Our mental image of an artist sketching might include a sun-kissed seat with a glorious view of rolling hills, or a ramshackle, characterful summerhouse studio.

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But Norfolk sculptor Harriet Mead showed her mettle by doing the preliminary drawings for her latest exhibition in the chilly, murky depths of the North Sea.

Harriet, who lives near Swaffham, won the Wildlife Trusts’ underwater award – a bursary to fund diving lessons to explore life under the waves and portray its beauty and fragility.

And she used remarkable ingenuity to make her sketches.

For, fearing that she would end up with a gloop of papier mache, she used special waterproof paper at £7.50 a sheet, a plastic chopping board, a large stick of graphite, bulldog clips and string.

And the challenge was made even more difficult by trying to draw while wearing diving gloves.

The results of her underwater adventures have been forged in her workshop, with scrap metal, including secateurs, pliers and brake cables being used to create eye-catching marine creatures.

Her first dive off Weybourne was on September 30, and followed a training course paid for by Norfolk Wildlife Trust as part of the bursary.

She dived twice more, and has had a tight schedule to complete her works of art in time for the start of the annual Society of Wildlife Artists’ show at the Mall Galleries on November 1. Harriet is president of the society.

She said: “It was absolutely fantastic. Visibility was not amazing, but it was just extraordinary. The minute you get underwater you forget about everything else.

“I was amazed at what I saw. From that, I made a lobster using secateurs and pliers, and a goby, a crab using a padlock and a dragonet.”

Harriet is something of a magnet for scrap metal. She said: “People just bring bits and pieces to me. I’ve used brake cables as antennae. I have scavengers all over the county.”

The Heath Robinson sketch set-up paid off, she said. “I used very thick paper that cost a fortune per sheet. It didn’t disintegrate. I clipped it with bulldog clips to an old plastic chopping board and used two bits of string and graphite sticks, which I drilled holes in to tie them to me.

“It was challenging.”

Harriet added: “Being based in Norfolk it seemed a perfect opportunity to explore Europe’s largest chalk reef. Despite fairly poor visibility I was blessed with views of edible crab, shore crab, spider crab, lobster and shrimp. The gobies darting around on the sand were so well camouflaged they were only visible when they moved.

“The crabs were ever-present in the gullies and cracks of the chalk reef.

“A small lobster braved it out with me, waving its claws in defiance as it marched backwards to find shelter in the rocks.”

Head of People and Wildlife for NWT David North said: “There’s a whole world full of life and beauty just off the Norfolk coast hidden under the waves but sadly for most of us it remains out of sight and therefore out of mind.

“Harriet’s art work, inspired from her dives on Norfolk’s chalk reef, is a great way to bring this secret world to new audiences. This is an inspiring way to celebrate this very special area which is one of a network of marine sites recommended for protection as Marine Conservation Zones.”

For more information on Norfolk’s Living Seas and to see underwater photos, visit www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

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