SARAH HOWELL

Looking back through your work/clients/shows, you have a LONG list of where your work has been and who you’ve worked with—what’s been one of your most memorable jobs? Also, can you please introduce yourself?

I’m an illustrator and textile designer and I've been working as an artist in London and Sydney for the last 20 years. I've had the privilege of working with and for some amazing, genius people and high profile brands. I think my most memorable career moment was very personal, it was my very first solo show in London back in 2004. I remember standing in my agent's gallery surrounded by people thinking i'd made it! I was so thrilled and excited to be part of the art scene, I was glowing for days.

Have you been met with any challenges as an artist along the way?

So many challenges but probably no more than everyone else trying to reach the top of their game in their field. My challenges have included tempering my creativity to suit a brief and getting frustrated when a client can't look in my brain and see that the finished piece will be great! A picture tells a thousand words so one of the biggest challenges is gaining client trust and convincing them it will all be fine without too many meeting and emails.

How do you keep up your creative momentum? Where do you look to for the drive to create?

Being continuously creative can be really challenging but I find the best way to keep creating is to look at other people’s work and find awe and inspiration, not only in their artwork but in their drive and quantity of artworks. This process never fails to make me more excited and ambitious with my own practice.

Personally, I’d describe your work as unapologetic, creatively curated humor... Can you please share a little about your work and how you’d describe it?

During the 90’s at art school, an era of conceptual “serious” art I spent a long time being told that everything had to be important. Illustration wasn’t considered a serious art form and there was no playfulness in my peers work. That’s when I started experimenting with ornamentation and humor in work. I would describe my work as ornamental pop surrealism and it doesn’t have any agenda. I just love creating beautiful strange artwork that people want to look at. I like the detail and preciousness of overly ornate artwork floating in blank space.

Do you tend to create from personal experience or from observing the experiences of others?

I don't create from experience at all, my work is totally surreal and I guess comes from my subconscious.

What’s it like being a woman in the creative industry? Do you find that it has its challenges at times?

Thankfully I've never felt like being a woman in this industry has been a challenge or hindered me in any way. My work appeals to certain people because of it's femininity which is a bonus for me! Gender hasn't ever come into whether I've been awarded a job or gallery space before.

You’ve been creating since the 90’s– how has your work and practice developed over time?

I think as I've got older and more adept at my preferred medium, my work has become more confident and unapologetically weird. I've learnt to embrace mistakes and not care if I don't post on social media just for the attention. My practice has spread out from my shitty council flat bedroom to my large basement studio so I've been able to experiment more and make more mess which sounds silly but I think is so important for any artist, to have a dedicated space full of inspiration and the right equipment.

When it comes to female support – what comes to mind for you? Is it positive or negative?

Positive! My mum was a serious professional at a time when women stayed home. There were no other women in her field and she didn't care and my dad encouraged her continuously.

She was a glass ceiling breaker and I've grown up with confidence and encouragement from all the female role models in my life. She didn't compliment me with "you're pretty" instead, with "you're creative and smart" and that was my female support growing up. I have a lot of female friends and we all encourage each other relentlessly! I try to live by the motto "someone else's achievement doesn't dampen yours" so support and encouragement to all my female friends is really important to me.

Your work is very female/body inspired – have you ever struggled with those inspiration and references affecting your body image perception? Do you think social media has played a positive or negative role in your perception?

Honestly, it's been a long time since I gave a shit about what others thought of how I look so my body image perception hasn't changed much regardless of social media. I've always enjoyed creating artwork with bigger fuller figures purely because I find it more interesting to look at. It's much easier to draw a roll of back fat than ribs.

What advice what you give your 18-year-old self if you could?

Haha! Ummm….so much advice not all necessarily to do with art! I would tell myself to work harder and not get so distracted. Not take other's experiences and advice for granted and seize every adventure that comes along. Listen to yourself and ignore the naysayers. This is how I live now I only wish I knew it sooner!

INSTAGRAM: @sarahhowellart
WEBSITE: sarahhowell.net