Rebecca Osborne has had to get really creative this year. From doing a ‘quick drawing’ of Captain Tom Moore, which captured the mood of the nation, to deciding to home school her kids
Not all superheroes wear capes, as we’ve all come to realise this year, thanks to the illustrations of Rebecca Osborne.
The unstoppable creative, as the visual transcriber/graphic recorder and illustrator been described before now, was busy drawing at public events attended by thousands of people at the start of the year.
But then lockdown happened and ‘all the work got cancelled on the same day, and not just the work but also the ability to show what I do,’ says the mother of three from Gorleston.
Even her voluntary work as an illustrator for Respect Yourself and a Super Artist for Supershoes, a charity which helps young people going through cancer treatment, dried up overnight.
‘Once the feel-good side of my artwork stopped, I thought it would be just nice to do something, to keep the momentum going, and to keep a bit of continuity,’ says Rebecca. And at the start of lockdown, she recalls, ‘we all tried to support each other. That was the first thing that spurred the drawings.’
It all began with a simple but effective illustration as a thank you to NHS workers, along the lines of ‘Not all superheroes wear capes…some wear masks.’ And it led to similar illustrations for refuse collectors, teachers, supermarket workers and so forth.
And then the story emerged of Captain Tom Moore, the war veteran who set out to do 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday and ended up raising more than £30 million for NHS Charities Together. ‘I came across Captain Tom and, instead of watching numbers go up in terms of cases and deaths, we were watching his numbers go up. I thought that was so special. And I thought ‘I’ll just do a quick drawing of him.’
Initially, it was simply a drawing of Captain Tom walking by himself, which she sent to him for his birthday and then shared on social media. ‘And then I just started seeing other people sharing my image.’ It turned out that Captain Tom’s family had also posted it, as a thank you. ‘That was lovely,’ says Rebecca. It even ended up on Network Rail digital screens at Birmingham New Street Station. She then added the RAF flypast and birthday balloons, ready for the big day itself. ‘It was nice giving people something positive to focus on. To be able to do something that made a difference using the skills I’ve got it was just really special.’
Rebecca then started getting requests for her ‘Not all superheroes’ series. And she adds: ‘I’m now getting enquiries in the style of that which is great. I’m very grateful.’ Rebecca’s work also now includes a wide range of projects for diverse clients, from education and curriculum providers such as Cambridge Assessment and PiXL to the NHS and the Church of England.
Over the summer holidays Rebecca and her husband Paul, both 45, made the decision that they would home school their two daughters, aged 13 and nearly 18, rather than send them back to school (they also have a son who is about to start his second year of university).
The husband and wife team have known each other since the age of 12: ‘Both Paul and I grew up in the area, went to school in Gorleston, college in Yarmouth and then Norwich University of the Arts. Then we had our kids and I was a stay at home mum for a very long time.
‘I would get involved in a lot of crafty stuff going on at school. One day, when my daughter was seven or eight, she said ‘my mum used to be an artist’. I was absolutely gutted. Everybody needs that kind of catalyst or kick and that was Rosie’s gift to me.
‘I put some work online in October/November and by Christmas I was working for two of the biggest companies in the world, Winsor and Newton and Sony.
‘I spent three or four years touring the work with Winsor & Newton doing demonstrations. I hadn’t left the country for 11 years because I’d been at home with my kids.’
And now she’ll be at home with her kids again. ‘There’s so much unknown at the moment – that’s why we’ve chosen what we’re doing with the girls. They thrived on the continuity of being at home.’ During lockdown, ‘they would be out in summerhouse, working. It developed into a normality.’
To facilitate the decision, Paul has resigned from his post as a secondary school physics teacher and Rebecca aims to use her experience as an arts and photography teacher. ‘Between us we’ve got a lot of skills, and we’ve got a lot of resources when it comes to art materials!’
On the decision to home school or not to home school, she says: ‘There’s no right or wrong to this.’ Ever the recorder, she adds: ‘We have a sneaky plan for a YouTube channel as there’s something to be said about documenting what’s going on.’
Rebecca Osborne will be taking part in the Seagull Lockdown Showcase on September 24. The theatre in Lowestoft has worked with the Arts Council to provide a series of commissions for local artists and performers to develop small films. theseagull.co.uk