Art FocusHow Painter Sara Sherwood Finds Inspiration in the City

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Painter Sara Sherwood gave up a career in the City of London to become a full-time artist in 2005. But the city still influences her work, which includes large-scale oil-on-canvas cityscapes full of light and inspiration. We asked her about her process and the state of the art market.

What brought you to painting, and what do you get from it?
I loved art at school and one of the teachers really helped me express myself freely and gave me the courage to paint and go on to art college. I took up design rather than fine art as I was keen to get work to support myself as I could not foresee how to do this as a fine artist at the time. This turned out to be a really good decision as my design led career path taught me many business skills which I use today as a full time artist. This moved me away from my dreams but gave me a home and financial security. I then had a “breakthrough” and ended up in hospital suffering from stress as I had progressed into management. This turned out to be positive as I started to paint again to recover. I went to a local art class and was encouraged to work in oils. I pushed the boundaries of tradition and eventually left the group as I felt more free when painting alone. However, I was very grateful for the tutoring, support and friendships whilst I was there.

I get great joy from painting, and most of all, peace. I think somehow this is captured in the art.

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Sara Sherwood Dolphin Dances
Sara Sherwood – Dolphin Dances

What is the appeal of your chosen medium of oil on canvas? What is your creative process?
The oil just glides across the canvas and the colours are so vibrant. Sometimes I sing, dance or pray or all three when creating art. Other times I am still and completely in the moment. I don’t think, I just paint and see what happens. Playfulness and a willingness to let go of the outcome all play a part in my creativity. Somehow I can also manage to do this whilst working on commission to a brief.

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What is it about the city that inspires your art?
I worked in London for many years from Chelsea to Tower Bridge so I just love the vibrancy, colours, reflections and the views across the River Thames. Old buildings juxtaposed to new: brickwork and stone against glass and steel; buildings reflected in glass windows; lights in offices at night that twinkle like stars; reflections in rainy puddles; warm orange traffic lights in November to bright blue airy summer skies against the sharp clean edges of the high rise. Reality and imagination fuse together in new ways every time I see something or get an idea.

How does the Christian message inform your work?
It just happens as I paint, different verses pop in my head when it is completely blank or focused on the art. I then have to look it up in the Bible to see what it is. Painting for me is a connection to another world. In a recent work “ dolphins dance / fishers of men” came to mind, and you can see more about this meaning in the “hope” section of my website https://www.sarasherwood.co.uk/category/hope/

My art has dual names, so it is inclusive on any level. It took me many years of searching to find Christianity so I embrace our spiritual journeys and want my art to be for everyone. That is the great thing about art, anyone can create or appreciate it. Life is so magical and full of so many miracles when you can tune into the flow of life and let go. Many works of art have hidden meanings, which I reveal through tiny details from an eagle wing representing my favourite scripture Isaiah 40:31 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles” or a bird dropping seed to show the parable of the mustard seed in Mark 4:26–29 hidden in a recent cityscape commission. It just happens as the painting develops and I go within.

Sara Sherwood - Love Guides Us
Sara Sherwood – Love Guides Us

Do you prefer working on your own ideas or to commission?
They sort of work together, but I really love working on commission, it gives me purpose. I am grateful for the work and love to hear new thoughts and ideas which takes my art in all sorts of directions. I take time listening to the brief, agreeing details and then I just go for it. I send photos at different stages to ensure everyone is happy with progress and the colour blends. I capture memories, special moments, motifs, dates and even set diamonds in the art to make it truly unique. The commissions often tell a story: celebrating travel, new homes, weddings, births, of life’s journey represented in buildings and even treasured memories of loved ones not with us anymore. I love the fact that my art can bring joy, even at sad times, and that makes me fulfilled and happy.

Your art seems to work well in the home or the office – do you think about where it is to be displayed?
Yes, my interior design background is very helpful as most people buy art after they have begun to decorate or want a painting to bring life to an existing room or to capture a special memory. I visit in person or virtually to understand the space and colours and then offer suggestions and solutions.

Sara Sherwood office
Sara’s art in an office environment

How has working in lockdown affected your art and the way you can show it? How have you been working with other artists?
Now that everyone is used to Zoom, it has been a brilliant step forward to help me understand a client’s requirements. I can ask questions, see the interiors live and interact to share creative ideas and get an immediate response.

I woke up one day with a vision to create an online shop and community for Skylark Galleries at the beginning of the first lockdown. I called Gill Hickman, an artist and director, and she loved the idea. Together we developed it further with the help of many of the artists. Now we have an exciting and growing platform of news, blogs and videos. Our unique selling point is that anyone can interact and buy from the artists direct. Plus, customers do not pay a commission to the gallery, all the money goes to the artists and we just cover the operational and marketing costs between us. My vision is that it becomes the go to place to buy art from the artists.

My next vision is to do something for the youth inspired by www.trueheartsunite.co.uk and the current Great Big Art Exhibition: I would like to create an online youth group for the arts, with mentoring tutorials and with the ability to upload and share art. Perhaps with further development into sports and music and drama. Our youth need focus and creativity at this time, but at the moment it is a dream as I am not sure how to do all of this technically, perhaps on YouTube or Instagram – so if anyone can help, please contact me via the website!

Sara Sherwood studio
Sara Sherwood in her studio

Is selling online now the best outlet for art?
Yes. At the moment it is the only option, so I am improving my website www.sarasherwood.co.uk and looking at different ways to market my art. On a spiritual level if I need anything I just pray. I combine practicality with my faith.

Post-pandemic, what are your plans for exhibiting and promoting your art?
I plan to continue selling at Spitalfields Arts Market and hope my efforts of being found online continue to work and get developed further with more media coverage. I have a regular newsletter and am creating online exhibitions. I have social media channels but it is not a natural thing for me to interact with, so I am learning but prefer to direct everyone to my website. After all I do need time to paint!

Where do we find out more about your work?
The art, news and blogs and social media links are all at www.sarasherwood.co.uk.

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