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Studio Secrets

Sarah Douglas


Describe the things and images that you have around you in your studio and how they influence or inform your work

I regularly sift through piles of old National Geographic magazines and rip out all the images that grab my attention. Images that seem particularly pertinent I'll stick on the wall of the studio and do drawings from at a later date. The others I file into different folders for different categories, like 'artefacts', 'animals', 'dwellings' etc. But I collect objects too. And I like to paint from objects as well as images. At the moment I'm painting from pieces of coral that I found on a beach somewhere. I also somewhat obsessively collect old explorer's books and documents. I think the thing that unites all these objects and images is that they are all invested with a kind of atmosphere that captivates me. There is something about them that I can't quite put my finger on, but it makes me want to look at them, hold them and investigate them. Hopefully this investigation inspires the painting process!

Describe your working methods and processes.

 I start with the images and objects that I have collected and usually do lots of different kinds of drawings of them, from ink and watercolour to pencil. I have always found it constraining to paint directly from my source material, so the paintings usually spring from the drawings that are at one remove from the original image. When painting I'm constantly mixing what I see in the drawings with my imagination, and as the work progresses the material tends to take over and the work becomes more abstract. My work is not very predetermined, so I seem to spend a lot of time putting paint on and off the canvas and shifting things around until they lock together, which means a painting may be several layers deep.

Which single item in your studio is most important to your work?

I would normally say something to make a mark with, pen, pencil, paintbrush, whatever, because without this you can't even begin to say anything. But... given that it's been bitterly cold in the studio, I'm going to say that my heater is currently my most valued studio tool, as I simply cannot do anything creative when I'm cold!

Which artist/s most influence your work and which recent show has been inspirational?

I'm a huge fan of Philip Guston. I love how unashamed his paintings are. You can really see that this is someone on a very personal mission within his work and that that is far more important to him than how it is received. I really admire that in an artist. On the other hand I really love the kind of nutty imagination of an artist like Bosch.

In terms of shows, I'd have to say Velasquez at the National. It was totally packed, but he is another artist whose work I love, so it a real pleasure to see so many in the same place.

Is your studio a refuge or a place of torture?

Both! When my life turns to shit, the studio is a wonderful refuge, but when my work turns to shit, it's absolute torture! Thank god they go in phases, as I might never get anything done!