2014: A look at my year

Now we have tumbled into 2015 I thought I’d take a moment to take stock of last year. Here are some of the highlights for me.

2014 was another great year for events and talks, (check out my events review in the previous post, link below).

I also focused more on my character work, as I really enjoyed the Little Something’s I created in collaboration with Egmont Children’s Books and SCBWI in 2013. Two main works came from this, a series of characters for a game, Consequences:


…and a series of artworks I produced in my first solo exhibition at Betty’s Café in Shoreditch: entitled: “They walk among us” about my favourite subject, animals.

Underwood_S_1 coco Sarah UnderwoodEduardo Sarah UnderwoodAlexander low

During the summer I had the honour of being invited as a contributing illustrator to an event by Inclusive Minds at the Royal Festival Hall, a day of activities focused on inclusion in the publishing industry for children with disabilities, a topic close to my heart:

Inclusive Minds event

A big decision last year was to attend the Bologna Book fair. This deserves it’s own blog, because it was life changing for me. We made a little holiday of it tagging two days either side of the trip where I had the chance to visit relatives in Florence and explore the region. Starting before the fair in Bologna we got to know the town and for the first time, my work was on the infamous “wall”, a place for all illustrators to showcase their work. When I put my work up the wall was bare…


But by the end of the fair, it looked like this:

The wall 2

The experience was quite something. I attended lots of talks, especially in the digital zone, as I have been interested in children’s apps since attending a fantastic talk by Kate Wilson, Managing Director of Nosy Crow at the London Book fair in 2013. Again we heard from fantastic companies and expert contributors:

  • “The Business of Story-telling”: Eric Huang, Development Director, Made in Me and Anna Mioni of AC2 an Italian based literary agency.
  • Beebooks Digital Children’s Picture book App creators.
  • Elena Favilli, Founder and CEO of Timbuktu.
  • And a talk entitled “Dust or Magic” discussing the state of current children’s tech with the latest examples of excellence in the field of children’s app’s by app guru Bob Hughes and Emmett O’Neil from Story Toys in Ireland and John Cromie from Touch Press.

Another international highlight was a talk about Children’s illustration in a digital age discussing what children like and dislike, featuring Klaas Verplancke (Belgium), Koji Ishikawa (Japan) and Axel Scheffler, Roger Mello (Brazil), Pieter Gaudesaboos and Junko Yokota (chair of Caldecot Institute USA).

Eric Huang Anna Mioni

Eric Huang and Anna Mioni giving a talk about the business of story telling.

Most notable for me was a lovely talk from the team at the Cambridge MA in Children’s book Illustration entitled “The Shock on the Old: New Digital Printmaking” where three graduates with course leader Martin Salisbury discussed their various approaches to digital printmaking. This included Sarah Lodge, Steve Anthony and Carolina Rabei. Afterwards I briefly met Martin Salisbury for the first time and then later talked to students at their stand. More on this later…

Hello to new friends: Amy from Pickled Ink, artist Lizzie Thomas, and many more; and familiar faces including the super talented, Steven Lenton, my tutor at City Lit last year.

 Steven Lenton and chums

Here he is with his characters Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.

Also representing the UK were Benji Davis, Mark Chambers, Ben Mantel, Jim Field and Helen Hancocks who we spent a lovely evening with.

Dinner in Bologna

Bologna book fair is a delight, a visual bombardment of illustration talent. If you want to get a feel for the sheer scale of global publishers, trends, or even just to look at the variety of work and opportunities out there, this is the place to go. Bologna is the most illustrator-friendly of all the trade book fairs, particularly as it focuses solely on the children’s book trade. There are exhibitions showcasing artists’ work and an opportunity to show your own even if you are unpublished.

It’s vast, inspiring, exhausting and overwhelming. To see it all takes serious leg work. Which is why it’s essential to recover with ice cream or frozen yoghurt… (Mostly because the queue for “real” food is enormous).


But it’s not all just wandering around. I had a critique with Nosy Crow at their stand and also participated in a live drawing event at the SCBWI stand, where we were read to and had to illustrate the text to a crowd of onlookers, LIVE!

Live painting IMG_0002

It was great to run into fellow SCBWI’ers: Anne-Marie Perks, Bridget Strevens-Marzo and Heather Kilgour plus members I hadn’t met before including Sally Kindberg.

I got back to London just in time for the London Book Fair the next week – here I am feeling a bit exhausted from it all!


Moving to summer, I was chosen to exhibit in the SCBWI Illustrators Members Showcase; a touring exhibition which started at Seven Dials in Covent Garden and then travelled to the Seven Stories Museum in Newcastle and then to Edinburgh for the Festival.

Me and Little Somethings

Here is my piece.

SCBWI hanging exhibition

The lovely ladies Anne-Marie Perks and Bridget Strevens-Marzo very kindly hanging our work.

SCBWI conference      

My work at the SCBWI conference in Winchester.

Selling art is tough, and it helps to be as publicly available as possible. This year, I set up shop on Etsy, Society 6 and Depop the app (who I met through the YoIllo group, run by Rob Barret).

Society6Society6 2

My most exciting exhibition was a show run by Southwark arts forum. Ten artists with disabilities were asked to create a piece of work around the theme “Connections” which depicts their experiences surrounding living with disability. My piece was then blown up to poster size and exhibited for the entire year in the engine rooms of Tower Bridge. A huge honour!

Tower Bridge 1 Tower Bridge 3Tower Bridge 2

My piece was also used to promote the exhibition (http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/art-at-the-bridge-5/) and the public who visit the bridge (around 2,000 a week I am told) were each given a token and asked to vote for their favourite piece.

Tower Bridge 5

Just before Christmas I received the fantastic news that my artwork had won the competition! The prize: to raise Tower Bridge. I am so looking forward to doing this in 2015. Subsequently, the magazine Action on Hearing Loss featured me- this is their article:

Action of Hearing Loss article

Here are some links about the exhibition featuring my work:






I also got to exhibit in two of Shoreditch legend Mr Gresty’s exhibitions. Here’s a piece for “Zoo”:

final no border lowSarah Underwood at Zoo ExhibitionZoo Flyer

and the follow-up, “Rhyming Slang”, for which, for some reason, I decided to create a full alphabet…

FInal Piece72 Rhyming Slang Exhibition

I have taken on some private commissions, entered competitions, and even been commissioned to create T-shirt designs which will be sold… on my old friend Tower Bridge! And I sold work at Spitalfields market for the first time.

Spitlefields market

To round off here is a look at some of the work I have created throughout this year and the lovely people I have met:

Me and Nick in Bologna Fishies All the people Decorated Bowl Colour theory loveDrawing on site CambridgeAlexis Deacon
Catty JewelsCatty Jewels completeCatty Jewels half way

Colouring book entrypocket mirrorWeaving MakeoverFishies Cushion Jungle bag Art equipment The Bright ladies Yasmeen and Ola

On a personal note, I’ve been tending to my garden and continue to make things. All plans of a studio have been put on hold as I just can’t get permission to build (sob) but I have a lovely desk now and am set up for a fab 2015 with some very exciting things on the horizon. Watch this space.

garden pots Flowers in bloom Bedding plants vegetable growing Growing herbs

For more details about the talks and events I attended in 2014, check out my blog post: My top London Art Events of 2014 – get in for 2015!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: