Profile of Sarah Graham
History & Background.
I remember staring out from the front gate as a child watching the other children playing in the street wondering where my future would take me. Since graduating in 2000 I have been practising my art as a full time career, and I am now beginning to realise that the dream of spending my life painting has become a reality.
I was extremely conscientious at school, always trying my hardest and as a result doing well in most subjects. Art was no exception, but it was different, it came naturally to me. I didn't need to try, and more importantly I loved it. At home my sister and I were constantly painting, drawing, or making something, the desire to create was a driving force in me that's hard to explain. Fortunately our dad spotted this passion in us at an early age, and would buy us endless art supplies. We were a working class family, with little spare money to spend on expensive past times and holidays, so days were dominated by art and creativity.
After school, I studied for a foundation course in art and design, followed by a BA (hons) in Fine Art at De Montfort University, Leicester. Whilst studying I organised a public exhibition with my other art students on my course. At the time I was working in a pub, and realised that the empty floors above would make a superb gallery. So with the help of my fellow students (and permission from the brewery), I set up a space from which I began selling work. This experience was invaluable as it helped me to realise that I could make a living from my art. From that point onwards I have been consistently exhibiting and selling my work throughout the UK and abroad, aided by part time work in art shops and galleries. I now live back in my hometown of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, and for the last 2 years I have been painting full time, and now with the support of Washington Green I intend to build on this success.
Ideas & Inspirations.
I am entirely motivated by colour, and as a realist painter, along with being a big kid at heart, this inevitably lead to the subject matter of toys and sweets. It allows me to explore extremely vivid colour, and at the same time manipulate the structure and form of an image. Having trawled sweetshops, markets, eBay, and my mum's attic, to find my subject.
I start by taking a staged photograph in my studio. Although I enjoy photography, painting is my first love, and I may take as many as 200 photos of a subject before I'm happy with one. This has been made possible thanks to my digital SLR camera, and my Mac (which along with my easel are my best friends in the studio!)
I begin the painting process by translating the image onto canvas by lightly sketching it in yellow paint, followed by a more detailed under painting which acts as a map for the final painting. During this process, subtle changes naturally occur, as I do not want the painting to look overly photo real; it is important to me that in my paintings you can see it has been hand crafted. There is one other reason I paint these subjects, and it's quite simply that they are fun and put a smile on my face!
From Palette to Picture.
My dad bought me my first oil paints when I was about 8 years old, and I fell in love with them. Throughout school and university I explored other media, but was always drawn back to oils. It was the consistency, and buttery feel of the paint, but most importantly the brilliant colour (that attracted me to always return to using oils). When mixed with a medium, oil becomes even more malleable, and allows me to blend with large, soft brushes, imitating the blurred areas of the photograph I'm working from, these being usually backgrounds. With bigger pieces, this can actually become a very physical and frenzied process, sweeping the paint back and forth in broad strokes until it is sufficiently blended in, wiping away excess paint from the brush each time it leaves the canvas. The more dramatic sections in focus are created using precision brushes, a steady hand, and a lot of patience!
A day in the Life of...
I get to the studio around half 9, as there's no reason to leave earlier just to get stuck in the traffic - Honest! The studio is a short drive away to a nearby village, just outside Hitchin. It's in a beautiful location that I find very inspirational. My studio is in a barn, which has been especially renovated for me, and I'm lucky enough to say it is my dream space. I've had various studios in the past, from rooms above print shops, to my old bedroom, so this is by far the best. I like being able to get away from home, especially to such picturesque surroundings, and just immerse myself in my work. It's hard to know how long the day will be; I'm entirely at the mercy of how well the painting goes that day. If it's not going too well, that's when this job gets tough, but I have always found by persevering, and with my boyfriend Ben's critical eye, who's sometimes brutal honesty can be hard to swallow, I'll get there in the end. The first thing I do is put the radio on, or something from my ever-growing music collection. These keep me sane, music is a big part of my life, I try to go to as many concerts as possible to see the musicians and bands I spend all day listening to. With that and a copy of the Times to keep me up to date with the outside world, I'm all set to get on with my work, and genuinely believe it's one of the best jobs in the world.