Behind the Sketchbook

Sally Barr

Sally is a UK based artist who has diverse passions.  In this interview  she shares her experience of suffering loss that resulted in her having 10 years away from making and the belief she would never have a career in art.   Read the interview to find out what happened the time she woke in the middle of the night when everything changed.

Click to read the interview
About You

How did you get into art and making?

I grew up with a pencil in my hand. I have always loved drawing and painting. I had no idea of all the different ways to create when I was young but I just had the need to do it and paint and colouring pencils was all I had access to at first.
About Your Art

What art do you like to make?

I have spent the last year experimenting with different media. I want to try everything welding and wire sculptures, clay. glass blowing , if I see it I want a go. Unfortunately I don’t have the means for these at this time so I would say my favourite is painting. There is something just a bit delicious about putting colour on a canvas or page. On my facebook page you will see I dabble in other things too. I love to create things out of recycled materials and have made a couple of stools. I also upcycle furniture and do wall murals. Occasionally I sew but I don’t know how to use a sewing machine so all of my work is handsewn. I’ve made dream catchers and jewellwey holders and given a trycicle a minion makeover.

What materials do you use?

Mostly acrylic for painting. I find it gives me the texture of oils but dries at a nice pace. I have dabbled in watercolour a lot for the last few months and have done a couple of oil paintings.

How would you describe yourself?

I like to try everything so I would say artist

What or who inspires and influences your work?

The virtual art studio has inspired me tremendously. I didn’t pick up a pencil or paintbrush for 10 years. I suddenly had the urge to paint something in the middle of the night and after I had finished I searched for art groups and found the virtual art studio. This gave me the push (it was at the time of the drawing challenge) to draw daily until it became a part of my daily routine. The group members are so supportive and I am inspired by seeing the posts. Other influences are a love of art deco/nouveau pirates/ships and prohibition. I just love the eras the clothes the colours and lines

How have you and your work changed over time?

I find that I have learned not to rush to finish. My whole school life I heard ‘good but you could do better’. It drove me crazy but I get it now. My previous work I would get to a point and just want to see it finished so I would miss the detail. After I would just forget about it because I wanted to start another piece. Now I take a break when I feel like that. I am always working on more than one piece and when I am finished I smile and keep creeping downstairs to look at it because I know that I couldn’t do any better and I can’t believe I just created that. I have gained a lot of confidence and feel like the child in me that has imagination and ideas is back.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

I couldn’t find time before my creative block and there was no money for materials. When I did have the money later on I found I was always working and then trying to have enough energy to be mum to a teenager. I had a very bad few years personally. I suffered losses that were hard to come back from and I was in a very controlled situation and my creative block arrived. It took 10 years to escape both. Until that moment in the middle of the night when I did that first painting after 10 years and then found the virtual art studio I had given up on ever having art as something I could have as a career or for fun. I have a 4 year old now and although as you would imagine time is hard to come by it is still doable. I believe strongly that it is all about timing. I tried many times over the years to get onto an art course or find a job after my graphics HND only to fail and just work to pay the bills. I have found you can do both cover your bills with a 9-5 and make money making people happy with your art.

Your Achievements

What has been your biggest achievement/s so far? No matter how big or small?

My biggest achievement was selling my first painting. Also being asked to produce illustrations for a children’s book which I am currently working on.

How did it feel to experience this achievement?

I cried a little bit 🙂 I’m not afraid to tell you. It meant so much on so many different levels. It is validation but more than that it was all I ever wanted to have someone buy my work. It meant that they saw something I made and loved it enough to buy it. As all artists know when you create you are not just making a picture or whatever it may be. You are spending hours thinking, feeling putting your energy into the work. An artist knows when they have made an aesthetically pleasing bit of work the payment is not about the money but the commitment of the buyer to own something you have made if that makes sense. It is wonderful to see a buyer smile and be delighted that they are taking home your work.

What difficulties, doubts or fears did you face and how did you overcome them?

I had given up on a career and didn’t even find the time to do it for fun. A couple of months ago I was happy with the progress I was making but felt like this was all it was ever going to be. Ok fine I thought, but I want other people to see what I can do. I also wanted a challenge. I jumped on my facebook and announced I was going to do a giveaway. The prize; any picture painted on a canvas and posted free of charge to the winner. (Brave right?) to win this giveaway I asked people to share my post and like my facebook art page and their name would be entered into a hat. Then it just sat there for hours with no one responding. Suddenly one person did then the next. I kept telling myself don’t worry if your painting isn’t up to scratch its free they can’t complain. I then got a message from someone who had seen a previous post of a couple of paintings I did. The post had been ignored so I didn’t think people were very interested but she had seen it and loved them. It turns out she was scared to message me about them but my post prompted her to ask if they were for sale.

What or who has helped you in your journey?

The virtual art studio is massively involved in my turn around. My absolute refusal to ever do as I am told 🙂 and my eldest daughter for always being my cheerleader.

If someone could wave a magic wand and make amazing things happen for you, what would be your dream?

I just want a huge studio full of every imaginable medium and the time to get in there and get messy. Money is nice but I’m more interested in creating then being famous. Just enough to pay my bills and a few treats but allowing me the time to roll around in my paints 🙂

What is your biggest piece of advice for other artists?

Do it for the love of it and watch the universe for signs. As I said it’s all about timing. Technique is refined by doing it again and again and give yourself pushes out of your comfort zone every once in awhile. Nothing bad will happen but something great might.

Do it for the love of it and watch the universe for signs.

Selling & Marketing

Lots of emphasis is placed on artists finding their own unique ‘style’ & having a refined portfolio, what are your thoughts on this and how have you found yours?

I got so caught up with this. i felt like yelling on top of a mountain what is my style!!!! But one day you’ll just see it. You will find you have a pattern or a way that you like to do things. I am a natural born rebel so I doubt I will ever have anything completely refined and I love to try new things all of the time but I do see similarities so a collection of sorts is possible

How do you find the business side of being an artist?

A bit awkward if I am honest. I am just only starting out so I under price my work. I just sold my 3rd painting and the hand over of cash was easier this time. If you are confident in your work then I’m sure taking the money will become second nature. It is after all a service but one that brings joy to both the buyer and the artist

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your art and finding people to buy?

I sort of answered this earlier but it was self promotion. Posting the giveaway led to my first sale and I have people contacting me all the time asking if I could paint this or that. I also take part in the art abandonment movement. Every year millions of artists globally leave art in their area on benches in shops or parks etc for people to find and take home. I include the info to contact me. I also post my work on a lot of facebook art pages

Who or what helps with the business side?

I wrote down every size of canvas possible. I then split them into price categories taking into account the price of the canvas and a vague idea of materials. I then found my lowest price I would be happiest with and gave that to the smallest group of canvases and then the same for the highest price. I then worked out all the in-between sizes. If someone asks me for a painting I ask what size they would like and give them the lowest and highest price and tell them whatever their budget is so we can figure out a size. Or if money isn’t an issue I ask where they would like the painting to go in their house or wherever and figure out a good fit for that space and charge accordingly

How did you make the transition to part/full time artist?

To be honest I am still transitioning. Some days I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I have. I feel like I am starting to become a bit of a hermit when I am trying to finish a piece. I just tell myself there will be a day when I don’t have a list of work and I’ll be sad I didn’t enjoy the ride. As with anything I am sure balancing life and art will get easier

What’s the biggest thing you have learnt from being an artist?

That this is what I am meant to be doing. Everything that was making me unbalanced and unhappy just doesn’t matter when I am making art

If you would like to see more of Sally’s work please follow these links:

Facebook: @artistSALLYBARR
Instagram: @artist.sallybarr

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