I've lived in Wolverhampton most of my life now, but even though I've always been a creative person I'd never taken it upon myself to see what the creative scene in Wolverhampton is actually like. Then, in summer 2016 I decided to actively find out and get to know some local creatives. It was during this time I found out what kind of events take place at the Newhampton Arts Centre, and which artists and photographers have their own studios set up there. I met Sarah Stokes very briefly when I wandered into her studio during an event last summer, and when I started this project of mine I knew I had to get in touch with her for a feature. As you can see, she said yes! Read on to find out more about Sarah's art and story.
Sarah mainly works with watercolours and her subjects range from animals and humans, the most popular being animals. Her painting style developed very early on and has now become a signature style that's been influenced by street art which she used to teach. You can expect to see lots of sprays, drips and splashes, making the crossover of Sarah's street art experience into watercolour a lot more exciting compared to traditional watercolour paintings. I love how the colours blend into each other and how the droplets of watercolour add more vibrancy to the paintings in the most simplistic way. This style creates quite a unique way of using watercolours which Sarah enjoys, especially since she previously associated watercolours with landscape painting which wasn't an interest to Sarah at all.
Sarah had a keen interest in being an artist when she was at school but by the time she turned fourteen years old she decided to give it up since, back in the 70's, it wasn't seen as a career choice. Instead she studied German, but the language hasn't been of use since, and has had various jobs since finishing her education. The jobs Sarah has pursued include sales and marketing, but luckily she's been self-employed the majority of the time.
"WHEN I WAS SELF-EMPLOYED I STARTED TEACHING AS A FREELANCE ACTIVITY PROVIDER. I WORKED IN SCHOOLS AND YOUTH CLUBS TEACHING BEAUTY AND STREET MAGIC, AND THEN EVENTUALLY A BIT OF STREET ART, SO I'VE DONE LOADS OF DIFFERENT THINGS TO ENGAGE YOUNG PEOPLE."
Sarah became interested in creating art for herself again in 2010. It had been years since she'd done any drawings, so while her husband was away on holiday it was her chance to reconnect with an old passion. It all started with drawing a dog, which then led to her family and friends giving her some photos of dogs and children to draw. Although Sarah started drawing again in 2010, it was actually a few years later, in 2013, when she started to paint.
"I STARTED LOOKING INTO PAINTING, WATERCOLOUR IN PARTICULAR. I HAD A LOOK ON THE INTERNET AND I WAS LOOKING AT CONTEMPORARY, UP TO DATE ARTISTS THAT WERE PAINTING, AND LOOKED AT TECHNIQUES. I NOTICED THAT WATERCOLOUR WAS COMING BACK INTO FASHION."
Whilst researching artists Sarah found some who were doing some very exciting and fresh things with watercolour and inks, and this urged Sarah to experiment with the medium too. Once Sarah started painting there was no going back as things progressed for her quickly. Galleries became interested in her work very early on, which then resulted in a few solo exhibitions of her work.
Things continued to go well with Sarah's career as an artist, and now she's being represented by The Demontfort Group Ltd, with her work being displayed in Whitewall Galleries and Clarendon Fine Art. Being represented by The Demontfort Group means that Sarah can now only exclusively create work for them, and although this means she can no longer take on commissions, it does mean Sarah has now got a lot more time to paint and create new work continuously.
"IT WAS GREAT WORKING FOR GALLERIES AND I HAD A VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM. I MET SOME LOVELY PEOPLE, BUT IT'S QUITE HARD WORK BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR OWN FRAMING AND PRINTS. IN THE FIRST COUPLE OF YEARS I MUST HAVE SPENT THOUSANDS IN TERMS OF DOING THE PRINTS, FRAMING, DRIVING UP AND DOWN THE COUNTRY DROPPING WORK OFF, AND VERY LITTLE TIME WAS ACTUALLY SPENT PAINTING. WHEN I WENT TO DEMONTFORT WE WERE DISCUSSING THIS AND THEY SAID THEY CAN MAKE SURE I'LL BE PAINTING ALL THE TIME. THEY WILL LITERALLY COLLECT THE RAW PAINTINGS AND FRAME THEM AT THEIR HEAD OFFICE, IN LICHFIELD, AND FROM THAT POINT IT GETS DISPATCHED TO ALL THEIR GALLERIES."
It's so exciting to see how Sarah has been able to reconnect with an old love for being creative, and for her career as an artist to do so well in such a short space of time. Paintings can be found all over the world, the furthest being Australia, where the singer Sia's dad even owns a piece! With so much achieved already, I asked Sarah what she wants to achieve in her career next...