Meet our Billboard Artists

To celebrate our current exhibition Found Cities, Lost Objects: Women in the City, an Arts Council Collection touring exhibition curated by Lubaina Himid CBE, we invited applications from Bristol-based artists to create a billboard artwork or design, responding to the exhibition's themes.   

Found Cities, Lost Objects encourages us to view the city through contemporary art, acknowledging the privileges which can mean we feel free to roam while considering the boundaries which may curb our experiences as women. This is an exhibition with conversations between audiences and artists at its heart, each exchanging observations, memories, and imaginings, to give us all a greater sense of ownership and belonging.

We received so many amazing applications, from which Lubaina chose three fantastic local artists to take on the commission, Liz Naden, Annie Clay and Lucy J Turner. Over the last few weeks, the three selected artists have been working hard to create new and exciting pieces responding to the commission brief. Their work will soon be enlarged and displayed on billboards all over the city. We had a chat with each of them about the process.

Liz Naden...

Photo Credit: Mercedes Polo Portillo

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your journey as an artist?

A. I'm originally from Nottingham, studied at Kingston University, and then moved to Bristol in 2018. I've always made art. I used to spend my school lunchtimes in the art department as it was a quiet space to create. I then did an art foundation, specialised in fine art and went to study the subject at Kingston School of Art. I found I loved sculpture and began making things which responded to ideas about the environment and consumerism.

 More recently, my work has grown to be quite playful and fun, and even though there are wider, more serious themes within, I think finding joy in art is extremely important.

Q. How would you describe your artistic style? What inspires you?

A. I create abstract drawings, paintings, installations and murals, working with my intuition to produce compositions and choose colours. I like to combine traditional drawing techniques, such as line sketches and contextualise them with wider ideas such as activism and the environment.

 I feel inspired by nature and how I can connect my art to its surroundings. I see photography as an important element of my practice and often take work outside to be photographed and viewed. The final photograph of the piece is often more important than the piece of art itself.

Q. Why did you decide to enter the Billboard Commission competition?

A. I entered because the theme of the exhibition really resonates with my current ideas. A few years ago I joined the Bristol Mural Collective; a female-led mural group that runs ‘paint jams’ where people join together to paint outside for fun. The billboard commission was a good opportunity to shed light on the importance of the community, and how important it is for women to have a space to paint outside. Shout out to Rosa (Rtiiika) for setting it up and inspiring so many people!

Q. Can you tell us about the work you have created for your Billboard?

A. I painted a large portable mural in bright and bold colours, evoking a sense of joy and security. I wheeled it from Brislington to the centre of Bristol, via Temple Meads and Stokes Croft, with photographer Genoveva Arteaga. She helped to photograph the piece while it was on its journey, against backdrops that contrasted with the mural's aesthetic. The contrast was crucial to highlight the positive effect art can have in certain areas that may feel unsafe, particularly for women. It also implied that any wall can become a legal wall to paint on. I selected nine photographs and pieced them together in a series to create the final artwork.

Photo credit: Genoveva Arteaga

Q. How does it feel to have your work up on billboards around the city?

A. Pretty unbelievable! I feel very grateful to Lubaina for trusting in my idea for the project and selecting me as one of the winning artists. One of the billboards is on North Street, which is the area of Bristol I first lived in when I moved here nearly 5 years ago. I spent four years walking up and down that street, so it feels nice to have my work up there.

Annie Clay...

Photo credit: Alice Poole

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your journey as an artist?

A. I studied printed textile design at the University of Brighton back in 2000. I loved drawing, painting and screen printing the most there. I've always loved drawing though; I can remember telling my Grandma I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was 7! After graduating I cut my teeth working in different design departments of high street retailers in London like Accessorize and suppliers to places like Marks and Spencer's. I realised pretty quickly I wanted to work as a freelancer to gain skills in more varied places, to have a bit more freedom and be more creative. I ended up working in printed textile design for about 14 years which was great and I met some lifelong friends, but around 6 years ago hit a wall.

I'd moved to Bristol at this point and rented a space in a studio with lots of painters. I knew I wanted to create in a different way and have a break from fast fashion, so I went on a journey of discovering what that needed to be. I read a brilliant book called 'The Artists Way' by Julia Cameron which shifted the way I thought about everything creatively, and started trying to create without self-judgment or any commercial need (whilst earning through textile design work a couple of days a week). It was such a freeing time! It enabled me to find my thoughts and gave me such headspace, I started to slowly paint on canvas and play around with collage on paper.

I realised the things I love to draw and paint were the things that are right under my nose - everyday life, the feel of a place or the light on a building. That mixed with the fact I could pour my feelings and thoughts out into these creations seemed to direct me towards what I'm doing today. I'm always open to change and hope that if I can stay judgement free (as hard as that is!) that it will always evolve and I'll keep learning as I go.

Q. How would you describe your artistic style? What inspires you?

A. I'm not sure how I'd describe my artistic style, to be honest. There's definitely realism in there mixed with a slight wonkiness! I never sketch or pre-plan any of my paintings. I prefer to paint by eye from what I see in many of the photos I take on my explorations of places. If a line goes bendy or a shape a bit wonky then that's fine by me. I believe it is better that way! I'm not aiming for perfection in a painting, I'm trying to paint what I see and what I believe something to be from my experience of it.

I'm inspired by so many things, I'm lucky to rent a studio space with some really inspiring artists. It's definitely what gave me the confidence to try it as a career. On my floor, there are super female artists whom I love chatting with about life! I find walking around cities & towns and finding hidden spaces, places and oddities fun. I'm drawn to everyday things, I love listening to Desert Island Discs to hear what people's lives are like or reading 'a life in a day' type articles.

There are so many artists I'm inspired by, but a few favourites are Grandma Moses, an American folk artist who began painting in her late 70s; Mary Fedden; David Hockney; Martin Parr; Pierre Bonnard and many more! 

Photo Credit: Alice Poole

Q. Why did you decide to enter the Billboard Commission competition?

A. I learned about it through our studio manager Rosie and the brief jumped out to me. I often feel like opportunities come up that might not suit my work or feel out of reach for some reason, but this one felt right and as it was open to women - a rare one too! There were a few different elements that came together for me. I've had a few ideas about creating work for disused billboards over the past few years but didn't know how to fund it. I also wanted the opportunity to create a piece reflecting on life as a mother in my home city of Bristol. I'd been playing with collaging found objects onto paintings, but I wanted to involve my daughter in collecting (one of her favourite things to do!) and make it an inter-generational reflective piece.

Q. Can you tell us about the work you have created for your Billboard?

A. I'd been exploring an area of Bristol near Temple Meads train station for a while and had been attracted to a big development down there. The old Royal Mail sorting depot which had stood on the same spot since the 1930's had been demolished and is now being replaced with University buildings. Initially, I was drawn to the drastic change in the landscape and the amazing colours and shapes of the construction vehicles being used. I think there's something quite powerful about them but also very toy-like, my son always points out vehicles he loves and shouts out their names and I'm often picking out things in sight he'd like.

I feel I experience the city through my children's eyes now as well as a mother's, thinking about how the city will affect them. Alongside the idea of painting a construction vehicle, I wanted to re-create the rubble and terrain around it with found objects. I was able to gain access to the site with the help of the site manager who let me forage in the mud for all sorts of gems like painted pottery, old Bic biro's and scrap metal! The layers of history there were fascinating. I later learned that that site has been a cattle market, a colour works factory and a cholera burial ground. 

On other occasions, during the commission, I hunted for 'treasure' with my daughter Ada too. We found scraps of toy diggers, microplastic, old doll's house plates, and parts of fishing nets on beaches, sandpits and playparks. I then selected what worked best with the painting and collaged them. I wanted to involve her as a way of digesting that what we create now is what we are choosing to leave for the next generation.

Q. How does it feel to have your work up on billboards around the city?

A. I'm incredibly excited to see all the artist's work up on the billboards and to see how we've each responded to the brief. I feel proud to have created a piece within the limited hours I have as a working mum, that hopefully expresses and reflects the intensity of the role of mother and parent in the changing city today. The hope and fears and joys and questions all interplay. I feel honoured to have been selected for this opportunity, I hope people in the city enjoy seeing and interacting with it too.


Lucy J Turner 

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and your journey as an artist?

A. My name is Lucy and I'm a Bristol-based Artist, Digital Illustrator and writer. I started using art as a way to heal after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in my 20s. I'm passionate about teaching people that art can help heal trauma.

Q. How would you describe your artistic style? What inspires you?

A. As a Digital Illustrator, my work makes use of bold, bright colours and joyful shapes and designs. My main inspiration is Black people, especially Black women as we are often left out of the conversation even though the world would not move without Black women. This desire to centre the “marginalised” is something that always manifests in my digital art. It is important to me to celebrate the Black body in striking, colourful, arresting art that draws the eye and occupies space.

Q. Why did you decide to enter the Billboard Commission competition?

A. I decided to enter the competition largely because of the provocation of "women in cities". As a woman who has only grown up in large cities, I felt like I have a lifetime of experiences that have for better or for worse, moulded me into the person and artist I am today. I saw it as a brilliant opportunity to tell and share my stories.

Q. Can you tell us about the work you have created for your Billboard?

A. Cities can be magical places, full of culture, community, art, electricity, vibrancy and fun. They can help you find your tribe and make you feel less alone. They can foster feelings of inclusion and blow away the loneliness. But all that depends on who you ask, cities can also add to feelings of loneliness and isolation. They can create dark places where violence and assault thrive. Especially for women.

My piece explores and highlights the relationships between Black women living in the city and how integral they are to each other. Even now, living in a city as diverse as Bristol, it still remains incredibly segregated and in order to survive, Black women have built communities within the city. The themes of joy and laughter and lightness come to mind because that’s what we provide each other.

Q. How does it feel to have your work up on billboards around the city?

A. Seeing my work in the "wild" always leaves me speechless. I feel so honoured to share my art with the world and I hope that it makes a positive impact and creates some much-needed change. I hope to see more representation!


Keep your eyes peeled for the billboards around Bristol over the next few weeks and come and see the original artwork for yourself at the RWA. The three winning commissions are on display in our Studio right now and will be for a limited period.


The Billboard Project is a partnership between The Arts Council Collection and RWA, Bristol.



Media partners and billboard space from