As a painter with a background in music, pattern cutting, bespoke clothing design and illustration, Bobbie’s background is varied to say the least.
The music adventures started at the age of just 16, after she left school and moved up to a friend’s London flat, and then to a shared house in Beckenham, south London where most of the band Comus lived. Two of the band were friends with David Bowie as they all attended the local art college, in Beckenham, Kent.
Bobbie soon became a member of the band, and they started to tour the UK, and later Europe after signing a record deal with Pye Records on the Dawn label. They went down a storm at college gigs, and Bobbie sang in front of 250,000 people at an open air festival in Weeley, Essex. In 1969, David Bowie invited them to support him at the Purcell Room, part of London’s South Bank complex, which includes The Royal Festival Hall.
Comus have since become revered as one of the most influential bands of their time – late 1960s, early 70s, and their 1971 vinyl album ‘First Utterance’ fetches £1,500 on the open market. After folding in 1972, and band members going separate ways, they subsequently reformed and signed to Virgin Records in 1974 for their second album, ‘To Keep From Crying’ but it achieved less success.
Wondering what to do next, after the band’s first split, and still only 18 years old, Bobbie gravitated towards the idea of going to art college. Some members of Comus had previously attended the art college in Beckenham where they lived, and so it seemed to be a natural progression…
She started a degree in Fashion & Textiles in the September, (thinking that you had to be a Michelangelo to do Fine Art), at the then rebranded ‘Ravensbourne College of Art & Design’ in nearby Bromley, Kent. Here she thrived, but hung out mostly with the painters and sculptors as they seemed to be a more familiar crowd.
After college in the late 70s, Bobbie worked as a designer for London high street clothing companies for a couple of years, as well as a freelance editorial illustrator for National Magazines’ Company and Cosmopolitan titles. She worked on video pack cover illustration, as well as cell painting on hand- animated films for Little Big Films, including the ‘The Yellow Submarine Sandwich’ for Terry Gilliam, and rendering on Pink Floyd’s 1979 film ‘The Wall’.
At the beginning of 1981 she moved out of London to Oxfordshire, working as a part time cleaner in a country manor house, in exchange for a flat nearby, and a studio / workroom in the big house. A small business developed, designing and making bespoke ball dresses, wedding dresses and daywear.
One of her customers, Gill Allcock, was at that time married to musician Maartin Allcock of folk / rock band Fairport Convention. And so a reconnection with music was made, in concert with the designing / making, and Bobbie subsequently found herself learning and arranging numerous traditional and contemporary folk songs for performances with their band in folk clubs, gigs, and festivals.
During this time she also refined her drawing, painting and graphic skills for a portfolio directed at illustration work.
Whilst at Ravensbourne, the parts of her course that she had enjoyed most were those that involved drawing – life drawing, fashion drawing, plant drawing for the textile work, and to a lesser extent, pattern drafting. This was more technical, but related to the creating of patterns for 3D shapes to fit the female form. Bobbie likened the result to ‘fabric sculpture’, and so, inspired also by the work of Tomoko Nakamichi, tutor at the Bunka School in Tokyo, Japan, she realised that the pattern making process was in fact one of the most creative aspects of fashion and it allowed for more radical and experimental fashion design.
Large scale oil pastel paintings on paper continued alongside Bobbie’s more graphic illustration work, and the combination of drawing with painting that oil pastel allowed was evidently suited to Bobbie’s style.
In 1999, Bobbie met, fell in love with and later married her soulmate – the most supportive, enabling, encouraging man who should have been around many years before, Jon Seagroatt. She joined his band as a singer, and they subsequently wrote a body of songs for their bands Drift and the Colins of Paradise – lyrics by Bobbie, music by Jon.
In 2008, Bobbie’s first band Comus reformed at the behest of a festival promoter, enhanced by the then ubiquitous social media, and Jon took the part of the only original member who didn’t wish to reform, playing percussion, woodwind and reed instruments. In the latter few years of the reformation, Bobbie managed the band, dealing successfully with merchandise, contracts, flights and overseas promoters.
After starting to teach in 2000, and later completing a PGCE, a lot of work on Fashion BA and MA courses followed, teaching experimental pattern cutting, design and garment production until 2015, when the need to accommodate her burgeoning bespoke business, Atelier, and an increasing home studio teaching schedule allowed her to move away from academia.
In 2016 Bobbie decided to make some larger scale paintings of ‘significant’ items of clothing. To draw and paint clothing and fabrics with an actual or suggested female form was then the challenge. A body of work was building up, and so she decided to apply for an MA in Fine Art Painting at UAL Camberwell College of Arts, knowing that she would get the best environment – tutors, technicians and facilities there. She knew that this was a really important step to express and refine the themes which had always pursued her.
As photography had always been a natural ‘ go to’ for her ‘sketchbooks’ (having acquired a camera at the age of 10), she used photo editing – Photoshop and iPhoto – on her laptop to start of the process of abstraction as starting points for her paintings. Compared to hours spent with a photocopier in the copy shop in the local town before the common usage of computers, this was luxury! So her style developed using these methods.
But Bobbie’s MA in Fine Art Painting was rudely interrupted by the Covid pandemic in 2020, exactly halfway through the course, and she was obliged to continue online.
After the end of the course, real life exhibitions couldn’t really happen, and after a year of consistent working to build a new body of work, and inclusion in a few online and two in-person exhibitions, Bobbie’s frustration with this state of affairs prompted her to organise and curate an exhibition for herself and other artists.
This exhibition, ‘Herstories: Interrogating Photography, Fabrics and the Female Form’, was really well received, and much complimented, and although two more exhibitions were booked in to the same beautiful empty unit in her town, these would not be confirmed by the new management of the shopping precinct unless a sizeable amount of money was paid, and so these could not go ahead. By great fortune, however, Bobbie was offered a pitch at a major music festival locally, and so all was not lost…This is scheduled for August 2022, with the participation of most of the artists who were scheduled to appear in the previous cancelled exhibition, plus a few more.
Currently, she is always on the look out for a more regular venue for a pop-up gallery, to organise and curate future group exhibitions and she continues to paint in small series now, with the ever present themes of photography, fabrics and the (mostly) female form – in oils, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, and oil pastel, neocolour and charcoal on paper