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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson is based in Glasgow, and creates paintings around themes of fashion, pop culture, domesticity, communication, and still life. More at the links following our interview!

Tell me a little bit about you! 

I’m currently living and working in Glasgow, Scotland and studied Painting and Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art (GSA). I was one of 100 students affected by the 2014 fire in the Mackintosh Building at GSA and I received a bursary and studio space at the Whisky Bond Glasgow on graduating after the fire in order to remake some of the work lost in the fire.

Since then I have been plugging away in my studio in Many Studios in the east end of the city.

When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself? 

I remember in Primary school our teacher setting us the task of painting another artists work. I chose to paint Vincent Van Gogh’s – Starry Night. This is etched on my memory as being a significant moment of realising I wanted to paint.

What ideas are you exploring in your practice? 

Colour. Composition. Digital communication. Visual communication. Advertising. Marketing campaigns. Fashion. Interiors. Lifestyle. Travel. Instagram. Spontaneity. Abstraction of bodies and objects. Still Life. Possibilities of paint. 

All of the above is at the core of what my paintings are about.

By painting from photographs I express a preoccupation with the notion of artistic labour, often constraining, cropping, cutting, repeating and collaging my source material until I am happy with the outcome.

What is your process like?

I usually go into the studio about midday. I’ll make a coffee or a tea and then open up my laptop and get the radio on. I have lots of images saved onto my saved archive folder on Instagram I usually bring these up on the laptop or I’ll scroll through different fashion, lifestyle accounts to find interesting imagery. I’ll usually screenshot these images then cut and crop them to paint from.

I’ll have some boards or canvases primed and ready to go and from there I’ll get my usual paint, turps combination set up and I’ll begin. I’ll usually sketch out the image and composition with yellow ochre paint. I try not to overthink when I’m in the studio, my time in the studio is limited so no matter what I always try to get something painted onto board. I can usually complete a small-ish painting (about 40x30cm) in roughly 3 hours.  Sometimes in the end if the image isn’t ideally what I’ve been looking to paint I still feel I’ve accomplished something. I also think painting as much as I can is a great way of honing and tightening all my practical skills.

Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?

I was lucky to speak with a variety of inspiring tutors at GSA and I still use and think about lots of practical advice and positive feedback they gave me in my practice now.

I liked what Katherine Berndhart said about painting recently in an interview on artspace.com – the interviewer asked “It seems you’re not the type of artist who spends a lot of time intellectualizing your work, why is that?

KB said – “I think good painting doesn’t need all that. I think the best painters don’t intellectualize stuff. It’s more about colour choices and colour combinations.”

I liked this for how candid it was. 

Describe your studio.

Safe, comforting, a place to experiment.

What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art? 

The loneliness and isolation which I sometimes experience when in the studio. The struggle to make a living from what you love doing. I work full time and it can be hard juggling everything and finding the energy to pursue painting.

If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?

I would be interested in sitting down and having a chat with the artist Ella Kruglyanskaya. I would like to talk to her about painting and women. What it means to be a female painter. The imagery and subjects she explores in her painting and the practical ways in which she goes about making her paintings. I think there are similarities in our subject matter. 

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

I challenge myself to paint any picture or image I’ve come across that I have maybe been avoiding, however challenging the image may seem to me compositionally. Working through the rut always helps me. In the end I’m pleased I’ve managed to make something. 

What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?

I love how anything can happen with painting. I love how I never tire of painting, I’ve never veered away from painting, I have always stayed loyal to the medium despite at times having my doubts about how “cool” or contemporary painting is. I am surprised still how no matter how confident or competent you feel you can become complacent and on standing back from the painting it can be completely compositionally wrong without you having noticed.


What do you need or value most as an artist?

I need to carve out more studio time and I need opportunities to show my work. I value the small amount of time I get in the studio.

What keeps you creating?

It sounds cheesy but I think it does provide me with a sense of purpose and fulfilment. When I’m not making work or haven’t been to the studio in a few weeks I feel a bit empty. Seeing other people getting on with making work also spurs me on too. 

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a series of paintings on board. I’d like to be able to start some larger canvases too I’ve been shying away from larger canvases for a while recently and want to get back into it.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me!

Find more at cargocollective.com/sarahwilson and on Instagram @s.wilsonpainting!

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