Sarah Jarrett: Contributor Interview

1- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Eccentric and trying to view the world through an odd shaped looking glass. Living in a bright coloured bubble. I’m an ever-curious and quite restless, creative soul and Artist working in a variety of different media. I make Illustration work for Art licensing, using a mixture of photography, collage and digital painting. I also produce large scale original Fine Art Textile Pieces for galleries and private commissions.
I live and breathe Art and have always been a Maker. A visual magpie – I love looking at Art and being inspired all the time to teach myself new things.
I live between Norfolk and Devon in the UK. I have tried to be a strong and inspiring mother to my two beautiful and talented children, who I raised by myself, and hopefully gave them the courage to fly and be fearless.
I’ve been a Teacher of Art, Textiles and Photography for many years but am now concentrating on my own work.


2- Are you formally trained or self-taught? And what has been the best source of information along this journey (workshops, online forums, classroom, mentors, etc)?
Formally trained. I completed my degree and postgraduate studies at Harrow School of Art & Brighton University specialising in Photography and then Fine Art. I was singled out in my final year for special bursary prizes from both Kodak and Agfa. After graduating I have taught Art, Textiles & Photography and continued to freelance and exhibit my work in the UK, Europe and US. I have acquired the most knowledge from being constantly curious and trying to teach myself new things. I’m never static and spend a lot of time looking at art on screens, in books and in galleries.


3- What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?
Oh many, many things and sometimes quite bizarre. Dreams, books, people’s conversations, song lyrics, a colour, a plant, landscapes, gardens and travels – as well as work by artists who I love. Often it’s written words that make me see a picture in my mind but I am inspired by the visual just as much. I love books and reading. I am fascinated by strange things and love the work of other creatives who are not afraid to explore the dark, bizarre, eccentric and brooding aspects of life. David Lynch has been a long time inspiration as has Phillip Pullman.
I am very influenced by painting and contemporary illustration, decorative, theatrical fashion and the history of dress. I want my work to provoke an emotional response and for the viewer to be intrigued by the process behind it. I would like to think my art leaves an impression on the viewer that is not easily forgotten.
For the last few years I have really focused on portraiture. I am constantly exploring identity and beauty and suggesting a story behind the image. My portraits often depict women with an underlying sadness and emptiness, wearing a mask that is fleeting and fades.
Landscape is my other real passion, my landscapes are often melancholy and timeless but strikingly beautiful, full of romance, tradition and poetry. I like to make pictures that are full of silence.



4- You show a great variety of styles, from vectors to collages or painterly images. What drives that? Which style you feel most comfortable with?
The restless spirit I think and a curiosity to try new directions and keep branching out. I like to have a lot of diverse projects and ideas on the go to challenge myself and push myself forwards. I’m interested in a lot of different things so I suppose my diversity is reflective of that. I feel comfortable with all the styles I work in and I enjoy them all. My biggest problem is time and always feeling there are never enough hours in the day!

5- What is your process, when designing something? What are the steps you follow?
Always spontaneous. I never pre-plan anything. I think about a new piece of work in my mind and begin to shape it but I mainly let a piece of work evolve and grow whether it’s digital or a physical artwork. I’m very harsh on myself and a lot of work goes in the bin if I don’t feel it’s working.
A lot of accidental digital images develop into successful pieces and I’m always experimenting either on the computer or on my ipad with different ideas. I love apps as much as Photoshop and find a lot of creative potential in them. There can be a strange disconnect with digital work but I find it very attractive. I really like the idea of layering and constructing a piece of work virtually and being able to go back and make alterations or completely rework the entire image in many different ways. I also enjoy building up banks of shapes and images that I can use again – creating a digital library.
I began to make large scale Textile pieces in the last year because I wanted to construct physical works again and not be staring at a screen all the time. I am making big figures using collage in fabrics and then stitching, embroidering and painting onto them. The balance of the two types of approaches feels just right.


6- How many hours a day do you spend working on your images?
Every bit of spare time goes into making Art of different kinds. Life has become Art and I really love that. It never feels forced or pressured, it has just evolved into a very good place to be. I’m very lucky to have been surrounded by creative people all my life. I have a lovely workroom with white walls and floorboards and a big window looking out on the garden. My computer is at one end with pin boards of changing inspirations above it – postcards of paintings, printed cards of my work, little collages and embroideries, a separate wooden work table where I sew and many shelves of books, bright coloured fabrics, wools and threads. My work space is very organised and I can’t work in a cluttered space.

7- Do you still have time to create images only for your pleasure? Is that important, for an artist, to reserve some time to draw for themselves?


I wake up every day and I feel really excited about my next piece of work. Digital brushes, colours, ideas… all inspire me to keep making new work. Inspiration comes from many places and I devote lots of time to just looking at images by other artists. Most of my inspiration comes from contemporary Illustration rather than Photography. I’m a very productive image maker but I recognize the need for space and time outside work too, I like to be out walking in the countryside or at the coast whenever I can to declutter my thoughts and reconnect with nature and the landscape where I live.


8- What do you think are the advantages of working in an agency, as opposed to freelancing, for an illustrator?
Freedom to make imagery. I’ve done both and I much prefer working for agencies as it provides a lot of creative freedom. I work for two other agencies as well as Arcangel and they all have very different end products. One is rights managed licensing in film and television and the other is advertising, greeting cards, stationary, framed art, home decor and surface design.

9- What would your advice be to aspiring illustrators?
Always look for the extraordinary in the most ordinary places. Your own way of looking and seeing is unique. Believe in yourself and in what you are doing; craft your pictures and really work at what you are making. Nothing is instant. Never give in or give up. Experiment, experiment, experiment and amazing things will happen.

Click here to explore Sarah’s  portfolio of work…