SASHA HARDING PAINTER
Sasha Harding’s paintings are inspired by both her carefree childhood and times spend at the coast. Using only three colours and white Sasha Harding transports us to the gentle tones of the English seaside where she brings her whimsical location alive for us to all enjoy.
Zoneone Arts is delighted to bring Sasha Harding to you…
Your aim is to capture the moment. Can you discuss this aspect of your work?
I sometimes think of my paintings as snap shots a brief glimpse of a situation. I like the idea of representing moments that are familiar to all of us and also of more private, quite moments.
Narrative is inspirational in your work. This is not something that many artists say, can you explain?
I often start with a title rather than an image, I have pages and pages of lists of titles and ideas, the sketching out of the idea comes after the words. I have a vivid imagination and tend to think in terms of a story or narrative rather than a specific image, using my own memories of child hood or something that has accrued in my daily life.
You limit yourself to three colours and white. Why and how did this come about?
It was as simple as being penniless at college and only being able to afford a few paints! Over the years I have grown so used to my palette that I am loath to change it, sometimes I will add a new colour for a while but always go back to the three colours. I am much more interested in the content and story of a painting than the colour and so like to keep it simple.
You have been absorbing Cornwall since 1973. How did location have such a large part in your work?
I was actually raised in Dorset but have lived in Cornwall for the past 18 years. Both counties have played a huge part in my work, the sea is an ongoing fascination of mine and very much part of my daily life, be that walking by it or fishing or being out in my boat.
Exhibiting your work is an integral part of our artistic life; can you expand on the importance of exhibiting to you?
I think exhibiting is important because it gives you an opportunity to paint a large coherent body of work that will be shown as a whole, it is also really important for meeting the people who buy my work and chatting to them about it.
You have recently completed commissions for Canada and America. Can you discuss the stimulation commissions give to your work?
Commissions are so different to my normal work, there is a brief to stick to and I have to be aware that I am painting for someone rather than for myself! They are a blessing and a curse and can be more stressful than my usual work .put it this way I am really enjoying having a month off commissions!
Can you discuss your Aquarelle Collection?
Aquarelle are a small company that specialize in very small runs of limited editions. Quality is paramount and this is why I decided to do some work for them. Prints are a good way of making my work more accessible to a wider public.
Currently you are working on the illustrations for your own book. Can you tell us a little more about this?
I have always wanted to write an illustrate my own book and having completed the south west coast path this time last year I realised it was the perfect subject. I have completed the hard part, a 65000 word manuscript (quite an achievement for me) I am now looking forward to illustrating it. This all ties in very well with my liking for a narrative and it seems a natural progression for me to do a book. Now all I need is to find the time to do it!
You do a very novel idea with “A Painting A Day”. Please explain this?
It is not my idea! I heard about this movement called “a painting a day” online: artists would paint a picture a day and put it on eBay or their own web site for a certain amount of money. Some of these artists have been doing it for years. Normally they paint still life or landscapes .I thought I could do something for a month and see what the reaction was.
The paintings were selling within seconds of being put on my website, it was very exciting and unlike anything I had done before. I love the immediacy of it; I paint the picture and put it online just like that. The small size of the images means they are much easier to buy without having to take out a second mortgage, so people can snap them up as soon as they appear. I may do one this November, but as with everything it is finding the time, also it is quite tricky thinking up 30 different pictures one after the other.
Do you like to do your work around a thematic approach? As you know I love your paintings of dogs – can you expand on how you work up these images and also the importance of having a pet in your life?
I grew up with dogs and as soon as I could I got myself a rescue dog, my new dog is very much part of my life (we did the walk together) and my day seems to revolve around her needs! Walking is where I get nearly all my ideas so my dog is essential to my painting.
I love painting dogs ,they add an extra presence in a painting ,innocence, or a comedy element.
Often you draw your figures in water but you allow us to see both above and below. How did this method come about?
It’s funny how people often end up doing things in adult hood that they did in childhood; I used to paint long pictures of underwater scenes with coral and sand and seaweed, I would paint and cut out fish and crabs and shell and then play for hours placing the cut out images in amongst the back drop.
Here I am years later still fascinated by showing the hidden things under the sea. I always loved grubbing around in rock pools and I love the fact that I can paint them and other people like them.
Sketchbooks are a major part of your work. How does this lend itself to your outdoor days and studio days?
I use my sketch books to draw out and plan a painting, much like cutting out image as a child I now draw out the images I want to use in a painting and cut them out, I then offer them up to the blank canvas and draw around them when I am happy with the composition, in this way I can plan everything in advance rather than doing all the working out on the canvas. I have draws full of little cut out figures and boats and dogs .Most of my pictures are from my head and so I don’t tend to sketch whilst out and about ,but use the books for planning and honing an image.
Fishermen and children are major players in your art, explain why?
My husband was a fisherman and I always loved the idea of being a fishwife!
I know I have a romantic vision of fishermen and the very dangerous job they do but I am more interested in the image of the fisherman, the beard, the thick blue jumpers and big boots, the scruffy little ships dog.
Children represent all of our childhoods, if we are lucky we have fond memories of childhood (I know I do). I want to capture that innocence, that time in life before jobs and bills and stress when looking into a rock pool and seeing a hermit crab is the most amazing thing in the world.
Your studio is so neat and tidy like your work, am I correct?
Yes it is!
I am not a mucky artist although nearly all my clothes have paint on them and I often seem to end up with paint in my hair! I like to work in a fairly ordered way hence the working out and planning in my sketch book, not all over the clean, white canvas. The most important thing for me is cleaning up at the end of the day so when I go to work the next day it feels like a fresh start.
Very rarely is someone alone in your paintings, they always have company or a pet. Please discuss.
I like to see the way people interact with each other, I do paint people on their own but they are pensive, quiet pictures and normally I am an outgoing sort of girl and so paint what I like: people.
Finally, you also use a completely different composition: tiny figures and in the foreground seaside plants. Can you discuss this method?
It is fun to paint in a different scale, I loved the idea of the plants taking the centre stage, but as with all my paintings there has to be a human element, no matter how tiny.
Sasha Harding, Cornwall, UK
Interview by Deborah Blakeley, October 2013