“Painting is a very solitary experience which I love – but it is also really wonderful to share and be inspired by the vision of other artists.“
The speaking voice, sound or rhythm are often inspirational in the initial visualisation of Sandy’s paintings.
Luxury Splash of Art: How old were you when you knew you wanted to become an artist?
Sandy Damon: As far back as I can remember I was always drawing – My favourite gifts as a child were art-related gifts and throughout my education, I made decisions to choose art-related subjects. Being an artist was choosing me I think. When I finally made a decision to be an artist (in my late 20’s) I clearly remember realising that it would have to be a commitment. Whatever else I was doing in my life (to pay the bills or family life) I needed to also put time aside to paint.
LSA: What was the most important lesson you learned at Art University?
SD: Studying art was a wonderful time to ‘play’ which I feel is such an important lesson in itself, especially in a creative arts education. Creativity, at its best, has always had an element of play. The most valued lesson that I took away with me when I graduated was given by one of my tutors. During a tutorial one morning, when she came to see me working, she advised me on how to ‘step-back’ from the painting I was working on before I felt it was finished. To catch that moment is an instinctive gut feeling that I have had to learn to listen to over and over again. Overstepping this boundary could be a moment which could ‘kill’ a painting.
LSA: What do you think makes the difference between success and failure when trying to establish yourself?
SD: This question makes me smile, I might not be the right person to answer. The word success is very evocative – In the eyes of the world it means popularity by the masses and financial rewards – And failure is the opposite. I am not avoiding the fact that we all have to live and pay our way and by doing this we need to try our very best to get out there in all the ways offered to us, but, we can’t steer too far away from our passion. I believe the meaning of success is when we make a piece of work which is true to one’s self and to have a passion and drive to paint, whatever the obstacles or outcome. Failure is when you lose hope and the connection to the part of you that wants to follow your passion, simply by comparing yourself to others or listening to the world’s meaning of success.
LSA: How do you structure your day working from home? Describe your ideal day at work?
SD: My day usually starts with a cup of coffee and looking at the work I did the day before – I then do a dog walk and have a bite to eat and then I start my work-day. I have had to be strict with my work time (and space) during the pandemic. When working from home, I see many endless disruptions. My ideal day is when I am halfway through painting. Painting is all about the practice for me. I love the process of making marks and layering colours. Those wonderful moments which produce marks I hadn’t planned are really exciting – standing back and taking in the outcome of ‘chance’ is what I constantly practice. The best moments in the painting process for me are when I become the observer and not only the mark maker.
LSA: What mediums do you create your work in?
SD: My primary medium is oils on canvas. I also enjoy working in watercolour and working with paper-mâché. I spend quite a lot of time working online, it is sometimes like a second sketchbook of ideas and possibilities.
LSA: What does art mean to you?
SD: Art to me is another dimension of me being who I am. Making art makes me happy. It is as much part of me as eating, sleeping or playing. Without these elements aligned I might feel there is something missing. When I make art I want the audience to see their own story. I try not to give them any leads, sometimes I will avoid giving the work a title. My fascination and pleasure are hearing the viewer’s interpretation of my work through their own story.
LSA: What did you develop, try or learn to create your artwork?
SD: The hardest thing I have tried to do when the painting is to be true to myself. It is more difficult than all my other practices. One has to dig deep for the courage to work instinctively. The process, for me, has always been personal and not commercial. When I recognise my story then it becomes simple and is the stepping stone to making a piece of art. The world around me is filled with colour, shape, sound and movement, however surprisingly, the world around me does not inspire me to paint what I see. If I see a beautiful landscape I will drink in its beauty and maybe be inspired to take a photograph, but, if I see the same beautiful scene and I hear someone singing in the distance, that will be my inspiration to paint. The amazingness of it all. A voice travelling on the breeze being as much part of the landscape as the trees. I am fascinated by these details.
LSA: Who are your biggest influences?
SD: I love colour, even white on white is inspiring. I almost taste in colour. My influences are artists such as; Winifred Nicholson, Edward Bonnard, Giorgio Morandi, Marc Chagall, Vanessa Bell, Edward Hopper and paintings by Sean Scullyto name a few. I am also influenced by the written and spoken word, wonderful poets and authors who write in colourful and graphic visuals ie works by GabrielGarcía Márquez. Books filled with colourful visuals and atmosphere. I feel they all use ‘colour’ in a way that sings and almost lifts one off one’s feet.
LSA: How do you seek out opportunities?
SD: Being an artist is a very solitary lifestyle and I really love this. However, I also enjoy collaborating with other artists, musicians, dancers and storytellers. This year (2020) has been a very strange year. With the pandemic, I have needed to bend and adjust and find a way to go forward. Planned exhibitions have had to be cancelled until further notice and all the rules seem to have changed or are in limbo. Gallery and studio visits and collaborations have all had to be put on hold. Although it appears bleak at the moment, I think that this has been a fantastic opportunity to find other ways to show and sell work. With galleries being closed and people not wanting to visit them in the same way, even when they reopen, online platforms have become an avenue that has taken on a much more important role in offering ways of exhibiting, marketing and selling one’s work. In a way, the pandemic has been a time of alternative thinking in many areas -including my role as an artist. Galleries and art sellers have all had to rethink their strategies. This could be a good time for visual artists.
LSA: How do you navigate the art world?
SD: Art Fairs have been a brilliant playing field when looking for an outlet for work. Dozens of galleries under the same roof. If I see a gallery with work I love or a collection of works in the same vein as mine, I will make a note to contact them. It is easier than ever now to submit work. One used to have to take in a heavy portfolio, but nowadays all I do is present my work through my website. Art competitions and residences, lectures, discussions and classes are all available online these days. The world seems to have evolved into another era, in a period of a few months. I look forward to seeing where this is going.
LSA: Which current art world trends are you following?
SD: Street Art is one of my passions. I am fascinated by its transient nature. It can change day to day and sometimes hours on hours. One day you might have seen a piece of art which will be covered over the next day by a new piece of art. Street Art seems to be a two or three-dimensional living art. When Street art is being most effective it is speaking for the ‘common man’ and not dictatorial. Graffiti artists that I follow are doing art about what is going on under the surface of our communities and cultures. Saying things we are all might be thinking but feel afraid to say out loud. Banksy is one of my heroes saying things in a clear and effective way. In some areas of London ‘graffiti’ is now a tourist attraction. The best guides are those who are street artists themselves (because they will have a wonderful knowledge of where to find the really interesting works) It has also become a well earned an alternative source of income. Another important art trend (in my mind) are those artists who are using their art to express their concerns about the state of our planet at this critical time. An example is photographer Edward Burtynsky. His large scale images, which sometimes look like abstract paintings, are horrific to witness and amazing at the same time.
LSA: You published and illustrated children’s book, how did you get into illustration?
SD: Illustration, with its storytelling qualities, has always been in the background since I was very young. I spent many years captivated and entranced by the EdmundDulac children story illustrations. There were many draft copies of ‘books’ over the years but the first book I published was ‘A Pearl of Erst’. I started writing it for my daughter when she was very young. Some years later when my niece (who was an avid reader) was at the same age as my daughter had been, I decided to illustrate and self publish for their birthday gifts. I have also published and illustrated a diary – inspired by wonderful quotes by Prem Rawat and my illustrations.I will be publishing another children’s book in the next year, which will be a children’s storybook with a difference. will include stories written by adults and children to a selection of paintings and illustrations. I am very excited to see what comes of this project.
LSA: Also, you are the founder of the group Arts4Giving – Tell us more about this?
SD: Artists are regularly asked to donate art for charitable fundraising projects. I have always been happy to be able to help in this way. However, a few years ago there were numerous requests for artwork and I feel these requests weren’t taking into account that artists also need money to make art. Sadly, I also witnessed that some of the donated art pieces were not respected in the same way as a purchased piece of art would have been. Arts4Giving came about because I (and another artist I knew) wanted an alternative way in supporting fundraising causes through their work. The Arts4Giving Platform has a ‘feel-good’ factor for everyone involved. For each piece sold under the umbrella of Arts4Giving, 20% of the asking price will go to a charity of the buyers choice. The buyer feels good about purchasing something they will cherish and will also feel good because their purchase has raised funds for a charity close to their heart. For the artists, they feel good knowing that their sale has also raised funds for a heartfelt chosen cause. A win-win situation I think.
LSA: Do you have a personal mantra?
SD: See every open door offered as a gift, and go forward without fear.
LSA: Upcoming books, exhibitions, plans?
SD: The project I am currently working on and very excited about is under the umbrella of Arts4giving – It is a storytelling project with a difference. Choose a picture on theArts4Giving site and write a story. It is an international project inviting voices and stories from around the world. You can find my project on https://damonsandy.wixsite.com/arts4giving.The sale of this book will go towards raising funds for a very relevant cause close to my heart, a Food Program run by The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF). This is a wonderful foundation, giving children and vulnerable adults clean, healthy, local and sustainable meals. I think that Covid19 has given us a clue as to what we were doing wrong. If we are to be brave enough, it is now time to try and put things right. I feel that the fallout will last for many years and will affect all of us and especially the vulnerable people in our societies. Many years of greed has taken us to a very strange place. Kindness has to be the next phase.
Interview by Kamila Krzyzaniak