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Artist to the Dreamers - Sincerely Us Magazine - May Issue

Delighted to be featured in Sincerely Us Magazine this May alongside many other great artists. Huge congratulations to Sara Baalla, undergraduate journalist at Roehampton University and classmates on this terrific project - big well done and looks so professional.

Interview with journalist Sara Baalla

How did you get into art? What motivates you to create?

I was always fascinated by artists and the magical way they could turn nothing into something. I couldn’t get enough of Tony Hart and Vision On when I was a kid (showing my age ha ha) or street artists that created portraits in minutes. When my daughter was a toddler I loved all the arty activities and facepainting at the school fete. My art journey began to take shape 6 years ago. I joined a drawing and painting class and absolutely loved it, so took some more.

I know I would have loved art school but I didn’t even coAfter studying IT and telecoms and working in that field for over 20 years, I made the decision to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an artist. To learn my craft I’ve been to many great art courses, both locally and at CityLit in Covent Garden and explored life drawing, illustration and watercolour.

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

Oo I have loads and they change the more I see, but I will always love Turner’s seascapes for the drama, Kandinsky for his colour and composition, Joseph Zbukvic for his confident large scale watercolours and Sumi-e for it’s bold expressive brush marks. I’m lucky to live in London where the art galleries are only a tube ride away.

Where do you find your inspiration?

My art was originally inspired by my dancing daughter. I love the feelings of freedom, energy and grace in dance. I try to bring that vitality and movement to everything I paint. My daughter’s dancing days didn’t last too long so I’ve had to find inspiration elsewhere. I sketch a few times a year at the English National Ballet rehearsals and Haute Couture performative drawing classes. I love the theatre - so full of dance and movement.

What's your favourite medium to work with and why?

My absolute favourite is watercolour and ink. It captures movement brilliantly with it’s fluid, splashy nature. It has an unpredictability that surprises with happy accidents and is so gestural and expressive.

How did your collaboration with TJ Milne come about? What was it like capturing

her movements in art form?

TJ found me on Instagram, she was drawn to the ballerina pictures I posted. She wanted a whimsical watercolour illustrator for her dream project of making her own Oracle/empowerment cards. It was a commission come true for me as I love painting dance and just as well as she needed 50 different illustrations. She’s a professionally trained Canadian ballerina performing in the House of Dancing Water show in Macau which has audiences of 2000 per show. She had hundreds of photos from her dance shoots over her career. She had matched them with the Oracle card words she had written and I took inspiration from both to create the card illustrations. T.J. was a dream to work with and I’m so glad our artistic worlds collided to lift us out of covid lockdowns and restrictions.

As well as capturing dancers'movements, you've also ventured into product

illustrations for The Sicilian and seascape paintings. How does the process differ from

painting dancers when creating these pieces?

The Sicilian Deli stuff has been great, first time I’ve had my artwork on a product and now it’s on so many. It’s been a bit of a learning curve as I’m not just supplying the artwork but the completed label with all the text, barcode etc so had to improve my Photoshop/InDesign skills and understand how the printers needed things from me. It’s also been a mindset shift to fit my artwork around the company’s brand, I'm not used to sharing my canvas ha ha.

My seascape paintings are an indulgence really, they’re full of childhood memories. Holidays spent where my Dad grew up on the coast of Co. Mayo, Ireland. That whole wild Atlantic coastline is outstanding and seems a million miles away from here in London.

I paint them in acrylic from my own photos, usually with pallet knives to better capture the texture and movement of the waves, rocks and sandy shoreline.

How has the pandemic impacted your work? Positively? Negatively? Bit of both really. I was just beginning a collaboration with a photographer friend. We were offering gymnastic portraits locally, both photos and paintings. It was my dream to pursue my passion in art but I still lacked self confidence about it. Covid arrived and the gymnastic clubs shut. Like many people my plans, hopes and dreams were replaced with the unexpected and with challenges with no perfect solutions.

On the positive side, that first lockdown gave many people time to reflect on what was important in life. Some of those people had dreams that they shon a light on, they found they now had time to pursue them. One of those dreamers was Steve, a Barrister who now has 2 Sicilian delis and a range of own brand foodstuffs. Ballerina T.J. was the second, with theatres closed she embarked on her dream oracle cards and the third was a journalist on maternity leave finally writing her first children’s book. So despite the pandemic initially dashing my dreams I find myself an artist to the dreamers, and that’s a pretty good place to be.

During the pandemic you started working out of your studio at Harrow Arts Centre.

What motivated you to make this move and how has it been?

Yes, it’s been a great 18 months. My biggest motivation was to be in an artistic community where we could inspire and support each other as it can be a bit lonely working on my own. Of course, having the dedicated space for my art is invaluable and I can experiment with larger and messier work without worry here. Because of the studio I’m also now connected to lots of other artists in the area. We have group shows, open our studios to the public together and is great socially. The mayor has been to visit my studio and I’m judging a Jubilee art competition with him next month. I don’t think any of this would be happening if I was still painting in my kitchen.

Do you have a favourite piece of art you've created?

Yes, a few and strangely enough they are the draft sketches I did for T.J. They were loose watercolour ideas and really quite messy but somehow I prefer them to the final perfect illustrations. I’m going to be illustrating a children's book shortly and I’m going to do my best to try and keep some of that loose, expressive style in those illustrations.

Describe how you think art is important to society.

Oh wow, huge question. Art is everywhere, the music on the car radio, the posters at the tube station, our morning coffee, films, buildings, food even. All made by someone with a creative passion, brightening our days.

Art’s used as a means of self expression, therapy, culture, political comment and a force for change - a huge part of society. In my personal experience I’ve used it within a hospice environment as a recreational activity. To help the patients learn a new skill, socialise and enable them to create something that they are proud of, that gives them a confidence boost, a distraction from their illness and treatments.


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