Night Shift Review | Books

A couple of years ago, I read Probably Nothing by Matilda Tristram – a picture book that depicted a woman’s battle with cancer.

It stayed with me because it was so different and it was such a unique way of talking about such a difficult topic.

So when Hot Key Books sent me Night Shift by Debi Gliori, I was really interested to see how the author had managed to depict depression through her illustrations.  Continue reading “Night Shift Review | Books”

Our Chemical Hearts Review | Books

I’m all about the characters in a book.

To me, they are the biggest aspect of the whole thing –  I love seeing how their minds work & what decisions they make!

When Hot Key Books sent me Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland, I was intrigued. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction & this ‘untypical’ love story got me wondering what was so different about it.

I was definitely not disappointed by this story of first love & heartbreak. Henry, the protagonist, was so well rounded & realistic that I felt I actually knew him & I became quite protective of this young, lovesick teenager too!

For me, the characters in this book were some of the strongest I have ever read.

You can watch my whole review of this bittersweet love story here:


Allie x

Quentin Blake : Inside Stories Review | Art

Last weekend, Cardiff was transformed into a wonderland in City of the Unexpected – a celebration of Roald Dahl‘s life on what would have been his 100th birthday!


When I was a kid, Roald Dahl books formed a huge part of my library and even now, I have nearly a whole shelf dedicated to him. His stories were such a massive part of my childhood and they always seemed to have the perfect balance of obscene grossness and moral life lessons – I couldn’t help but love them! However, while Dahl’s imaginative tales are wonderfully descriptive, I just cannot picture his books without Quentin Blake’s quirky illustrations! Continue reading “Quentin Blake : Inside Stories Review | Art”

The Artist’s Story with Graham Parker & Amir Nejad | Art

Behind every creative, there is a story.

There is a reason why every dancer dances, every writer writes and every painter paints.

I recently chatted to two Swansea-based artists, Graham Parker & Amir A Nejad, who exhibited their work last week in the Oriel Bach Gallery. Their collaborative exhibition, ‘Face to the Sea’, displayed the artists’ two very different styles side by side; Graham depicts energetic seascapes in his work while Amir focuses on intricately detailed portraits.

In this post, they talk very candidly about the experiences that influence their craft in their own words.

Graham Parker

'Graham Parker in his studio' by Daniel Stavely
‘Graham Parker in his studio’ courtesy of Daniel Stavely

Graham’s seascapes are full of life. The dynamic movement of the waves is captured in the artist’s use of vivid colours and multiple layers of paint. But where did Graham’s love of the sea come from? He recalls the freedom that the sea represented as a young child:

‘I remember feeling the joy of running free on the windy beach, feeling the sand and sea spray blowing hard on my face,’ he tells me. This memory of Graham’s could easily be a description of his own work; after viewing one of his paintings, you can almost taste the saltwater on your lips.

His parents were a huge influence on the young Graham and his relationship with the sea.

‘My parents ran an off-licence in Swansea’s Sandfields and they took my sister and I for regular, long walks and swims on the Gower.’

But the happy memories that Graham has of his family beside the sea are also tinged with sadness. Graham grew to understand the fierce nature of the sea when his father ‘died after rescuing a swimmer in difficulty in treacherous currents at Bracelet Bay.’

His mother ‘developed Alzheimer’s in later life but was never happier than when, without inhibition, was happily singing her favourite songs from the 1940’s as we walked her along the beach.’

It is a story which is bittersweet and Graham admits that ‘while I’m thrilled by the sea’s beauty, energy, rhythm and movement, I also have a healthy respect for its awesome power.’

Graham Parker’s artwork

Graham is also currently working on a new series of horizon paintings. I asked him how they differed to his energetic seascapes.

‘Although my wave paintings are made gesturally and spontaneously, I’m more thoughtful and restrained in the horizons series.’

He credits his favourite fine art lecturer, Dr Robert Newel, for introducing him to Bachelard who states:

To disappear in deep water or to disappear toward a far horizon, to become a part of depth or infinity, such is the density of man that finds its image in the density of water.’ (Bachelard [1942] 1994:12)

For Graham, ‘this concept prompted a more cognitive approach in [his] painting practice. In the horizons series, I aim to depict a distant place, a horizon which is as much a part of me as it is an imaginary line where the sea or land appears to meet the sky.’

Finally, I asked Graham whether his diagnosis of cancer last year had affected his work. I knew that writing had played a huge part in my recovery and I thought it would be interesting to discover whether art had helped him.  He told me:

‘I don’t know why, but these days I’m happy to take more time with my paintings.’

‘Radical neck surgery and 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy and chemotherapy, or rather the effects of these procedures, affects you in many different ways. I don’t feel so compelled to work gesturally and at speed. I now have the patience to apply paint in a more considered way, both cognitively and mechanically.

‘I guess I’ve just got more patience and that’s not a bad thing. These days, I’m equally driven in my art practice but more likely to, as Bachelard says, aim to become ‘part of depth or infinity’ and ‘disappear towards a far horizon’ in my work. In a very positive way, of course!’

Amir A Nejad

IMG_4624.JPG Artist Amir Nejad -theBLOC

Amir’s portraits are beautifully precise. His intricate detailing gives his work a startlingly lifelike quality and manages to encapsulate the soul of his subject.

I have to know the person’s history before I make a portrait of them,’ he tells me, something that is deeply apparent in his paintings. ‘I like to capture their background and history in the painting.’

So, how does he go about finding these people?

If I see someone whose face interests me, I will ask if I may take their photograph. Some people are pleased to do that but many say no. I will paint their portrait in my studio from their photograph and what I know about them.’

While I was at the Elysium Gallery’s exhibition in July, I noticed that Amir’s portrait of Rhys Ifans had a distinctive black background. I asked him why he uses this contrasting feature in his work and his answer astounded me.

I use a dark background to represent a very dark time in my life. I was imprisoned and tortured in Iran because the state police thought my paintings were political. I finally managed to escape and was granted asylum in the UK.

‘I use lighter backgrounds now as I am happy to be living here in Swansea with my family.’

‘The backgrounds are getting lighter and brighter as I begin to meet more people.’

‘It was good to talk to so many new people during the Elysium Open Studio event last week and at the launch of my ‘Face to The Sea’ exhibition with Graham. I hope that I will receive commissions to paint people’s portraits from these events.’

Amir’s portrait of Sir Anthony Hopkins

And how did Amir move back into portrait painting after his traumatic experiences? Well, it was all down to his wife.

‘It was lonely when I came to Swansea. I couldn’t bring myself to paint because of that dark time in my life. My wife persuaded me to go and ask people if I could paint them. I soon found that everyone has a story to tell. Many of them have had bad times in their life like me. I asked to paint Graham’s portrait when he had cancer. It was a sad part in his life and I wanted to tell his story in my painting of him.’

These stories are depicted very clearly in each line of Amir’s work and his own story now seems to have taken a better turn thanks to his move to Swansea.

‘My family have helped me and supported me in my painting. I love them very much.’

‘I believe we now have a brighter future in Swansea. Perhaps now my portrait paintings will have a lighter background to represent this.’

I certainly wish Amir and his family all the very best.

A huge thank you to Graham and Amir for chatting to me!

Allie x

Find out more about Graham here: and here:

Find out more about Amir here:

All images courtesy of Graham Parker. 

theBLOC Art Gallery – A Taster Session | Reviews

Last Friday, I was invited to a private viewing of a new exhibition at theBLOC art gallery in Swansea.

Located on the High Street, theBLOC is part of the Elysium Gallery and is dedicated to displaying the work of Elysium’s artists.

The exhibition is an extremely diverse and eclectic mix of mediums and the artists come from a range of different backgrounds. The one thing they have in common is that they all have a strong connection with Swansea and most have completed degrees in the city.

A lot of the artists have experimented with new ideas or mediums for the artwork that is on display and the results are both intriguing and thought provoking. Continue reading “theBLOC Art Gallery – A Taster Session | Reviews”

The Right Questions | Book Review

Hey lovely people,

I recently finished reading a self-help book for the first time ever & it was quite an experience. A friend lent me the book The Right Questions by Debbie Ford a few years ago and I’ve only just got around to reading it.  Continue reading “The Right Questions | Book Review”

Dalit Leon’s ‘Time Signatures’ | Reviews

You could be forgiven for missing the Elysium Gallery completely.

Tucked away on a busy Swansea street, the gallery offers a break from the madness and a descent into a calming, tranquil space.

Escaping into a different dimension is particularly apt for the current exhibition on display, Dalit Leon’s Time Signatures. Her focus for the artwork has been her ‘fascination with time…and the relationship between time and space; the passage of time but also the sense of timelessness.’ Continue reading “Dalit Leon’s ‘Time Signatures’ | Reviews”

Crossing the Whitewash | Book Review

Hey guys,

I hope you’re all well!

I’ve got a book review for you today & with the Six Nations coming up, I thought it only right that I should review a book centred on rugby – in fact, it’s a Rugby World Cup thriller!  Continue reading “Crossing the Whitewash | Book Review”