My creative process all starts with drawing. I believe that a painting, print or photograph can only really work if the initial drawing has a strong composition, so I spend a lot of time walking, drawing, searching for compositions on the marshes, footpaths and in the lanes around the Waveney Valley. I don’t often encounter other people when I am out and about but I am intrigued by the generations of people who will have walked and perhaps drawn in the same space as me. There are echoes of the past everywhere in the landscape, holloways, paths that have been created by people or subtle tracks made by hares finding the quickest route through a hedge or across a field. The impact of human activity can be heavy handed like the route of an old train line across a marsh or subtle, like the replanting of field hedgerows with Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Sloe but excluding Spindleberry. It’s always a joy to discover a vibrant Spindleberry with it’s bright orange berry encased in a bright pink pod. I love colour. This may be obvious from one look at my work but there really are the most intense flashes of colour out in what at first glance looks like a green/brown marshland. From the Campion along the side of the road in the spring, Dogwood sprouting in the hedgerows, bright red Holly berries to the intense blueish purple of ripe Sloes, the heavy red/brown of the soil and the bright skies reflected in puddles in the lanes.
My collected drawings stay in my sketchbooks as memories, springboards for paintings, prints and photographs. A series of drawings may make up a solo exhibition of large vibrant paintings or a selection of linoprints. I am constantly experimenting with colour and how colours react to each other to create vibrant colour filled artworks.
The Silver Lining collection of paintings is a highly personal series of moments of joy captured in a photograph and then translated into a small oil painting. The slow, meditative method of drawing and then colour mixing to create more realistic works gives me the time I need to process and deeply connect with these moments which have at times been very fleeting amongst family challenges whilst caring for my young son for many years through his cancer treatment.
Heartwood Series of Photographs. I have always taken photographs, when I was 10 I was given my grandad’s old Brownie camera and then got a secondhand Olympus SLR, I remember taken the film to Boots the Chemist to have the pictures developed! Since then I have always had a camera, getting a Fuji Finepix in the late 90s and then as mobile phones started to have a camera incorporated I now have an iPhone to hand daily. My photographs started off being about landscape, colour, texture and over the years I have used my camera as an aide memoir and quick way of tracking my painting progress. I often take a picture of a painting at various stages throughout its creation. In 2021 I created an immersive, environmental exhibition in 3 acres of gardens and woodlands in South Norfolk. I spent 6 months immersed in the landscape experimenting with light effects at night and created a series of 14 photographs called Heartwood which capture the trees painted with light, echoing the vibrant colour I use in my paintings.
This work can be very solitary, I split my time between painting, printmaking, running workshops and curating exhibitions. All of which feed into each other and inspire my practise. I exhibit across the UK and have work in permanent collections.
Sarah Cannell, Painter.