A moment with: Natasha Eveleigh
Friend of Turnbull, pattern designer and ICU nurse, Natasha Eveleigh, caught up with our Creative Director, Becky French, about her recent decision to re-join the National Health Service in the devastating wake of COVID-19. From her unique floral illustrations to battling on the frontline during the current crisis, immerse yourself in Natasha’s world, her creative process and the positive impact making can have in our daily lives.
Ink drawn buildings in detail
BF: You beautifully drew our Turnbull & Asser Davies Street shop for our Christmas pop-up in December. This is a departure from the majority of your work that focusses on florals. Why did you turn your attention to buildings and what is different about the process?
NE: Thank you, I have always loved drawing with simple black ink and enjoy escaping into the details sometimes. I have always admired beautiful buildings and architecture. Having the two contrasting strands to my work keeps it interesting and appeals to all elements of my personality. Although my natural go-to is the freedom of a forgiving flower, which probably suites me a little more, I love the restrictions and structure that drawing a building provides. This reflects the side of me that likes order and logic, which is a nurse's trademark.
My florals are mostly full of colour using a range of mediums from watercolour and acrylic to collage and ink. This gives me the freedom to explore with no restrictions. A truly joyful process! A real escape. I am fascinated by different techniques that can be used and enjoy learning through this process. I have been able to apply my paintings and illustrations to the world of pattern design, which has opened up so many other exciting opportunities.
Drawing with an ink pen has a different pleasure. This process has to be controlled and precise. I always need a good photo for reference and take time to make sure the outcome is correct. This process is less creative for me, as you already have the image that you want to achieve in front of you. However, I find it very relaxing because I can concentrate on translating it into my style.
BF: Do you take reference from life or prefer to draw from photographs? What historical building would you love to draw and why?
NE: I often draw churches and wedding venues, mainly because these buildings are more detailed and therefore interesting to draw. Also, this is how I got into drawing buildings as gifts for my family and friends. During this lockdown, my family have challenged me to draw a map for the South West with different beauty points and iconic buildings. This will push me out of my comfort zone and is another way to develop my portfolio.
Working for the NHS
BF: You worked as a nurse for almost 20 years. What did this career teach you and how has it changed over the years?
NE: I have loved being a nurse and have had amazing opportunities to work in many different cultures and departments with some amazing people. I would say, although medicine and procedures are always improving, the patients and the people working there are very much the same. People that work in the health industries feel they must provide the best care and support possible to those who need it. Even now, when everything is so uncertain, people are stepping up and powering through even though it’s scary. It’s a real privilege to be part of such an amazing organisation.
BF: Has the current situation impacted your role? Is there some positivity you have found in what we are going through?
NE: During the past 16 months, I have been working as a cancer research nurse, which has been a huge learning curve for me in itself. This role also suited my work-life balance while raising two small children. Now due to COVID 19, most clinical trials have been stopped. I wanted to be the most help I could be, so I have returned to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which is where I had been working for 5 years prior. With my husband at home looking after the children I can return to shift work once more. Through this whole experience, it has been such a pleasure to work with some amazing, dedicated people. Continuing to keep calm and be kind in the most stressful situations.
Surface pattern design, a love of florals
BF: Let’s talk about your love of floral design. Where do you start? How do you go about a project or finding a subject?
NE: I can’t seem to steer away from the floral! I have tried, and don’t get me wrong, I love to be challenged and try new things and often surprise myself when I do. But my comfort, my go-to, to get those creative juices flowing, is always in a floral. It’s the colour, the shapes, the fact there are so many to choose from, they are all around us. It is such a forgiving subject when exploring different techniques. I live in the beautiful Somerset countryside, so nature is all around and I can’t help but take hundreds of photos to use as colour palettes and for inspiration. I am always looking for different ways to produce a flower form. My favourite technique at the moment is loose watercolour with ink detail.
Over the years, I have learnt how to turn my illustrations and paintings into patterns which is another love of mine. It opened me up to a different way to produce my artwork. To see my illustrations on products gives me such joy, even if it’s just for my project.
Traveling in nature
BF: In these difficult times, we are all dreaming of somewhere to visit and travel to. Where would you go?
NE: We have a little caravan which the kids love going away in. My husband is not such a fan. However, one place that we are all looking forward to returning too is River Dart Country Park in Devon. We went last year and promised we would return, hopefully with a group of friends to enjoy all that it has to offer.
BF: Have you travelled with your work? And does your artistic work feel connected to your day job or a version of escape?
NE: Travelling has been a huge part of my life, as well as my nursing career. I have had the privileged to work and live in Australia, Thailand and Uganda. As you can imagine, the type of nursing varied, but each experience was unique and rewarding enabling me to soak up so many cultures and to be inspired by each of them.
During the first 15 years as a nurse, I stopped being creative through art. It was something that I had left in college, although it was something that had come so naturally, and I loved. My passion for travel took over, so for 15 years I barely even sketched. Thankfully, I took plenty of photos.
When I was pregnant with my first child, something started bubbling inside and I picked up a paintbrush. Not the best painting I had ever done, but it was a start, and yes, there were flowers. Through this time, I was able to break down all the barriers that had stopped me from creating, the self-doubt and guilt of spending time on myself. After I dealt with this, it was a clear path to just keep creating. A great friend of mine introduced me to the idea of pattern design, which I feel in love with. That was 5 years ago.
I now find it hard to go a day without creating something. It is like a tap that I just can’t turn off, and more importantly, I don’t want to. It’s something that I have found that is just mine and I am so very happy to share my journey with whoever is interested. It definitely helps me with the stresses of work, as well as encouraging my children to keep creating fun projects. I have let go of the ‘it must be perfect’ mentality and just enjoy the process freeing me to create.
Inspiration in all its forms
BF: Artist William Morris stated that “the true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life”. Does this resonate with you? What has inspired you recently?
NE: William Morris is one of my all-time pattern design heroes, as I’m sure he is for many. I am inspired daily by talented people, you only have to look online, especially during this lockdown, to see what amazing things people are producing.
One of my favourite things do is apply different techniques to my style and subject matter. I never know what it’s going to come out like which keeps things interesting. Using the many photos, I have collected over the years as a reference, as well as a beautiful bouquet that my husband regularly treats me too, I find my inspiration.
BF: What artists or galleries have you been to for inspiration recently?
NE: When I get the rare chance to visit London, I will always try my best to visit as many exhibitions and as I can, I think I visited the V&A last which was a real treat to have a day on my own without the children and take my time immersing myself with inspiration.
Community and workshops
BF: You have been hosting creative workshops locally in your hometown in Somerset. What is your intension of these workshops and what have they brought to you and your attendees?
NE: My creative workshops are a chance for people to give it a go in a safe and fun environment! My workshops explore different techniques and also show people how to be inspired by what interests them. Teaching people simple creative techniques that they can take home and use. I hate it when people say that they are not creative, this is not true. Everyone has some way that they can be creative they just need to give themselves permissions and time to do it and may need a little encouragement to get there. I have been so encouraged to see clients who have never painted before going away with something they would be proud to hang on their wall.
During this lockdown, I have set up a creative workshop for my cancer research colleagues. We have all been given different roles during this time and I thought it could be a fun way to pass the time with friends and for some of them to try something completely new. Hopefully, it will inspire them to continue being creative while isolating and keeps their spirits up.
BF: What do you dream of doing next in your creative or medical career?
NE: Although I do love being a nurse and am so proud to be able to work alongside some amazing people, I have always dreamed of having my pattern design brand or owning an art retreat. Where I can inspire others to just give it ago. I know how much I get from doing this and I would hope I could share a little of that with others too.