I have a cooked lobster in my freezer that I use for reference when I’m doing a painting that has a lobster in it. Over the years he (or she) has starred in quite a few of my works, most recently a rock pool painting where he is intimidating a blenny. I love lobsters, I love eating them but mostly I love drawing them. They are an artist's dream: the claws, the beady eyes, the sweep of the antennae (with which they smell and feel their surroundings). When I’m painting a lobster I relish putting in the spots and spikes that cover the shell. Drawing a lobster is a challenge because of the intricate face (is that the right way to describe a lobster's visage?). There are all sorts of appendages and mouth parts as well as the antennae that force you to really look and study how it all works.
Every now and then, when I am rooting about in my freezer looking for something for supper I’ll come across the lobster, wrapped up tight in cling film, and get him out to draw. Each time he gets more whiffy, but he is holding up well and I’m sure he has a few more paintings in him yet.
Those of you that have read my blog over the years will know that September is my absolute favourite time of year. The first day of the month feels like a new beginning to me, a fresh start. One of my sisters explained that it was that back to school feeling that is so ingrained in us of all that brings on the thoughts of endless possibilities. I’m not so sure, I only remember feeling dread at the start of new term. Anyway, for whatever reason I am fired up and feeling really inspired as the leaves start to change colour and the nights draw in.
One of my latest paintings is a real departure from my usual coastal themes. Not only is the subject matter different but I’ve painted it in oils rather than my usual acrylic. Peanut and the Bull is an idea I’ve had for over a year. The bull is called Foggy and he is a familiar face on my morning dog walks. Although he is huge he has a calm, placid personality and I’ve grown very fond of him. I loved the idea of him and Peanut (my miniature sausage dog) looking at each other. I must say I am thrilled with how it has turned out and now I’m thinking of doing a series of the two of them.
Happy Spring everyone. I’m sorry for my long absence. I’ve been moving house, albeit only a few feet into my garden! It’s very odd to be able to look over my old house with its new occupants. I now have a brand new studio with a view over tree tops. When I open the door in the morning I’m hit by the smell of linseed oil and white spirit, an aroma that takes me back to my college years.
I’ve decided to return to my first love, oil paint. I grew up using oils but it’s been a long time since I’ve had to wash my brushes at the end of the day with copious amounts of soap and turps. That smell. It reminds me of my grandmother's studio, a proper studio, with rags and pots of brushes and drying paintings stacked against the wall. There is something magical about oil paint, all the history, the buttery feel of it, the shine on the canvas. I feel as if I’ve come home.
In other news, I’m having a show with my two sisters, Sophie and Bess, at the end of the month. It’s very exciting to be showing next to two such talented gals. The show is at The Mulberry Tree Gallery in Swanage, our home town. No doubt the weekend of the private view will include long walks, swims and the odd pint with old friends.
One more thing, I’ve spent the last year or so revising my first book A Brush with the Coast, I’ve made it into a smaller format, so easier to pop in a rucksack, and added more images and text. I'm absolutely thrilled with it. Hopefully it will be available to buy within the next month.
Happy summer to you all! What a fantastic few weeks it’s been. I must admit it’s difficult to work in the studio when it is so lovely outside but my husband and I (and the dogs of course) have been going for a swim most evenings. It’s such a great way to end the day and it cools off the dogs.
I have in fact been working really hard and as you will see there are lots of new things on my website. I have also finished four new paintings for The Mulberry Tree Gallery in Swanage, and I am currently working on another four for Fowey River Gallery.
I sold out of my book A Brush With The Coast a while ago, and now A Brush With Anglesey has also sold out. I’ve been wondering for a while if I should reprint A Brush With The Coast and after lots of emails and enquiries from Waterstones – as well as galleries – I have decided to do it. Now I’ve made the decision I am very excited about it. I am taking the opportunity to add more images and tweak the writing. Also I’m going to make it smaller (the same as the Anglesey book) so it’s easier to handle. It won’t be ready until Christmas but I’m sure it will be worth the wait!
I hope you all like the new work.
Happy end of April to you all. I must apologise for my lack of blogs recently but I do have a good excuse: just before Christmas I added one more dog to my collection in the form of a tiny, brown dachshund. Shortly after her arrival I gave up trying to work and instead spent the next two months immersed in puppyhood. I have since returned to my studio and Peanut, for that is her name, has slotted into my routine and sleeps most of the afternoon, either on the table next to my easel or at my feet.
Now that things have settled down I am thrilled to say that I will shortly have some brand new work available on my website. There will be originals, a new series of limited edition prints and perhaps an exclusive collection of cards. I do have one or two other ideas in mind but I will leave these as a surprise. As soon as everything is ready I will let you know via email (if you’ve signed up for my mailing list). As you can appreciate all this is taking time, and I hope you will bare with me for another month or so.
I’m off to Italy in May with two of my sisters, and I have a feeling it will be very inspiring. I’ll take my sketchbook and watercolours and hopefully get some sun-soaked paintings on the website.
If you are interested in what I am up to it’s worth following me on Instagram (sashamayharding) all my new work gets an airing there as well as lots of photos of my dogs!
Warm wishes, Sash
Happy Christmas everyone! With a week to go I am preparing to stop work and plunge into the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, the painting I'm working on is proving difficult to leave; it is at a tricky stage and is not quite right, but I don’t know what I need to do to resolve it. I know I should turn it to the wall and forget about it for a while, but instead I keep picking at it like a scab! Is it the colours? The composition? The tones? I DON’T KNOW.
Sometimes painting is like a puzzle and one elusive thing will pull it all together, but sometimes it is a lost cause and best painted over. I am at the stage where I am not sure if I should battle on or admit defeat. Psychologically I need it to work, because it is the first of 35 paintings for an exhibition in the summer; the first painting often sets the tone for the whole show and (I like to think) if I can get one cracker under my belt the rest will follow without too much of a struggle. One more day and then I will leave it until after Christmas (maybe three days of overeating and drinking will trigger some sort of inspiration)...
I went to Truro last week to buy a few canvases, and while I was in my local art shop the owner (who I'd never met) approached me and asked if I could do her a favour. Intrigued, I replied of course and she asked me if I would judge a children's painting competion! I jumped at the chance, and there and then she led me upstairs to a room with a table festooned with children's paintings of local places.
It took me right back to my youth when I would jump at the chance to enter any painting competition. I even came runner up in a Blue Peter competition to paint a dinosaur, and my grandmother took me up to London to see it being hung in the Natural History Museum.
I chose my first second and third, not so much for the talent but for the boldness and quirkyness. And the lesson I took from this experience was to remember what first fired me up about painting. When I was young I was passionate and very serious about my art. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of that pure thrill of painting, especially when there are deadlines or too much pressure. Seeing those paintings so full of life and so unselfconscious in their use of colour and wonky perspective made my day.
So, another Christmas is over and a New Year has arrived. I love the way every new year feels like a fresh start, like anything is possible.
I am fully in exhibition mode right now and – as is often the way – I have been struggling to get off the starting blocks. Things are starting to gel together now though, and I'm really pleased with the paintings I've done so far. My mantra is definitely quality over quantity so I'm taking my time and lavishing all my attention on each piece. It helps that the weather is so awful - I'd rather be in my cosy studio watching the rain than out in it.
The manuscript for the book is coming on well and I have reached Exmouth - today I will be writing about my favourite stretch of the whole path which was Exmouth to Seaton. I try to write for an hour or two every day but it can feel a bit like being back at school and doing homework, so sometimes I need to force myself to do it. A glass of wine or two certainly helps!
Here are a few details from my recent paintings...
I've returned from my epic seven week walk along the South West Coast Path... and now the hard work begins!
It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had, and my plan now is to write an illustrated book of the whole walk. I've started on the manuscript - it's odd writing instead of painting, but I am really enjoying it. I want this book to be a labour of love and so I'm going to take my time and do it right. If I can't find a publisher I may self-publish, but I'll look into that nearer the time...
Next month I'm going to start work on a show inspired by the walk, which will be held in Broadway next summer. So, all in all it's a very busy time!
Four weeks in to our epic adventure, and Jess and I are having an amazing time! I'm so full of ideas for paintings and can't wait to get cracking. Three more weeks to go and then I will lock myself in the studio for the winter and paint this amazing experience...