After a 10 year break artist Sarah Cooper rediscovered her love of painting. Learning from online tutorials, books and other artists, she has worked with oils, watercolour and charcoal. Although she had less time for painting during lockdown, when her studio was given over to home educating her three children, she still managed to contribute to the Portraits for NHS Heroes campaign. The delight of the health worker, whose portrait she painted, reinforced her belief that giving is the greatest joy of painting.
Art and creativity is something that has always been a part of who I am. But I had never learned to fully open my mind to it and express my creativity until March 2018 when I decided to reignite my love for painting. I picked up a brush, got out my old oil painting set (which had been sitting in a dusty cupboard for ten years) and I decided to start painting again.
Daily I would paint. Squeezing a YouTube tutorial or some practice pieces in here and there between the family business and my children. I started off using oils - I was particularly fond of the feel of oils and the varied strokes created using different techniques. Flats have always been my go to brushes but I do like to dabble with pallet knives and angled/dagger brushes.
In the early days I tried watercolour but found it to be a very difficult medium. I do like a challenge so I pushed myself to learn. I found watercolour artists who inspired me such as Rachel Toll, Natalya Valverde (formerly known as Natalie Graham), Karen Thomas and Jen Buckley. I learned techniques, asked questions, bought lots of books about technique and colour and so my love of watercolour began.
I now do most of my work in watercolour, although I do still love oils but find watercolour more adaptable to the environment, in other words I can paint almost anywhere with them with minimal mess.
I recently took part in the Portraits for NHS Heroes campaign started by artist Tom Croft. The lady I painted was overjoyed when she received her portrait and so it was lovely to be able to use my skill for a good cause and bring a smile to somebody’s world.
I think, for me, one of the biggest joys of painting is giving - I love the gift of giving and making someone’s day by painting something that is personal to them. The care and the heart I put into a painting knowing it means something to someone makes it such a worthwhile effort, one that I am proud to be able to accomplish.
Charcoal is another medium I love to use. It is messy but I love its looseness and versatility. I use a heavy gram watercolour paper for my charcoal work and willow charcoal has to be my favourite type to use. It’s so free and expressive as a medium and I feel it is also quite atmospheric so it can turn the most average of pictures into a piece that emits power and emotion. I have much ground to cover with charcoal and many new projects in the pipeline with so many new techniques I want to explore, so I’m really looking forward to the future.
The lockdown period hasn’t been too bad for me, I’m lucky to live on a farm in Mid Devon so I haven’t been confined to my house and garden. The hardest part was home-schooling three children, each at different stages with their learning; top that with an incredibly poor internet connection meant it wasn’t as straight forward as I’d initially hoped, but we got there in the end.
My art studio was repurposed as a temporary schoolroom, it was fun and we all embraced the change. But over time my children’s interest waned and they really began missing their school friends.
My artwork had to be placed on the back burner and commissions have been taking much longer than usual, although my clients are very understanding.
If there is one thing that lockdown has taught me, it is to value what we have and to try new things as every moment counts. I look forward to the future and learning new techniques, discovering new artists and using the ability of art to bring a little heart and joy into the lives of others.
You can see more of Sarah’s work on her website.
and contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org