Our 4th & Final Gratitude 52 Interview: Sophie Thurlow

For our fourth and final Gratitude 52 Journaling interview, I'm thrilled to introduce Sophie Thurlow to you.  Sophie hails from England (across the pond for most of us!).  It was so great connecting with her this past year.  I admire her genuineness, her tenderness, and her love of animals. 

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

Welcome, Sophie!  Please introduce Yourself.  What’s your name?  Your profession?  Your biggest passion?  How would you describe your personality and your interest in art?

Hi, my name is Sophie Thurlow and I live in a small village called Sandford in North Somerset, England.  I’ve just started a new role as a part time, charity shop manager, for a local hedgehog rescue centre, but I am also an artist too.  I love being creative, I NEED to be creative!  I’m quite a behind-the-scenes kind of a person. I love my family, my pets and my home.  I’m a wife, a mother of two children and owner of Milo our Miniature Schnauzer.  I’ve had a passion for art from a very young age.  I spent my childhood copying pictures from my books or my birthday cards.  I particularly enjoyed the drawings in the series of Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem.  As I grew up, my parents took my sister and I for days out to National Trust houses around England. Whilst there, I would spend ages studying the beautiful portraits in the houses, trying to work out how they had painted the clothing to make them look so much like the velvet, or silk, that they were wearing.  Beatrix Potter also had a big influence on me.  I loved visiting her home, Hill Top, in Cumbria and seeing the different rooms and items that were featured in her much loved, little children’s books.

What made you decide to join the Gratitude 52 Journaling project?

2015 was a tough year for us as a family.  We’d had a few health scares during the year and were going through a period of uncertainty.  I was feeling quite overwhelmed.  One day, I was looking through Pinterest when I stumbled upon Jenny’s ‘Say No to the Naysayers’ journal page.  It really made me laugh, and I discovered her blog through that Pin.  It was then that I saw that she was looking for people to join her in her Gratitude 52 Journal project.  I had never taken part in anything like this before.  I didn’t even have an Instagram page at that point, but I felt it was just what I needed to help me to re-focus and connect with other artists around the world.

What did you learn from this challenge?  How were you surprised by it?

I’ve learnt that I’m not keen on drawing vehicles!!  Seriously though, it has given me the opportunity to draw things that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought to sit down and draw.  I’ve learnt what subjects I enjoy drawing more than others. I was also quite surprised at how my art developed over the year.  Taking part in the Gratitude 52 journal has made me look at the important things in life too.  Don’t miss out on those important little things in life because you’re too busy looking for the bigger things.  As I’ve heard it said ‘sometimes it’s the little things that are actually the big things’.

How has your own art and journaling style developed as a result of participating?

I feel it certainly improved as the year progressed.  I had never previously thought about putting a quote with my artwork but I loved researching various quotes linked to the prompts and working out how best to illustrate them.  I could feel my imagination cogs whirling into action again.

What were your favorite materials to use?  Did you discover that you were drawn to other materials more than others?  

I tried to experiment with a variety of materials.  For one entry I needle felted a picture of a sheep onto fabric and then stitched this into my journal.  In another entry I used Derwent Inktense pencils to paint onto strips of fabric to represent the patterns on my favorite items of clothing.  It was fun to use threads to stitch my art into my journal.  I also particularly enjoyed using my Faber Castell Polychromo pencils and my Winsor and Newton Watercolours too.

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

What was the most difficult part of the project? What did you overcome?  

There were a few prompts that I found a challenge.  I wanted to express gratitude for my late Mother, who passed away in 2009.  We had a very close relationship and I really wanted to do her justice, so it took me quite a while to come up with an idea of what to do.  The prompt for Thanksgiving was hard too as that’s not part of my British culture, but I looked at it a different way and found a quote about being thankful and illustrated that instead.

How did you fit it in with your schedule? 

Being a busy wife, and mother, it was hard to have a definite schedule, but I set aside any free time to sit and draw, usually when everyone else was busy with homework.  It has made me reflect that, going forward now, I will be setting aside specific time in my diary for my art and creativity.

Describe a page or two of which you are most proud.  What do you love most about those pages?  

I think that my favorite pages are those where there is a lot of love and feeling behind them.  An example of this was my page ‘Dancing on the feet of my Daddy’.  Although this may not have been my best page artistically, it was one of my most heartfelt pages.  It brought back to me those little, happy childhood memories of being loved and cherished.  

Prompt 28 was all about first memories and I looked back to when my passion for art began.  I came across a drawing that I had done when I was around 9 years old, of a character from one of my Brambly Hedge books.  I decided to stick this little picture into my journal and finish illustrating it with a garland of wildflowers that featured on one of my Brambly Hedge plates.  It was wonderful to continue to illustrate this drawing 32 years later!  I’m also proud of the pages where I’ve felt that my artwork reflected just what I wanted to say.

Describe your creative setup: did you have a special Gratitude Journal space to create?  

My creative space was either at our family table in our conservatory, where during daylight hours it is a lovely, bright space to work in or, in the darker, colder evenings I’ve worked in our lounge near to our log burner fire to keep cozy.  It’s suited me very well because it meant that I was still around my family, whilst doing what I love.

Who did you meet and connect with as part of this project?  

Firstly, Jenny, it’s been fabulous getting to know you as part of this project and the advice and support that you’ve given to me has been so gratefully received.  It’s also been wonderful connecting to the other Gratitude 52 Journal participants, in particular, Shelly V (@artsycrafty7) and Leigh Ann Simpson (@uhsart) who would regularly leave me encouraging comments on my posts. Through our pages, we shared little insights into each of our lives and through those pages I felt that connection, even though I am miles away in England.  As I’ve posted my pages through Instagram, I’ve seen my Instagram followers grow steadily too, connecting with other artists and people with shared interests and beliefs.

How has gratitude journaling made your life better?  

It’s meant that I’ve made that time and space to reflect on the good things in life, and it has helped me to develop and find out who I am as an artist too.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to journal and express themselves artistically?

I would say firstly, don’t be afraid of that blank page and just experiment.  Try out different materials, techniques, surfaces and styles.  Have fun and don’t worry if some pages don’t turn out exactly as you wanted.  It’s a learning process and it’s through trying that you understand who you are as an artist.

What else would you like us to know about you?

I feel that art and creativity is a God-given gift to me and I want to use this to some purpose.  I have a deep love for this beautiful planet of ours.  I’m currently working on a project linked to the environment and all the amazing and diverse creatures that we share our little green and blue world with.  I am looking to create various art pieces where some of the proceeds of sale will go towards benefiting wildlife in need, starting with the hedgehogs at Prickles Hedgehog Rescue in Cheddar.  My most recent pieces are artworks of beetles which I am planning to turn into prints and cards.  Once completed, these will be available to buy through my Etsy Shop that I have recently opened and am gradually stocking with items.

How can we connect with you?

I would love you to come and follow my art.  If you are interested to see more, you can follow me here:

I’ve just set up an Etsy shop  where I am selling my new art work. As well as art, I also love to crochet, sew and knit and my shops Bobbin and Bodkin on Folksy and eBay where I sell the creations that I’ve made using various other materials.

If you would like to see more about what Prickles Hedgehog Rescue do in Cheddar, please see their website www.prickleshedgehogrescue.org.uk Thank you for reading and spending this time with me.

gratitude journal - sophie thurlow

Thank you so much for sharing, Sophie! 
And thanks to all of you who have either participated in this project or stayed along for the interviews. 

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Keep creating and enjoying this one precious life you've been given!