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Developing Your Creative Practice - I'm going on an adventure!





Delighted to see a very welcome sum of money arrive in my account today! Having applied for a second time, I was thrilled to be the recipient of the much coveted 'Develop you Creative Practice Grant' offered by the Arts Council UK.

The grant is an excellent way for creatives to try and focus on their creative development. I first learned of it a couple of years ago when I was working on a project for Suffolk Libraries. At the time, I didn't feel that it was for me, somewhat of an imposter syndrome that told me that I wasn't worthy and wouldn't be successful anyway. But last year I had my first go at the award which was unsuccessful, but with some hopeful feedback.

Gearing up for my second attempt I enlisted the help of Cai Burton, who ran me through a superb art mentoring session focused on application for the grant for a second time. It was really helpful and, needless to say, successful. I would HIGHLY recommend Cai to anyone thinking of applying.

The result of my success is that I am now embarking on a period of creative development. It's been tough. I've effectively gone back to my sketchbooks, focused on development and improving my drawing skills, unlearning some skills, and challenging misconceptions. All of this under the skilful eye of Pam Smy, my mentor, who I also HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend to any creative person looking to develop their skills.


My timetable is very straightforward. The grant allows me to pay myself to spend days working on my creative practice. Something that I've never been able to do in my life. I've been able to reduce my work hours proportionately and I'm seeing huge gains and improvements already. As I often mention to people, my only qualification in art is a lacklustre GCSE 'D' from a two year disastrous art experience in high school.


Although largely self taught I have often dreamt of having more direction and support and viewed Anglia Ruskin University's 'Children's Book Illustration' Masters course, as my Mount Everest, something I never thought I would achieve. However, this year I plugged away at a hopeful application and once again defied the ceiling set by the GCSE art teacher. I am delighted to confirm that I will start a part-time course in 2024. At this point in my life I am 42 and find myself realizing the dreams of 7 year old me in complete disbelief and all of this on the springboard of my success with the arts council grant!


Are you creative and looking to develop your career in some way? Well I would highly recommend you look into the Arts Council grant system.

Below you'll find a bit about the award and then beneath that are some of my answers to the key questions. It might be helpful but obviously it's specific to my direction. So I've also included some links to sites I found helpful as well!

Who can apply?
Individual creative or cultural practitioners. If you’ve made two unsuccessful or one successful application to DYCP since 10 July 2019 (Round 6), you won’t be eligible to apply to Round 18. You can find full eligibility criteria in the guidance for applicants. Every time we open a new round this restriction will move forward by one round. If you’ve made two unsuccessful or one successful application since 10 October 2019 (Round 7) you won’t be eligible to apply for Round 19. This means all applicants will have the chance to apply again.
What can I apply for?
You can apply for development activities our supported disciplines, for example undertaking a period of research, networking, or time to create new work. How much can I apply for?
£2000-£12,000 Can I get help to apply?
Yes! If you have an access requirement, we provide support including alternative versions of the guidance for applicants or paying for a support worker.

Extracts: David Oates application:

Tell us about yourself and your creative practice

In 2021, I worked with Suffolk Libraries on the 'Stitching Stowe' project funded by an Arts Council grant. I was commissioned to produce a large mural for the garden display as part of the project, working alongside other artists and illustrators. I run a website page called 'Inky Expression' that I use to inspire creative writing and develop children's love of writing and drawing. I produce illustrations for the project sharing teaching ideas to support educators. I still work full time as a teacher but in September 2023 I will be working freelance offering schools creative workshops that will include art/illustration and printing sessions as well as creative writing and story development workshops. At present some of my work is on display as part of an exhibition at Santiago's Cafe and Art Gallery. This is part of a unique collection that I created using Gelli Plate printing and ink as part of my creative exploration and development. I have illustrated and written two children's books and I am working on a third. In addition to my own work I am in the process of illustrating a book cover for another writer with the possibility of some internal illustrations. I am a part of Dog Eared Creatives, an illustration group working out of Suffolk and created by industry pros, James Mayhew and Pam Smy. Through this group, I have been attending courses and meeting with other creatives and discussing my career direction and I am hoping to enter into a mentoring program with Dog Eared Creatives to develop my writing and illustration of picture books with a part of my practice that I am keen to develop.

Tell us about the developmental opportunity you want to undertake, what you hope to get out of it, and how you will go about it.

If successful, I wish to undertake an extensive mentoring period to help evolve my illustration style and apply it to the creation of new portfolio of work that I can take to publishers for feedback. Through Dog Eared Creatives I have gained access to a wealth of talent and experience that offers emerging illustrators/writers the chance to develop their practice. I have experience in writing and illustrating middle-grade fiction but picture book writing and illustrating would be a new field for me and I hope to evolve my existing skill set. I would engage in a period of research and developing my ideas before working on writing, drafting and editing my work, revisiting with my mentor at suitable intervals. My year plan will involve 3 main activities: Experimenting: 5 days of research into picture books, looking at the existing market and analysing. 10 days of experimenting with writing styles (comedic, fairy tales, folk lore). 30 days of writing and developing ideas. Development: working with up to two different mentors: Pam Smy: picture book writer, lecturer Cambridge School of Art. James Mayhew: picture book writer, former tutor at the Cambridge School of Art Review: I will work with mentors to set writing goals throughout the year. At the end of the review phases and with a new portfolio of work I will visit the Bologna Book fair to conduct more research and discuss my portfolio with publishers and agents.

Why is this important for your practice at this point, and how will this help create future opportunities?

After 4 years in the creative industry I wish to evolve and develop my creative career by diversifying my skill set into the area of writing and illustrating picture books. As someone from a working class background, I am a self taught writer and artist and as such have relied heavily on making my way in the industry through mentoring and support sessions within my artists/illustrators network. However, as a working professional I do not have the time or financial security required to focus on developing the required skills set and this grant would both support me through a career transition and allow me to embark on an intensive mentoring period and also allow myself time to concentrate on developing my artistic identity and create a portfolio that represents my work. I have illustrated my own children’s books and am currently working on illustrating a picture book. My true passion and desires for my career trajectory is to write and illustrate my own children’s picture books. By the end of this project I hope to: -Developed my understanding of writing children’s picture books. -Developed understanding of the children’s picture book market. -Evolve my illustration style and writing technique to make it more suitable for the picture book market. -Developed my network and connections within the industry.


Useful links:

Cai Burton: https://www.joyful-design.co.uk/

The White Pube: https://thewhitepube.co.uk/funding-library/

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