Where I work: Annie Tempest, Tottering-by-Gently cartoonist

Annie Tempest, the brainchild behind the Tottering-by-Gently cartoon — one of Country Life's most beloved features — has always worked from home. She spoke to Rosie Paterson about her tips for new home workers and the best career advice she’s ever been given.

When she was working as a medical secretary in the early 1980s, Annie Tempest spent her free evenings drawing. ‘This was pre-Internet and YouTube tutorials, so I’d get my How To Draw books from the library,’ she says.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Country Life had never given over precious space to a cartoon when former Editor Clive Aslet made the leap of faith, more than 25 years ago. In his words the Tottering-by-Gently strip is not just a ‘much-loved element of this magazine, but a phenomenon.’ The first Tottering books appeared in 1996 and there are now 18 more titles in the library.

© Annie Tempest at www.tottering.com

The artists office is situated in her Norfolk home and surrounding two acres of gardens. Despite a seasoned home worker, her day has still changed because of the coronavirus outbreak. ‘I am sitting a Covid evacuee from London,’ she explains. The evacuee, it transpires, is a friend’s dog. It is released, along with Tempest’s own, into the garden at 6.30am.

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She goes back to bed in peace, to find her ‘learning zone’ — seeing what other artists are up to on Instagram or watching informative videos on ‘subjects about which I know nothing.’ It’s during this time that cartoon ideas — the strip is loosely based on her own life —germinate.

She hits the studio around 11am, staying until 10pm and sometimes 1am the next day: ‘Once I get going it is hard to stop, as I love creating so much.’

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Tempest has some sage advice for home workers — something she calls delayed gratification. ‘Get all the boring tasks like admin out of the way, so you are carried through the rest of the day on ever more enjoyable jobs.’


Annie Tempest, cartoonist and creator of Tottering by Gently (Chris Ridley/©Country Life Picture Library)

Annie Tempest in her sculpture studio. Chris Ridley/©Country Life Picture Library

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