Lyme Regis captured my heart on a blustery autumn day in 1980 when my husband and I decided to leave London and settle in his hometown on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. This was a long way from my own roots. I was born in Northumberland, at the end of Hadrian’s Wall. My father was in the Merchant Navy, so we moved from port to port - Newcastle, Belfast, Liverpool. I rather liked moving.

My grammar school years were spent near Liverpool. Then at 18 I went to London, to study at St Martin’s School of Art. After graduating, I worked as design assistant to Mervyn Kurlansky, one of the original five partners of Pentagram, now the world’s largest design consultancy. In those pre-computer days, when everything was done by hand, I became adept at drawing 10-point typefaces and logos.

Great British Life: Christine Allison '34 fragments of china and 5 pieces of rusty metal'; One of the pieces in the Treasures exhibition. Christine Allison '34 fragments of china and 5 pieces of rusty metal'; One of the pieces in the Treasures exhibition. (Image: Christine Allison)

In 1979 I went freelance, working for Marks & Spencer and Mothercare, I got a real buzz seeing my designs on kids and in shops. Once settled in Lyme I would send my designs by Red Star from Axminster to Waterloo. Now illustrations are digitalised and arrive in seconds!

We loved Lyme Regis and raised three beautiful children there. In 1994 I did my PGCE in secondary level art at Exeter University, then taught art at Holyrood School in Chard, before becoming Head of Art at Colyton Grammar School.

Great British Life: Some Victorian finds. Some Victorian finds. (Image: Christine Allison)Great British Life: Drawing of found Victorian rubbish. Drawing of found Victorian rubbish. (Image: Christine Allison)

Drawing is my passion. So, in 2000, when I heard of a two-week drawing marathon at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, I was intrigued and decided to apply. I spent an intense two weeks there and was offered a scholarship to return for a years’ postgraduate study. A year later, I took up the offer.

It was a momentous time personally and globally. I travelled aboard Cunard’s flagship, the QE2. With me were my father’s ashes. He was a superintendent engineer for Cunard before retirement and had been in the Atlantic Convoys during the Second World War. His ashes were scattered at sea in a deeply moving ceremony led by the ship’s Captain. Then mid-Atlantic, on September 11, the World Trade Towers were hit. I became part of the aftermath. It was a powerful and unforgettable time.

Great British Life: Christine Allison on the beach at Black Ven.Christine Allison on the beach at Black Ven. (Image: Maisie Hill)

I returned from New York to immerse myself into Lyme Regis and art. I ran ArtsFest, which supported emerging and professional artists, for 11 years; initially with founder, Sally Holman, and then as co-director with Karol Kulik. We even secured a grant from the Arts Council for a collaboration with Lyme Regis Museum entitled Re:collection where artists made new work inspired by the Museum’s collections.

In 2005, I married Harry May, who runs local fishing trips, and started working from my studio overlooking Lyme Bay. In 2009 I gifted Harry a ‘bird of prey experience’ but it was me that fell in love with the birds. I began visiting bird of prey centres to draw and take photographs, resulting in a substantial collection of large oil paintings of eagles, hawks, owls and falcons.

I first exhibited the birds in Abu Dhabi in 2013, where falconry is hugely popular, and my paintings now hang in prestigious offices and palaces. Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohammed Al Nahyan generously sent birds to be displayed at that first opening. The following year, I was invited to exhibit at the 3rd International Falconry Festival in Abu Dhabi, and later in Art Bahrain and Dubai. I had extraordinary experiences, but my Dorset home was calling.

Great British Life: A tray of finds from Black Venn. A tray of finds from Black Venn. (Image: Christine Allison)

At the Natural History Museum in London, I devised a Big Blue Lias Drawing project in which children drew fossils, using their fingers dipped in blue lias clay from Lyme, on paper laid under Mary Anning’s original ichthyosaurs. At Bristol Museum I was appointed Artist-in-Residence for the Leonardo: A Life in Drawing exhibition. Working alongside Leonardo Da Vinci’s extraordinary drawing dating from the 15th and 16th centuries was indeed a privilege.

Art is alchemy. And artists combine elements to create magic, and this is something I have embraced in my teaching. Lyme Regis artist Gail Sagman and I have worked together often, and our current five-day art courses called Elements have been described by participants as ‘transforming and magical’. So, if you’re thinking about getting back into art, or what to give it a go. It’s never too late to start.

Great British Life: One of Christine's drawings of treasures found at Black Ven. One of Christine's drawings of treasures found at Black Ven. (Image: Christine Allison)

My favourite museum is, of course, Lyme Regis Museum, where I have delivered numerous projects including Museum at Home, Museum in a Matchbox, Big Draw, Connections, and in 2022 an exhibition entitled, Every Breath We Take, inspired by the COP 26 world conference on climate change. In it were six large oil paintings of British trees, to remind visitors of how important trees are to the survival of the planet and us.

My current exhibition Treasures is in the Museum’s unusual Rotunda Gallery (April 2 – May 23). I’m also running workshops to accompany the exhibition. In Treasures, my inspiration came from a local area called Black Ven, a short walk along Charmouth Beach from Lyme Regis Museum. In the cliffs are buried all manner of man-made fragments, remains of a Victorian tip. Daily, the tide reveals fragments of metal and china. Most visitors go there to search for fossils; I go to look for remnants of others’ lives. These curiosities are as beautiful to me as Mary Anning’s fossils. I like to scavenge at Black Ven, bring home treasures, and re-create the found pieces as large charcoal or Indian ink drawings and coloured compositions. The drawings invite you to marvel at the uniqueness of each piece as I give them another life - as art. 

Great British Life: Eagle owl coming into land. One of the oil paintings of birds of prey by Christine Allison. Eagle owl coming into land. One of the oil paintings of birds of prey by Christine Allison. (Image: Christine Allison)

Let’s go!

Treasures: Scavenged Finds from Black Ven, by Christine Allison, runs April 2- May 23 at the Rotunda Gallery, Lyme Regis Museum

Join Christine for a Creative Drawing Weekend for Artists inspired by Treasures from Black Ven, April 27-28 and May 11-12. Cost £65 per weekend. Book at Lyme Regis Museum.

Elements Art Course: For details on Elements five-day art courses with Christine Allison and Gail Sagman email or visit

Dorset Art Weeks: Visit Christine in her Lyme Regis studio during DAW (May 25 – June 11). Follow on Instagram @christine_allison_art_words