Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Question of Artistry - Sarah Louise Ewing

1) At what age did you first take a regular interest in drawing or painting?

I have always painted and drawn, for as long as I can remember. My father still has pictures I created from when I was 3 or 4 years old. It has always been my most favourite thing to do. When I was a child I would always ask for WH Smiths vouchers for birthday and Christmas, so that I could go and buy pencils and paint. I have painted all my life, I have never stopped.

2) When did you sell your first painting and what was it?

My first sale was a portrait commission – as doing very traditional, oil portraits is how I started out. My first “sale” was a long time ago – sometime in the 90’s. My friend Rosemarie asked me to paint her son Conor, who was then only about 3 years old. Conor is now a very handsome young man in his twenties and I still wonder where all that time has gone!

3) How did you feel when you first realised you could earn money from this?

It was a complete thrill – and it still is. I am always excited each and every time one of my paintings is sold. I love to know about all of them – either thanks to the gallery or the customer themselves getting in touch. Life is expensive. When someone chooses to spend money which they have worked hard for on something I have created – well it is a huge honour. If you are an artist and you don’t feel this way each time you make a sale, then you should put down your brushes and find something else to do.

4) What is your preferred medium and has it always been the same?

These days I use mainly acrylic paints and ink. But I started out using oils. I still love oil paint – the rich, buttery nature of it is alluring. But acrylics are more adaptable and you can achieve many more different effects with them. They also dry quickly, which is a bonus.

5) Have you ever painted something you couldn’t bear to part with? Why?

Yes. Some years ago I was wrestling with the idea of giving up my “normal” job and painting full time. It was a hard decision. I was nervous about how I would make ends meet. I decided to give myself the Christmas holidays (from work), to make a decision. During this time I painted an oil portrait of Samuel Beckett, who had the most extraordinary face - one which told a million tales. For some reason it just worked. The painting came together better than I could ever have hoped. And as I stared at his face and he stared back at me, I thought yes, I am going to go for it and paint full-time. I still have that painting and I would never part with it.

6) Where does your inspiration come from?

Much of the inspiration for my fantasy worlds is rooted firmly in the fantastic rock album covers of the 1970’s and 80’s. I remember pouring over these when I was a child, on the rare occasion I was allowed into my brother’s bedroom! Incredible artists like Roger Dean, Patrick Woodroffe, Barney Bubbles – I used to love the cover art they produced for bands like Hawkwind, Yes and Pallas. It encouraged me to seek them out and look at work they had done outside of record sleeves. I also have a deep love of Kit Williams’ paintings - you might remember him from the book Masquerade. His work is an enormous influence on me. There is a certain kind of Britishness in his work and a good amount of humour. I think these artists fell out of favour for a while. But I have never stopped loving them.

7) What do you do when you’re stuck for ideas?

If I get a bit stuck, I will try and get out of the studio, out of the house. I am very inspired by my beautiful surroundings. I am lucky enough to live in Gloucestershire, in the Cotswolds. My garden backs on to rolling fields with horses and sheep. The garden itself is abundant with wildlife – birds, squirrels, even a badger. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just get out, get the sun on your face, breathe in the fresh air and take in your surroundings.

8) Do you listen to music as you paint? If so what do you like best?

It all depends on my mood. I love listening to audiobooks as they help me to focus. I go through quite a few per month. Other times I like to listen to music – which can be classical or contemporary. Sometimes, however, nothing else will do, but sticking on some Motorhead and whacking the volume right up to Eleven!

9) If you couldn’t paint what else would you like to do for a living?

It would have to be something creative. I have often thought that I would like to do stained glass window restoration. I love stained glass – and the fact that the process has changed little for hundreds of years. I like the sense of continuity which that brings. Restoration means placing your finger tips in the metaphorical indents of those made hundreds of years ago – both sets of hands doing more or less the same thing, divided only by time. That appeals to me.

10) Do you plan to retire or will you just paint forever?

I couldn’t ever imagine retiring because this isn’t a job, it’s a passion. If I didn’t or couldn’t paint I would be very unhappy. It is something which I am driven to do. It’s part of who I am. I can’t see that changing.

Thanks to Sarah for her memories and for sharing her thoughts with us!
I wonder who to ask next...

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