Leigh Art Trail 2023 event – Autumn by Nicky Roach

In September 2022, SEVEN exhibited sketchbooks in the Leigh Art Trail. The Art Trail also runs a Secret Auction (where artists donate a piece of work and the proceeds go towards running the Art Trail).

For the Secret Auction, SEVEN offered one winner the chance to attend one of our regular creative sessions at Metal. Our winning bidder was Nicky Roach, a local artist and maker.

In the session we began to look at the theme of ‘seasons’, in particular autumn. We worked through some of the processes, we often use to get a sketchbook started. At the end of the session we invited Nicky to come back and share how she’d got on with her sketchbook.

When Nicky returned, we were so delighted with the way she had developed her book…using narrative…characters…objects…even burning pages(!)…all within a 3D format. We thought we have to animate her book to bring this fantastical story to life!

Click below to play/enlarge the stop-frame-animation….Enjoy!

Autumn by Nicky Roach 2023

‘Windy day’ stop-frame animation

Windy day by Jo Bund

One of the key images that I love about winter is the silhouette of bare trees against the sky. So, as an addition to my winter sketchbook, I’ve created a short stop-frame animation of windy trees, inspired by William Kentridge.

SEVEN visited the William Kentridge exhibition at the RA last November which included a number of short, hand-drawn animations. I thought the simplicity of the animations was really effective and I wanted to try to capture this.

The first step was to draw several trees to illustrate the movement of them blowing in the howling winter winds. Each tree was cut out of card and photographed against my sketchbook, which I used as a background. I then built the animation and added a ‘wintery’ sound clip.


LAT theme 2023 — how we’re exploring the seasons SEVEN style

Every autumn SEVEN gets back to (art) school with a fresh theme to take us through to our collective goal that is the Leigh Art Trail.  And, for 2023 the theme is — yes! — The Seasons. 

Beginning back in October with a small concertina sketchbook each and a jumble-sale meets-nature-table crammed with leaves, branches, and even an owl pellet, to get the juices flowing, we began our art journal adventures.

Wondering how we did that? Read on…

Make Your Mark

Making marks inspired by an object, feeling, or even music, can be a great way to overcome overthinking when it comes to beginning a project. Paint or ink are a good choice to get you going — no temptation to erase so-called mistakes, you see. Then, simply let your hand lead the way.

The next step is to play with those marks. Will they become a backdrop? Will the shapes or lines inspire a certain exploration? Will most of it be concealed with collage, drawing, more paint? Or revealed? Emphasised? And on…


Another way to get your creative juices flowing is to play with words. We often look at poetry or fiction writing for inspiration because the metaphors are so meaty.  When Faith Baldwin writes this, for example, it evokes all sorts of images:

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.” 

But don’t just look to the words of others for our inspiration. We’ll also dabble in a bit of expressive poetry or wordplay crafted from a random selection of words snipped from magazines or old books.  That way you create unexpected connections which are yet another source of arty fuel.

The cut-up method has long-been used by creatives like David Bowie for its unexpected juxtapositions and memorable images — so you’re in good company if you choose to embrace it.

Transferring Images

As SEVEN always emphasise, playing in a creative sketchbook or art journal doesn’t require artistic prowess. 

Believe you can’t draw? Then how about playing with printing? That’s what we did in the initial weeks of this Leigh Art Trail project, and the results are usually pretty effective, providing plenty of collage fodder to play with.

No printing equipment? Hate the mess?  Then a box of crayons could be your best friend. Frottage, as it’s known, has been used by everyone from school kids to the Surrealist Max Ernst to create intriguing images.  No drawing required.  Unless you want to of course!

Springing into Action

So, those are some of the prompts and processes we’ve been playing with for our current Leigh Art Trail project.  What’s always so fascinating about working in a group like SEVEN is the multitude of ways a single theme, like The Seasons, can be interpreted on the page. 

Be sure to follow our creative concertina books as they unfold from autumn, through winter, spring and summer, over on Instagram.

SEVEN rides again – we welcome two new(ish) members

One of the most frequent questions we get asked when exhibiting our creative sketchbooks is: Why are you called SEVEN? And, in recent years the answer’s gotten a bit convoluted. But, now that’s all about to change, as we become SEVEN, not just in name, once again…


There are two reasons for the name:

The group was formed around table seven of the now closed Railway Hotel in Southend. And, there were seven of us around that table.  

Et voila! SEVEN seemed the obvious choice.

Five Get Familiar 

Thing is, in recent years there have been just five of us. So, that question — why are you called SEVEN? — hasn’t been so easy to answer.

At first, we were keen to make up our numbers. SEVEN was our magic number in a way. Thing is, we’re a closed group, and the dynamic works pretty well. Would a new face or two add to that? Shake things up in a good way? Or would it upset the apple cart?

Who knows!?

SEVEN Went to Leigh Art Trail

Anyway! We’ve bitten the bullet and for Leigh Art Trail 2023 there will be seven of us once more. 

Who are these curious new members, you ask? *Drumroll, opens envelope, clears throat. So, the SEVEN gals are glad to welcome:

Karen Christensen — A brand spanking new member, who is well known around town for her wonderful mixed media artwork, Karen came to try us out back in January and decided she quite enjoyed being gently nudged out of her comfort zones while chatting and eating biscuits.  You can find out more about Karen here.

Nicola Watts — A mixed media artist with a penchant for layering like no other — expect ultra thick,crusty, sparkly journals, people! — Nicola is a returning member.  She took a bit of a sabbatical from SEVEN when life had other plans, but was welcomed back with open arms and a concertina sketchbook when she felt ready to return. Discover more about Nicola here.

Never Wonder About SEVEN Again!

Lucky for you, you’ll never have to wonder why we’re called SEVEN. Nor wonder what we do when we get together in our cosy little collective.  Why? 

Because we’re on Instagram. Yay! Yep there, we share insights into our creative explorations, inspirations and other arty, creative sketchbook type things — come and chat with us.

Leigh Art Trail 2022

Join us for our exhibition of handmade art books at this year’s Leigh Art Trail 2022.

Come, take a peek and discover how one theme – in this case, silver – has been explored and expressed in five very different ways.

Why Silver?

2022 marks 25 creativity-crammed years of the Leigh Art Trail, so for this year’s theme we chose silver.

“Silver (Ag), chemical element, a white lustrous metal valued for its decorative beauty and electrical conductivity.”

Slick. Stylish. Modern. Shimmering. Reflective.

From silver screens to silver bullets, silver is brimming with uses and associations — as you’ll see, each SEVEN member has picked a particular silver thread and run with it.

How to find us

Where: Venue 13, The Refill Room, 15 Elm Road SS9 1SW

When: Sat 3 September to Sun 11 September 2022

Visit www.leigharttrail.com/seven-collective for opening times and full details.

We look forward to seeing you!