Welcome to the sixth in the Inspirational Artisantopian interview series – where I talk to creative people who are using the Internet to support or inspire their creativity and that of others.
Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Sarah Wilde. Sarah is a painter and illustrator, and lives on a remote, windswept, coastal nature reserve in the UK. Sarah’s blog is full of her amazing, gentle sketches and her solid, strong paintings. The first time I saw her paintings I was taken by how strong the people in them are and I was really drawn to this, so I’m so excited to find out more about Sarah and her art.
Sarah, would you mind introducing yourself and describing your creative interests?
Thank you so much Michelle! Where to start? Well I’m 44 years old and currently I live amidst the ruins of what was once a nuclear weapons research site and a radar research site but is now a nature reserve. It’s a strange, sometimes bleak, sometimes beautiful place which is very isolated and accessible only by boat or hefty 4×4. To many people it sounds like an ideal and they envy me living here, but actually it’s a difficult life at times and one I’m not at all sure I’m cut out for, though I don’t regret coming here.
I actually only started painting fairly recently and it has completely taken over my life. Before that I used mainly drawing media – pens, pencils, biros and markers to create illustrations. Actually it would be fair to say one of my main creative interests is the acquisition of pens and pencils, lol. [I hear you!! Michelle] But apart from that my two central interests are people and story. I have always been fascinated, intrigued, confused and amazed by people and one of my favourite activities is simply watching them. In fact my background is in Sociology and Psychology, which reflects this. I’m equally fascinated by story in both books and images (the two together delight me even more) and some of my happiest childhood memories are of libraries and the wonder of story. I could – and still can – lose myself entirely in a book. I read all sorts of things but have an abiding interest in history and fairytales/mythology as well as psychology and I think these interests are clearly reflected in my work – I say I think because I don’t consciously set out to do that, I just stuff myself full of words and images and nature and people watching and sketching and all that input is chewed around thoroughly somewhere deep in my unconscious until an idea will pop up and I’ll start to make a painting or drawing and gradually a narrative will suggest itself.
I’ve also begun to experiment with starting paintings just by making lots of marks on the paper or panel and then looking for images to suggest themselves to me. I’m quite pleased with the results I’m getting so far, so I think I will continue with this.
What are your favourite technological and non-technological tools that you use in your creative endeavours?
I rarely use technology at all for the work itself. For me creativity is a physical thing: I like to feel my pen glide across the paper, I like paint on my hands and the drag of a brush through the paint. I also love the imperfections of handmade things. To me that is human. The slickness of digitally created imagery just doesn’t appeal to me enough. So my favourite tools are pen and pencil, paint (oils and acrylics) rough handmade paper and board. But technology is essential to me and my work in the form of the internet. When I first returned to drawing I was very isolated due to chronic illness and posting my work online enabled me to get feedback from others which encouraged me to continue, and even more importantly it enabled me to connect with others and both receive and give support and encouragement.
Where do you go, online and off, to replenish your well?
Well the lovely Leonie’s Goddess Circle has recently become one of my favourite haunts – the support and nurture given so freely on the site is invaluable to me. And I always love a good browse around Etsy though I’m not so sure that is filling my well so much as emptying my purse! I also love watching painting videos on Youtube and Vimeo: I find them fascinating and inspiring – I really want to get into making my own painting videos too. And I follow a number of artists blogs.
Offline I like to visit a town or city once a week – I need some bustle and urban ugliness to balance the quiet of home. And of course I need some people to sketch. I also like to visit places with trees! We have no trees here and I miss them a lot. I never miss an opportunity to go to an art exhibition if I can help it and I love museums and public galleries. And libraries of course – reading is one of the primary ways I fill my well.
You have recently started selling prints of your paintings online. How have you found the process of selling online and can you share any tips or tricks you’ve learned?
Thus far I’m afraid I haven’t sold anything! It’s very early days though – only a couple of weeks. I have also just put some original paintings up for sale on Etsy too and I’m intrigued to see what will happen. I actually put off taking both these steps for a long time – I knew I had to get to the point where if things didn’t sell I didn’t take that as a personal rejection. In the past I have been too identified with my work, seeing it as an extension of myself rather than as objects in their own right, and of course that makes rejection MUCH harder to take. And whilst I do personally know artists in my area who make a living purely from making art, realistically it takes a while – and a few rejections – to get to that stage. So I think being able to accept rejection without being thrown off course by it is essential.
Your sketchbooks are filled with gorgeous, light, flowing sketches. Would you mind talking through your process of taking these sketches and then creating your paintings.
Thank you very much Michelle – that’s very kind of you! Well I think of these sketches as kind of like playing scales on an instrument – they are something I need to do to stay in artistic shape – that may sound strange but art, far from being an innate talent which some people just have, is actually a set of complex skills which need to be practised. Sketching people from enables me to then draw characters from my imagination which might be very stylised but are real in terms of their emotional life.
When I sketch I just look for someone who looks interesting – they might be sat in an interesting way, or have an ‘air’ I want to capture. Sometimes they are just in my line of view! Then it’s a case of getting what I see down on paper as quickly as I can, as people have a habit of moving. I generally start at the head and work down, each sketch taking perhaps two or three minutes. Sometimes I get the chance to do a longer study but not often as I try to sketch discreetly. People are more natural when they don’t know they are being sketched.
I do share these sketches online, on my blog, but after that I rarely look at them again because I have already got what I need from them.
They do inform the paintings -both the act of drawing itself, plus I might get an idea from something I see when I’m sketching, but the relationship is indirect.
In the past I would get an idea for a painting, sketch out a few thumbnails, perhaps think of a colour scheme – I usually work with quite a limited palette – then do a bigger sketch, and then finally start on the canvas or panel, building up rich deep colours through multiple layers of paint. I love colour, did I mention that? 🙂
Recently however I’ve been experimenting with both working on paper and with making lots of random marks as a starting point – using pencils or coloured pencils as I don’t necessarily want the additional texture which you tend to get with layers of random paint marks. Then I look at what I’ve got to see if it inspires anything or if there’s anything showing itself in the random marks. I don’t worry about sticking to what’s there – if I get an idea and it’s unrelated to the marks I’ll just go with it. So far I’ve been quite pleased with these experiments and they’ve sparked ideas I would not have otherwise had so this is definitely a process I’ll continue with.
What is next for you and your art?
Continue building up a body of work; keep my Etsy and Imagekind shops nicely stocked – I’m thinking about getting some cards made soon – start exhibiting in the ‘real world’ and look for a gallery or two which will take my work. I’m fortunate to be living near an area which is full of galleries even though it’s rural, and I already know of one or two where my work might be a good ‘fit’. Whatever happens though I’ll always paint and sketch – it’s as vital to me as breathing.
Thank you so much Sarah, it has been wonderful interviewing you!
You can find Sarah at:
Purchase Prints: sarahjwilde.imagekind.com
Wow, Sarah’s sketches and paintings are so evocative. I’m captivated by her mythical life of living in a former nuclear research plant, turned nature reserve. I can’t wait to visit her online home!
So funny to read my words again! Thank you so much for the interview Michele!
This is a great interview Michelle. I have been following Sarah’s work fo r over a year now and think it is great she is getting this recognition. I hope she gets some sales soon.
Great interview. I love Sarah’s work and blog. I’ve followed her blog for a while but still learned a lot about her and her art through this post.