Thursday, 29 October 2009

Looking daggers at him

On Tuesday I was watching the Specsavers Crime and Thriller Awards - otherwise known as the Daggers - with great interest. Rather bizarrely at the same time as Harlan Coben was being interviewed and picking up his award on ITV3, he was also talking to me on Facebook.

My best beloved could not quite get his head around that idea. As the interview continued and he learned more about Harlan, his bemusement grew.

"So he's American?"
"Yes. From New York."
"So he's sitting there at (checks his watch) 5.15 in the afternoon in New York and talking to you on Facebook?"
"Why would he want to do that? I mean, he must know lots of people. Why is he talking to you?"
"I don't know - because he's met me, because he likes me, general 'fancare', because I'm watching him on the Daggers, who knows...?"
"But he must have better things to do than be talking to you."

All said without a trace of irony.

This conversation continued for quite a while. My husband does not see the point of social networking sites and the idea that people want to communicate appears to confuse him.

One thing is for sure - regardless of how successful my writing may become, even if I myself end up winning the bestseller dagger, I will never be allowed to grow a big head - not as long as I am married to someone who thinks that talking to me is pointless!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Where has the time gone?

The painting arrived successfully abroad and the client was happy. That is all you can ask for.

I have therefore been able to afford to be more social for the last few months and have been to many events, exhibitions, shows, dinners, signings etc. I loved it. It has reawoken my desire to be social and has fed my creative soul. Unfortunately the funds won't now support that kind of behaviour!

I have one more event to go to - a day long workshop on harnessing your creativity with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and the person whose book gave me the original metaphorical kick up the arse to get me started as an artist and author. If I hadn't worked through the course in that book I would not have had the courage to do three things that have changed my life:
1)Taken on a studio at the art centre
2)Booked an exhibition space (when I had no artwork to go into it)
3)Gone to the 2006 Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

Those three actions propelled me into a whole new life and a whole new sense of self. This also led to me having more strength in my general life and meant my home life wasn't my whole world - which is healthy, I think. I'm a happier person.

I'm also really enjoying spending time with quick-witted and like-minded people. Creative people do not think the same way as other people and sometimes you can feel like an oddball in a room full of 'normal' people. I now feel as if I have found my tribe and this has made me happy.

All that is left for me to do is to make a living!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Change of Direction

Life has been hectic for months, as usual and my internet access has been erratic. However this week I deliberately stayed offline in order to get some work done and catch up with home things while the kids are off school.

I'm about to ship a large painting off to the French Riviera and the prospect terrifies me.

I also found a book token that my friend Daryl gave me for my fortieth birthday and went out to gratuitously spend it. It was in Waterstones that I discovered Derren Brown's other skill - painting portraits. His cartoon - like style immediately inspired me. I used to do a lot of cariacatures and I decided to try again as Peter Reeds wanted me to paint him. I also wanted to experiment as I get so caught up in detail that I felt that taking a less photographic approach to a subject would help loosen up my paintings.

I will leave you to judge whether it worked or not.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Today was the day when I had to go back up to the East End again and collect my unsuccessful entry for the BP National Portrait Award. It wasn't an entirely depressing affair. I met and chatted with another artist outside called Beka Smith and after a while we exchanged cards - it was interesting discussing the 'business' of portrait painting. She previously came third in the competition and had some great insights. I look forward to meeting her again.

A few people were grumbling that they weren't going to bother entering again. I am, but my painting will be pocket-sized! I'm fed up of lugging such large paintings around.

The guest judge this year was Twiggy. At least now I know she has seen my work! Not necessarily liked it, but seen it...

Incidentally, I just changed my profile photo and this site told me 'fetching profile photo' - I love compliments!

Saturday, 18 April 2009


I was invited by Stuart Pearson Wright to the Private View of Anopseudononymous - a group show that he co-curated at a gallery called Five Hundred Dollars in East London, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Stuart is my favourite contemporary artist and his painting of John Hurt at the National Portrait Gallery always draws me, despite me having seen it before, so I could not pass up this chance to meet the man in person and despite a raging hangover, I went along - alone. This was a deliberate decision as I felt I would be more likely to speak to strangers if I was there on my own, rather than hiding behind the security blanket of a friend.

The three people I ended up talking to mainly during the evening were coincidentally all Jerwood Prize nominees/winners. Robbie Rush has been shortlisted for this years contemporary painting prize and gave me advice about shipping work overseas, David Ben White was kind enough to give me a good name-remembering technique (and look - it worked) and then David Harker and I spent the rest of the evening chatting as we seemed to be the only people there who didn't know everyone else - although there were some very recognisable famous faces there. I could not help being extremely uncool (but it made her laugh) with Julia Davis who is a comedy genius, could not even begin to get up the nerve to speak to Steve Merchant (who is taller than he looks on telly - seriously, he's a giant) and briefly spoke to some guy from The Mighty Boosh but as I don't watch it, I hadn't a clue who he was. Everyone was very cool and confident and 'London' and I felt very out of place in a way that I never have before. London has always been my city. I've been going there alone since I was twelve years old. I'm sure the hangover wasn't helping. I had been violently ill throughout the night and had woken up still drunk that morning - not the best way to find scintillating Sarah! And I felt positively drab next to David's friend Leanne Elliot who produces work as Elliot Young. A more delightful, vivacious and sparkling character I have yet to meet and I can tell that the moment when she poked her finger through her glassless glasses (there to distract people's attention from her eyebags) will stay in my mind for a long time.

And then of course came the point when I finally got up the nerve to speak to Stuart, wishing I could be all casual and cool and interesting but because of nerves, turning into a complete idiot. I told him he is my favourite artist and thanked him for inviting me. I explained how much I loved his portrait of John Hurt and for some bizarre reason I said that I like it so much that if I could get away with it, I would nick it! He gestured at his portrait of Tom Jones that I had been standing by most of the evening and suggested it would be easier to take that one! He asked me what I thought of the exhibition and I said I liked some of it and didn't like some of it. Immediately he asked which ones I didn't like.

How can you answer that? I knew all the artists were there and I didn't want to be specific, so I explained that I like detail and find more naive art less appealing, although I am trying to move away from being so obsessed with detail. I could have been more specific, I guess - I could have said that I don't like crudely daubed paintings of knob-guzzling blow-jobs. I don't see the point of it. And so many young male artists produce that sort of thing. It isn't new; it isn't inventive; it isn't aesthetically pleasing and it isn't titillating. It doesn't even raise any interesting questions in my mind and make me think about life in a broader context. It just bores me. Again it leads us back to the question, 'What is Art?'.

But is that just me? Am I too obsessed with technique? Is it getting in the way of my creativity? I know I paint too slowly and I only really like the last couple of paintings I have produced - I'm almost embarrassed by most of my older stuff as my technique is changing so rapidly. I'm actually really excited by what is happening with my work now and my head is buzzing with ideas. It is time for some brutal experimentation - and I need to enter more competitions too. But I also need to produce work that has been commissioned. Yet again it is all down to time management - something harder to deal with as more and more is piled on my plate.

It is time to become organised, efficient and capable - and maybe open my mind a little more. Maybe my lack of understanding of some kinds of art is less to do with the artist and more to do with me? Maybe this is when being a self-taught artist is a real disability.

In the meantime, I hope no-one half-inched the picture of Tom Jones...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


I have had a very good weekend!

One of my paintings and one of my prints were both sold at the shop, and it is always nice when a stranger buys your work without you there. I sold another painting to a friend whose son has been on at her to get it for him and was even prepared to give up his bike at Christmas in order to have the painting. I also had someone agree to buy one of my larger pieces of work. At this rate there will be nothing left on my walls.

I finished my BP National Portrait Award entry in time (just) and then yesterday when I was on my way up to London to deliver it, I received a call about the awkward personal situation which has already had a partial resolution. Everything is working out for me right now.

I was happy with my artwork until I arrived at the drop off place and there was a beautiful painting propped up against the wall; huge, moody and captivating. My work looked like the crayon drawings of a two-year-old by comparison. I unwrapped my entry and handed it over, telling them that it was very off-putting to have something so good within view, but they said, 'You just never know what they are going to pick,' and told me not to worry about it. One woman put on her white gloves to handle my artwork, which made me feel a bit more special!

After meeting an old friend in Covent Garden for a brew, I popped into my favourite bit of the National Portrait Gallery on my way back to Charing Cross station and looked again at the paintings in the contemporary section. My favourite artist had two pieces in there and I spent ages studying them. What surprised me is how small they are. My postcard of John Hurt is larger than the original painting and I didn't expect it to have been painted on a block of wood. I also noticed that there were some effective paintings done on aluminium. I intend to do a bit of experimentation over the next few weeks. Tomorrow is gesso-purchasing day.

So now I'm having a day off, then I am back to the large painting to finish it off ready for shipping, and then I will be combining my writing with some new commissions (with no time limits) and in three months I will be starting my Hilary Halpern commission. I was sitting having coffee with Hilary last week before he went on his world tour and he casually mentioned that he used to sit and have coffee with Picasso...

Thursday, 12 March 2009

It's all getting a bit hairy...

This week has been the last possible week to work on my BP National Portrait Award entry.

This week has also been the week that both my children decided to get ill.

I know it is probably very picky of me to want to do my work during daylight hours but I feel that 4am is not my most productive time.

I've now worked my way through the facial hair and the head hair and am trying to do the chest hair... my subject is way too hairy.

It is being framed on Sunday and delivery day is Monday.

I will be having Tuesday off!