Sara Paxton is an artist based on the Bellarine Peninsula. Her oil paintings, predominantly landscapes and still life compositions, are infused with vibrant colour and sumptuous textures created from vigorous brushwork. Sara has a new exhibition coming up at Seaview Gallery, running from 2 – 28 November and she kindly took the time to answer ten questions for Artin’ Geelong.
1 Please tell us about your upcoming exhibition at Seaview Gallery.
The exhibition at Seaview is a mixture of subject material – landscapes are probably the main feature. These are sometimes from my imagination but also often based initially on a photograph, however, as the painting progresses the connection becomes looser. There are also seascapes, still life and flowers. No animals in this one though, cows, which I love to paint have featured in the last couple of exhibitions.
Seaview Gallery was one of the first galleries I exhibited with, and I have been with them for about the last 10 years. I generally do a solo or joint exhibition there every year. I think the theme that runs through all of them is the vibrant colour.
2 Is oil the main medium you work in and what do you like about it?
I work almost entirely in oils which is the medium I love – it’s very flexible due to its slow drying rate and has a strong intensity of colour and structure that other mediums lack.
3 How would you describe your work and what do you hope the viewer gets from it?
My work could probably best be described as contemporary, somewhat impressionistic with an emphasis on colour. Paintings are mostly large scale stretched canvasses on wooden frames.
Many people who buy a painting (I am told) buy because it make them happy! I think it’s important that an art piece provokes some kind of emotion for the viewer and if that emotion is happiness, all the better. If a painting can impact on a person’s life and wellbeing in a positive way, then I feel I have achieved something valuable. If they own one, then I hope they can still look at it in 10, 20 years time and still love it.
4 What sort of research and or reference materials do you use for your work? Can you tell us about a typical day in the studio?
I take a lot of photographs to use as reference and I visit exhibitions to look at different styles of art, different techniques. A typical day in the studio will begin mid morning. I always start the day with some kind of exercise – walking, yoga, gym which I find gives me the energy for the day. On a good day I’ll work through until around 6pm, or until the light fails. Once I start painting the time flashes past and although many people find painting relaxing, by the end of the day I’m exhausted. I find I can’t work under artificial light, so in the evening I do the ‘screen based’ work – website, facebook etc.
5 Who or what provides inspiration for your work? How has this shaped the course of your work?
Artists I admire, especially the impressionists, inspire me, although I’m sure they inspire almost every artist! But also everything around me – it might be as simple as pears stacked in a bowl, or a particular flower in the garden, or how the light falls across a landscape. That’s why I always have a camera with me.
6 All artists experience challenges in their art practice. Can you tell us about any you have had?
Probably my greatest challenge is when I don’t paint. For me it’s something I do most days but if I have a long break I find it difficult to get back into it. When I pick up the paintbrush again for the first time I wonder – can I still do this?
7 Can you tell us about an exhibition you have seen that impressed you?
Recently I was lucky enough to see the Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life at the Tate Britain in London. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it – his style is quite industrial, but I was so impressed. Lowry spent 40 years painting the urban landscape and everyday working class life around the Manchester area so his paintings are really the England of the Industrial Revolution. The work was starkly beautiful and his depictions of the working class struggles quite unforgettable. He told it as it was and his paintings are intense and energetic. I very much enjoyed it.
8 If there was one piece of artwork you could have in your collection, what would it be and why?
Picking one piece of art is impossible. But maybe one of Brett Whitely’s Lavender Bay series or Fred Williams Pilbara collection. The colours of course are the attraction. Or Boats at Saintes-Maries by van Gogh; or Monet’s paintings of Argenteuil for the way he captured the light. The list could go on and on.
9 How long have you been painting and has there been a highlight in your art career?
I’ve painted since I was very young, but started again more seriously about 12 years ago and now paint full time. I’m still working towards the highlight!
10 Have you always been an artist? What did you do before becoming an artist? Did you ever pursue a formal art education?
I don’t have formal art qualifications. At the age of 18 I decided not to take up a place at art college, thinking that the life of an artist would be a hard road; instead opting for a more ‘useful’ degree. I spent many years working in the events and conference industry which I really enjoyed, but coming back to my original love of art has proved more than rewarding.
You can find out more about Sara Paxton on her website www.sarapaxtonartworks.com