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Sarah Duffield in her studio

Published: 5th October 2017


Expressing a Feeling Through Colour

 “There needs to be a moment when I see something within a scene that draws me in. It could be light, colour or the shape of a landscape, but it is that moment that I'm trying to capture in my art.I usually make a charcoal sketch and take photographs for reference, but the painting will be driven by an emotional feeling. I want to express everything I felt at that moment. The tone of the painting very much depends on the season and the weather, as I exaggerate colours and shapes. I loved Van Gogh’s work as a child and still do. I visited The National Museum, which has a couple of his paintings on display and I almost cried! His colours jump out at you. Colours are obviously important to me too and I have shades that I love and go back to. There are a couple of blues that I often use and a tone of magenta that crops up regularly in my output.”

Painting from Personal Experience

 “My perception does not always match someone else’s feeling about a place. I was recently commissioned to paint a piece showing Seaford Head. My husband, who has been hugely supportive of my work, dragged me out of bed at 4:30am, shoved a hot coffee in my hand and drove me there to capture the sunset. It was freezing cold and the feeling I had was blue, so I painted that way. The person who commissioned the painting had a different feeling. However, it’s important that I paint from personal experience. Living near Steyning, many scenes are inspired by the Downs and the coast. People often identify the lavender fields at Lordington, even though my painting of them is exaggerated. Other scenes I have painted that people identify include Birling Gap, Firle Beacon, Chanctonbury Ring and Cissbury Ring. There is one lone tree on Cissbury and people notice that detail.”


If You See a Green Circle...

 “I didn’t always want to be an artist. After my GCSEs and A’ levels, I studied fine art and English at Chichester University.There was an element of having to justify your reasoning for painting a certain thing and I struggled to express that. I came out with aspirations to be a writer, but that idea never got off the ground. I married, had children and eventually started painting again with an easel set up in the corner of my dining room. My daughter - who always enjoyed dabbling in art – one day decided she would help me with a painting! It was after that happened that I set up a small studio in the shed! I attended a couple of courses and experimented with oils, rather than acrylics. I loved the colours, smell and  texture and it improved my work. But my style has not altered much.Although my work is not abstract, in that there is a degree of scale and everything is recognisable, the features are abstracted. I once read a quote by an artist who said: ‘If you see a circle of green, paint a circle of green and if you see a blue square, paint a blue square.’ That's basically influenced my life’s work and I don’t even know who said it!”

A Love-Hate Relationship 

“Each of my paintings takes about six weeks to finish and that’s not including the planning. I start off  excited, as I have found a scene that has sparked an idea. I spent time sketching and finding the colour palette. Then comes the process of painting and it takes so long that my excitement dwindles. I start having doubts and finishing a piece becomes a struggle. Once it’s completed, I usually declare that I never want to see it again, but a week or two later I will look at it again and fall in love with it. I tend to have a ‘love-hate’ relationship with my work.I feel that my style is still evolving. When I look at  paintings from a few years ago, they are simpler in terms of colour. There were fewer gradients within the shapes. It is still identifiable as my work, but there has been positive process, which is good as I don’t want to stagnate.”


I’m Very Fussy About Straight Lines

“I would love to paint faster and increase my output, but it’s not possible as I like to include a lot of detail. I might spend six hours in the shed only painting 20 small circles for a cluster of trees.Stripes have defined much of my output, but are one of the hardest things to paint. I'm fussy about them as I like to create near-perfect lines. Some people have assumed that the images are airbrushed or altered with Photoshop and can be quite impressed when they discover that it’s all drawn and painted by hand. If I did use a computer, everything would be too perfect and that might take the life out of the scenes. That’s why the paintings can take so long to complete. At a glance, it’s difficult for people to appreciate the work that goes into each one. However, I price them depending on how long the piece has taken me, although that doesn’t include the planning process and the endless piles of paper thrown on the floor!”

Pink Rabbits and Purple Deer

“As well as original paintings, I do sell limited edition prints, which help me earn a little extra. Friends have expressed interest in my charcoal sketches, so for the first time I’ll be exhibiting these at Horsham Museum.I’m involved in Steyning Arts, which is a nice, close-knit group. We have an exhibition at The Oxmarket in Chichester (ends 8 October) and we always hold a Christmas market in Steyning to run alongside the village market. I’m also at the Shoreham Gallery, which is a co-operative gallery comprising about 20 artists, and have started teaching at The Cow Shed Studio at Hammes Barn, near Wiston. I find that working with other artists helps inspire ideas in my own work. In terms of future projects, I’m in love with the sky at the moment and have a reference book full of ideas, so I may create a series of the same location with different skies. I would also like to paint animals. That brings up images of pink rabbits and purple deer, but I would incorporate movement into this work. The ideas are there but they’re not quite fully formed yet!” 



For more details visit Sarah’s website at https://www.sduffieldart.co.uk/