Category Archives: Special Feature

The High Window’s Resident Artist: Rowena Sommerville

As we leave 2021 behind us, a year which many of us will be happy to forget, I am pleased to announce that the new resident artist for the next four issues will be Rowena Sommerville.  I also take the opportunity to express my thanks to Stella Wulf who assumed this role last year. Many readers expressed their admiration for her contributions  and, for me, it was a joy to work with someone so talented, personable and thoroughly professional. I wish her well in whatever new projects she is working on.

Like Stella, Rowena is not only  a talented artist but a fine poet.  I am proud that, as an editor, I was amongst the first to spot her literary gifts and to have published a set of her poems. I am grateful too for the many excellent reviews she has written for the journal. [Editor]

Rowena photo cropped

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Rowena Sommerville Introduces herself:

I was a lucky baby-boomer, able to go to art school to study Graphics and Illustration despite my parents’ (perfectly justified) anxieties, and despite knowing nothing, either on arrival or on graduation, of how one actually earned a living from these skills. I then worked in a variety of youth justice, psychiatric and social care settings while picking up bits of illustration work (including for Spare Rib!), and gradually learned how to put together a creative life. When I had children I also began to write ‘for them’ and eventually had my first children’s book published, which I had written and illustrated.

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RS Croc paperback cover cropped

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Throughout the 1980s and 90s I wrote (mostly for children) and illustrated both my own work and that of other writers, and visited lots of schools, supporting their writing and artwork. On my first ever professional school visit I read a few things, showed a few pictures, and then invited questions, and the first question I was asked in this context was ‘Are you wearing lipstick?’. I decided that I could cope with that level of critical scrutiny!

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RS Sizewise pic + poem cropped

*****RS dung beetle pic + poem cropped

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In 1999, and by now living in Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast, I began working in community/participatory arts management in Teesside – a challenging but interesting and rewarding area both professionally and socially. My personal creativity became more focussed on poetry, including an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, led by Michael Schmidt, and on singing. I sing with an acappella quartet called ‘Henwen’, and this has been a great source of joy over the years.

Following the successful submission of individual poems to various magazines and sites, I was thrilled to have my first adult collection of poems – Melusine – published by Mudfog Poetry Press in 2021, and available from them. I drew the figure for the cover – and, for info, a Melusine is a mermaid whose tail splits into two, and while such figures reach back into history, we most frequently see one now as the emblem for a well-known coffee chain…..

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RS Melusine pic

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I am completely delighted to be Artist in Residence 2022 for The High Window, thanks to David Cooke, and I look forward to making new work to be featured within it. I don’t have a clear plan at this point, just some excitement and some gratitude, so I’m pleased to meet you all, and here’s hoping for a peaceful, positive and productive year. I will close with an image from a fairly recently completed wall-hanging, honouring my baby-boomer origins.

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RS Jimi head

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