A Word With…Artist in Residence at Nottingham’s Festival of Words

Nottinghamshire-based artist, Sue Bulmer, is the Nottingham’s Festival of Words’ artist in residence, creating an eye-catching montage of words and imagery to showcase the event’s ethos. Sue studied Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham in 1990, and talks to Impact about the festival, finding her inspiration, and why you should fulfil your artistic dreams, no matter the course you are studying.

How did you get involved with the Nottingham Festival of Words?

I got involved with the Nottingham Festival of Words after hearing about it through my business mentor, Debbie Bryan. We were looking at opportunities for me to explore and she told me about the Festival and pointed me in the right direction. I applied with my proposal and was over the moon when I was accepted.

What inspired your Nottingham Loves Words design?

The Nottingham Loves Words design was inspired by the Festival of Words Launch event in September 2012. As the festival’s Artist in Residence I was invited along to sketch in response to the events of the evening, which included various readings, talks and poetry by numerous authors. This was something I had never done before so I didn’t really know how the piece would turn out. I do love to doodle so found the creation of a piece of work like a rather large scale doodle, getting lost in time whilst slowly filling up a sheet of paper.

Your Nottingham Loves Words design diverges somewhat from your other work, in that it is more heavily text-based. Is that something people will see in your work in the future?

The inspiration for the piece and the manner in which it was produced was completely different to how I normally work. Because of my involvement with the Festival of Words I have introduced a new collection of work for exhibition at the Festival  which utilises illustrated text and  this is something I am wanting to develop in the future in the form of commissions, limited edition prints and a new range of greetings cards.

You actually studied Pharmacy at the university: how did you come to have such a career change?

I still work in the Pharmacy sector three days a week and I think this gives me the perfect balance in my life. I have always enjoyed art and from a very early age I loved painting and drawing. After studying for the science-based Pharmacy degree it was great to be able to come back to my artistic roots in 2007 when I enrolled on a part-time Foundation Course in Art and Design. After completing the course I decided I wanted to start my own creative business and with the help of the Nottinghamshire County Council Scheme ‘Nottinghamshire Creative’ and Design Factory I am going from strength to strength.

What advice would you give to people who may not be studying an arts subject, but who want to become more involved in art?

I would definitely say that there is no reason why they can’t do both; I’m living proof that you can have a career in both fields. I would advise them to get along to some of the many local creative events in the area, see what’s out there, get to know people, take a course, develop a hobby: you never know where these things can lead if you feel passionate about them! I think it’s something people just have to act on if they really want to pursue it.

What’s your favourite work?

This is a really difficult question to answer. I think my favourite piece is an ink illustration I did of three topiary trees and a pair of birds. I called it Truly, Madly, Deeply after one of my favourite films. Every time I put it into an exhibition I always secretly hope it doesn’t sell!!

What’s been your biggest artistic challenge?

My biggest artistic challenge was probably the Nottingham Loves Words piece; I produced it at the launch event for the Festival of Words. The whole process was way out of my comfort zone as I had never sketched live in front of so many people before. I think to grow and develop as a Creative Practitioner you do need to challenge yourself to try new things, otherwise life just becomes boring and predictable. Hopefully there will be plenty more artistic challenges ahead!

Interview by Zoe Ashton

If you would like to catch up with Sue during 2013, you can view her work at Ferrers Gallery in Staunton Harold until the end of March and also in the SOCK Arts Market at Loughborough Town Hall on 23rd and 24th March. For more information on Sue’s work go to her website:

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