as a freelance illustrator, mostly children’s books, I pay the bills these days as a reportage-sketcher, working alongside academics, creating a visual record of research events as they happen. Although this is great fun and can be really interesting, I also have another string to my bow, one that has evolved in unexpected directions, as a result of the lock-down.

My creative passion over the past few years has been fine-art textiles; mostly abstract and very materials-led. Pieces are largely unplanned and I often find ways to enforce randomness on my marks, colours or shapes, to encourage the work to evolve in new directions. A recent series was inspired by petroglyphs - I got very interested in the echoes of ancient peoples, glimpsed through their drawings in caves or into rock. My artwork layered drawn marks with sheer fabrics and stitch, using real and imagined petroglyphs, deliberately ambiguous.


Over the last year, I have also been working on a series which employs waste plastic to create sculptural pieces: I became interested in ‘locking’ plastic within the artwork, when I began to understand the drastic shortcomings of plastic recycling. I started combining large plastic bottles and carrier bags with textile and thread. I enjoy the playfulness involved in creating unexpected outcomes from these over-familiar, often ugly, materials. I like presenting them anew, either disguised or shown in a fresh light, enhanced by fabric or stitch. 

But there has been something about the enforced change to our daily routine, the different rhythm of life over these past weeks, which made me pause. I was determined to carry on working – in many ways, the lack of my reportage work and any social life has helped me to focus - but I felt the need to do something different. My urge was to return to 2-dimensional work, so I decided to try my hand at painting in acrylics. This is not something I have done before, but the wealth of online demos during the lock-down got me started. I’m still layering and juxtaposing drawn mark-making with shapes and colours, so the principles are not so different from my textiles, but the processes are very different. 

Interestingly, one key issue is pace. When I am creating an abstract piece in textiles, the process of hand-stitching slows everything down. Creative decisions are spaced further apart and interlaced with the calming act of sewing. With abstract painting, on the other hand, the mark-making is speedy. There is a new decision to make every few seconds – what colour should I mix?  Do I put a mark here, or there? What sort of mark? Why? None of it feels rational, indeed, the more I think, the worse the results seem to be! I feel out of control almost the entire time I’m working and am constantly asking myself, why I am doing this? But it is this tortured process of harnessing creativity which ultimately interests me: that balance between conscious decision-making and instinct which drives work forwards.  


And then something starts to look more interesting and I find I can eventually pull things round, and the pleasure is all the greater because of the battle. So, I am battling on. I am painting almost every day, at least for a few hours. And I am thinking about what comes next, because I can already see the potential for taking some of these paintings back into textiles. The creative process is, after all, a dialogue. For me, it has always been about trying to remain open to movement, nudging myself out of my comfort zone, while keeping an eye on the balance between pushing through barriers and distractions which just take you off course. I believe that learning a new creative language can be very useful though, because it pushes you off your personal tramlines and inevitably feeds back into your regular practice."

You can see more of my textiles on my website, or follow my Facebook page, or Instagram to see regular updates on new work in progress. You can see my reportage work at and my picture books at

CuratorSpace are currently featuring articles by artists, curators and organisations who want to share their experiences of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that is artists using their practice as a way of exploring new boundaries of isolation, or as a way to connect more broadly with their communities. We are also interested in hearing from curators and organisations who are offering support to artists.

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