Dear flightless bipeds,
If you are in my mailing list, you'll know that I released a couple of very low edition number prints yesterday, (30th May).
The winged one fluttered straight out within a couple of hours - Many Thanks to all you big hearted butterfly collectors.
If you missed that one, there are still a couple of greyhounds looking for a forever home...
Thank you again,
This is a notice to let you know my website is now healthy and safe again following horrid activity by internet rascals.
You may have recently experienced difficulty in using the site. It has also come to my attention in an entirely unrelated problem, that any comments or replies made by visitors to my blog (words) page have not been getting through but rudely disappearing into the the ether! And all the while I’ve been wondering: was it something I said?
Everything should now be back to normal now. Thank you for your patience.
Dear spring lambs,
It is my favourite season again and I am triumphant.
I have survived another cold winter in the studio. There is none of your new-fangled central heating in my place. Oh no...
you don’t need such luxury when you are a hardy Northern battle-axe. Using a strategic triple layer of cardigan, microwaveable hot things to shove up the cardigans and re-chargeable electric socks (yes, really) I simply chipped the ice off my paint and got down to it.
But now it’s getting better every day, new lambs are gambolling about their pastures and we can’t move for daffodils.
Here, where I live in North Tyneside, the snowdrops which were rescued from a neighbour’s front garden before a brutal refurbishment, not only survived the uprooting but blossomed happily and right on time in my own garden. I’m now waiting for the tulip bulbs I planted two years ago to come back again. Not naturally green fingered, I am grateful for the smallest blot of colour in what is an otherwise weedy, green-grey backdrop.
Flowers offer us cheerful and simple comfort: a lovely gift from nature. I find myself wondering how it is I’ve painted so few: after all, it’s impossible to look at Van Gogh’s sunflowers or Monet’s waterlilies and feel stress…
and in these strange times of climate changes, Trumps, backstops, fake news and borderline political meltdown, we really should take a breather sometimes.
(it's no Vincent, but it's the only floral one I could find by me)
So, while fending off hypothermia in the studio, I have painted some rudey-nudey naked ladies, a party of human cakes and some winged women in various flights of fancy…
These canvasses are the start of a collection for my next exhibition. As far as a theme goes, it’s looking girly - not pink and frilly - but more shaping up to be about the female condition and the way society at large expects women to be - a subject matter I always return to.
Recently I braved a cinema (their munching and rustling patrons normally keep me the hell away) to watch ‘The Favourite’. An impressively female centred film - it’s star, Olivia Coleman, turned up again this month in the new TV series of ‘Fleabag’ alongside the brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who (in case you’ve been living on the moon) not only wrote this but also last year’s outstanding TV drama ‘Killing Eve’.
It seems that the girls are enjoying a fairer share of the spotlight just now and we are all the better for it. I grew up being led to believe that women can’t be funny, never mind funny AND clever. But just as others have done before them, these talented women blow that notion sky high - that’s as good an inspiration as any.
SJ having a lovely Spring walk.
In a recent update, I was whingeing about my skeleton. I’ve now been through the noisy MRI scanner which confirmed an arthritic cervical spine along with other ramshackle bits and pieces. This all nicely compliments my lopsided eyes and is what you get for sitting on your bum at an easel for nearly three decades. I’m trying to stand up more now and I’m also wearing a Fitbit which reminds me to get up and walk 250 steps an hour. I march around the studio at full pelt, sometimes waving my arms around. It gives the nice Indian waiters in the restaurant opposite something to be confused by.
Speaking of which, it’s time for my constitutional. So until we meet again, drink in the longer days; maybe go lamb spotting! Buy yourself (or someone you like) a bunch of flowers. Better still, grow your own, watch and smell the blooms. Let’s get ourselves a nose full of something pure - a fragrant and welcome change from the unavoidable, whiffy manure heaps we find scattered around this life.
ps I will be placing a handful of prints onto the website for Easter, don't ask me what - I'm not organised yet x
Happy New Year!
It's early days but I hope your annual blank canvas is showing the promise of a future masterpiece.
Forget resolutions: those are all about unrealistic, goody two-shoes behaviour and inevitably doomed to failure. I strongly urge that you tear up your new gym membership immediately and save yourself an 11.5 month guilt trip. Any one of these next 365 days could be our last, so walk with a friend instead, sing loud, open the wine, bake a big fat pie, smile at a stranger, read for hours in the bath, tango across your kitchen, LOVE.
Whatever you get up to, thank you very much for being here and supporting my artwork. I wish you all the very best for a happy year ahead.
Dearest hibernating honey bears,
New! Here is a link to two new wobblin' hissin' stocking fillin' arty art prints, just in time for Christmas:
and in other news...
Every autumn, I dread the darkness, damp and the leaves turning orange. Not even toffee apples help in my least favourite season.
I found this sweet poem which reminds me of why I prefer the winter and its promises.
Outrageous weather in late October didn’t stop me from attending the Whitby Steam/ Goth weekend again. It was a short visit but I enjoyed the spectacle and applaud the effort made by the faithful. I very nearly lost my wig a few times in the wind.
SJ (left) and fellow steamloon Becky in search of authentic Gothic cod and chips
Getting into my 'making the best of autumn' stride, on bonfire night I found myself in an outdoor hot-tub for the very first time. This particular tub is positioned high in the Pennines, so it was in rain and strong winds that old friends and I watched the fireworks in our bathing costumes praying that we wouldn’t be the end target of a stray rocket. As it turned out I was a casualty of something else and I now know that you shouldn’t overdo the bubbly in the bubbles. Something about the fizz, too much oxygen and the vigorous pummelling of internal organs transformed me into a lightly chlorinated, catastrophic mess - from which it took nearly 4 days to recover.
Fangs very much!
Far more important than my daft weekends, I need to say a big thank you to all those who gave a home to an artwork at any point over this year or if you have taken time out to visit my studio gallery.
*all serious now*
If you don’t mind I’d like to deliver a small sermon on the matter of collecting art prints.
I’ve been publishing art for more years than I dare calculate. It’s been a truly heart-warming experience to find so many people willing to give up their wall space to my work. Back at the beginning in the early 90’s, my then publisher took the risk of printing runs of 500+ copies. Mostly it worked well, so they did their thing and I did mine, never much thinking about the numbers.
Experience taught me that the art industry, like so many others, was placing profits above integrity and over ten years ago I decided to become an independent publisher. I immediately reduced the number size of my limited editions. There were assorted reasons for this but mainly I wanted the prints to be genuinely restricted, no improbably high numbers of artist proofs, United States editions, remarque’s or spare ‘insurance’ copies. I always keep in mind that ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ so if the certificate says 10 copies, then it’s 10 copies, world-wide. I can set this number as low as 2 although usually it is between 20 – 50 copies and certainly never more than 100.
The downside of slashing print numbers is the risk of becoming Miss unpopular. In the case of the recent ‘Love Bite’ and ‘Deeds, Not Words’ images, they sold out on the day of release; lovely from the artist’s point of view but frustrating for collectors who failed to get a copy. I do try my best to be fair and make it up where I can but it's not easy. Luckily most collectors are very understanding, so thank you.
I have now completed phase one of my experiment in running a retail gallery. Having the space has enabled me to meet interesting people and collect lovely new local artfans but like so much of provincial Britain, it’s very quiet on the high street these days; often more so in seaside towns and, despite its recent tarting up, canny old Whitley Bay is still rather out on a limb. Worse than that, I’ve discovered that I’m not Superwoman after all: trouble with my wayward, deteriorating eyes and a recent diagnosis of bone growths and arthritis in the upper spine (most likely the result of years in front of the easel in cold studios), I would now prefer to dedicate myself solely to creation. There will be no downing of brushes until I'm forced – so the gallery will close for now and I'll be painting: while I still can.
My masterplan is to open for special events and YOU CAN VISIT THE STUDIO/GALLERY ANYTIME! Please just contact us (with a little notice) to arrange a time. JAM will also be open Saturdays until Christmas 2018.
I will leave you with this new family portrait painting (private commission) 'Christmas Crackers'.
The print release of ‘Deeds not words’ and ‘Love Bite’ are now all reserved. Both prints have been oversubscribed - If you contacted us to register your interest - once we have allocated each edition, we will be in touch very soon.
Thank you very much for another overwhelming and super-fast response!
It seems the holidays are all but over: flowers are throwing down their petals and weak English tans are beginning to fade. Today, I’ve had to put on a pair of socks for the first time in weeks which made me ponder on the imminent end of a bittersweet summer.
There have been no fancy holidays, just the occasional stretch-out on the grass and a couple of days away from Tyneside.
One of these included a visit to the National Railway Museum (I’m not a spotter but I know someone who is). George Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ says hello as you arrive and then you see a poignant new exhibit: a WW1 ambulance train which carried wounded soldiers back from the front.
I am always taken aback by the sheer scale and presence of the magnificent engines. I looked at almost everything except the modern Oriental trains - you can’t get a sooty face and wave your ribbons at those things! I perched on a stool in the café (Blueberry muffin: 7/10) and admired the curves of the magnificent Mallard but one of my favourite finds was this marvellous platform vending machine.
SJ wondering how in the world she can get one of these...
There is simply too much to say about a place like this: I loved every square inch of it. The house and estate have been beautifully maintained and recently renovated: the stone could have been quarried yesterday. And who knew that a Georgian greenhouse at Chatsworth cultivated the 'Cavendish' banana that we all know today? The plants were sent from Chatsworth to various locations in the pacific and grown commercially for the first time around the turn of the 20th century.
This French beauty was sitting in the grounds - a great pity it was closed. If I were posh enough to have a favourite champagne, it would be Pink Laurent Perrier; I even painted some once…
I can’t report on the cake quality at the Duke of Devonshire’s place as I didn’t have any. I’d overdone it the day before as it was my birthday. Instead I bought a ridiculously expensive bar of Chatsworth soap which is still in my car, overpoweringly a reminder that I need to go places more often.
There has also been a good amount of peaceful painting time and I certainly don’t take for granted the evening walks home along the normally chilly coastline in the bizarrely out of character warm breeze.
For those of us inclined towards depression or seasonal affective disorder, the sun is one of the best fixes there is which is why I dread (and have to psyche up to) the coming seasons. However, I am very lucky to see another autumn: a gift which some will be denied.
This week, I experienced the loss of a friend...
Toni was an incredibly talented artist who I met many years ago when we shared the same art publisher. We hit it off immediately; she possessed a wonderful, dark sense of humour. Toni was well known for her striking paintings of animals, executed with such precision that I could never understand where her patience came from. Yet, as technically accurate as her work was, she could never be accused of photorealism. Toni composed her portraits artistically and could give a standard Friesian cow a certain ethereal quality; all of her cows,spring lambs and goats would have names and personality. This magic ingredient and her respect for animals is what elevates her artwork above merely faithful animal painting.
Despite this honed skill, at around 50 years old, Toni changed careers. At this age, how many of us would be brave enough to train for an entirely different occupation, especially while undergoing treatment for double breast cancer? She worked and studied like a demon, passing her final exam this summer (with 100%) to become a hospital pharmacy technician. She had been doing extra revision when she couldn’t sleep because of the pain from an extremely rare form of metastatic cancer, such was her resilience.
Not being able to meet very often, we wrote to each other regularly for years. I have reams of correspondence full of Alan Bennett-esque observations from her life and whenever I cleared out my inboxes, I always saved her messages because they were too good to delete. I’m so glad I will always have her words.
On asking Toni how she managed to remember so many clinical references and chemical names:
“When I studied ear/nose/throats, I struggled to remember the difference between ‘Otitis media’ and ‘Otitis external’ as they have very similar symptoms and some related specifically to the ear canal. So for one, I drew a gondola in a canal (ear canal). My victim in the gondola was carrying an ear trumpet (can cause temporary deafness) then I struggled to remember that Clioquinolone is one of the treatments, as we don’t have those type of things in hospital pharmacy, I drew an upturned Renault Clio in the canal that someone had dumped. Did all that and it didn’t come up in the exam.”
Life isn’t fair: a brilliant person has been taken from her life-partner, Wendy and deprived those of us who knew her of a determined, clever and remarkably funny friend. I will miss her.
Toni Hargreaves 1965 - 2018
Dear chocolate kittens,
To everyone who made a short or a long distance trek to Jam gallery for my recent ‘Urban Zoo’ exhibition, it was wonderful to see you, “THANK YOU!” - I cannot say it enough.
It was a real pleasure to see familiar faces and a delight to welcome new ones into the fold.
(Thank you also Guy 'Badger' Callaby, Bev at North Chocolate for your kind sponsorship, Lottie McPhee cakes for your sugary seagull confections, Alison V for the dog-biscuits, Margi Noise-machine for your extra paws and Ian Wright for everything else).
Rats and greyhounds, butterflies and seagulls are winging their way to new homes.
I am always ambivalent about the departure of creations. The canvas and I spend long days alone. It’s a battleground at times but slowly and lovingly, we reach our peaceful destination together. Sometimes, even years later, when I look back at a picture, I can still hear the music I was listening to at the time or recall the season.
When art comes about from significant personal experience or influenced by the people we love, it is never easy to let go. A musician can write a love song and he gets to sing it as many times as he likes - I don’t think about the fact I will never see my original again but I wanted to be an artist and the only way I can do that is to enjoy the creating and keep moving on.
So it’s not without sadness to say goodbye but knowing that the fruit of my labours has touched someone else enough to live with it makes me happy. It also means that I can sometimes buy the work of other artists and they should know that I am a careful guardian - all too aware of the emotional investment they may have made.
Back to school!
I’m busy with all sorts of miscellany for summer and I’ve been to visit OFSTED champions, St Matthew’s Primary School in Prudhoe, to talk art and biscuits.
Photo : Kate Buckingham, Hexham Courant
Not spending much time with kiddies, I forget just how entertaining they can be. On setting the task to create themselves as gingerbread people, one little girl did this:
During August, I’m also going to cast my eye over Tyneside’s ‘Great North Exhibition’ and I’ll report back with a review of the art but, since I know the equal importance of it, I’ll also cover noteworthy cakes I may discover on my visits.
After Christmas I will begin work on my next major exhibition (2021). Before then my mission is to tackle the commission waiting list; if you are STILL patiently waiting, thank you so much - I'm on it!
Love, SJ x
Ps As I get very easily distracted - I’ve decided to close my studio/gallery ‘Jam’ Mon-Fri, but more than happy to make arrangements for mid-week visits by request (still open as usual on Saturdays, special events, exhibitions or on blatant whims).
PPs Urban Zoo is now finished, but if you haven’t seen it, the catalogue and available paintings are right here. http://www.sarah-janeszikora.com/images/pdf/URBAN_ZOO_CATALOGUE.pdf
To see the 'Urban Zoo' digital catalogue, please click here.
Love, SJ x
Here are the details of my coming exhibition:
In an act of rebellion, I decided to skip London this time and exhibit in my own studio, so get your flat caps on, harness your greyhounds and journey to the North of England.
A digital catalogue will be available during the exhibition and further prints from Urban Zoo will be released in late summer/early autumn.
As if a trip to the coast isn't enough, during the same period that my own little exhibition takes place, there is another event which may persuade you to visit the region. THE GREAT EXHIBITION OF THE NORTH is an arts based itinerary of events that will take place in Newcastle/Gateshead and run for 80 days across summer 2018. Venues include The Sage, Baltic and the Great North Museum and is sure to be worth a visit, here are further details: https://getnorth2018.com/
In Tyneside we are looking forward to seeing you soon,
I'm going to have an exhbition - details to follow shortly. Please keep an eye out for your email invitation. x
Lots of folks reported not receiving their invites for my last exhibition - I have a 'Z' in my name and emails will often go straight to your junk folder, so if you haven't heard from us by May 25th, have a peep in there.
A digital catalogue will also be available online during the exhibition.
In which SJ is feeling under the weather.
It’s been a really cold winter and I’m not tip-top. I’ve had this year’s flu. The usual aches and pains came and went followed by the arrival of a lurid green chest infection. It robbed me of my usual enthusiasm for building a snowman or bracing walks on an ice-crunchy beach.
Nothing much is being achieved either creatively or practically. My house looks likes the council tip and although the snow has melted, I still cannot see my car for seagull splatterings. No matter how we think we can show a virus who is boss, it’s startling how easily the flu takes you down. I spent the best part of February smeared in Vicks Vaporub and eating truckloads of biscuits because in my desperation for energy, green vegetables became redundant and a sugar junkie is now what I am.
I felt ok for approximately 2 minutes and was about to return to my studio but in an almost seamless segue I now have pleurisy. This is a first for me and not a very pleasant one either. The level of pain in the lungs has been literally breath taking and I’m told it can last for weeks - very frustrating since the novelty of Lucozade and egg-in-a-cup has long since evaporated, leaving me half-crazed with cabin fever and moving as gracefully as the hunchback of Notredame.
Consequently, painting has been rather hitty-missy. I managed to create one piece at my kitchen table; an awkward working environment as anyone with 6 cats will tell you......
However, being forced to lie down on the sofa during the day does offer an opportunity for peaceful contemplation (as well as noticing how badly the living room ceiling needs painting) Then came the snow storms and a flapping bonkers pigeon trapped in the chimney. Avalanches of soot for three days did nothing for the lungs or the spirit. The bird was eventually freed by a chimney sweep with a child’s fishing net and an industrial hoover. The pigeon was last seen being transported away to be fed and rested in the vets aviary. Maybe I should have gone with him.
Weirdly, I've discovered that lying on the offending lung offers some relief. So, positioned strategically among the cushions, I’ve been reflecting on the the big stuff of life; love, sickness, loss and death. A number of friends and family have been going through the sort of poor health that knocks pleurisy into a cocked hat. The worry gives rise to all manner of ‘what if’s'. What IF tomorrow, someone we care for is no longer there? Are we appreciating them enough today?
Dr Szikora's prescription for illness or unhappiness is a ready set of ears, tea (gin) and sympathy (really massive cake) and show them we give a damn. This may not fix everything or even anything but it is the time spent that will help. Trust me.
I've been touched by the thoughtfulness shown to me. I especially enjoyed the little ceramic goat who arrived in the post, the burst of multi-coloured tulips and the welcome ’medicinal’ plonk.
In some ways sickness, like all other human experience, is useful to me as an artist; woe, the same way as joy feeds into my work. Mostly what I do comes from a need to understand life better; trying to catch an idea and examine it before it flutters away. Working in the arts is a privilege and never more so than when you are excused a degree of introspection. It is my way of existing in the world. I will always flounder in debates because I can’t recall facts easily; I'll always think of something better to say as I'm walking away and I'll always get tongue tied in certain company. These are just some of the reasons why I prefer visual communication: I get time to think. There is a flood of relief from downloading an idea or a feeling onto canvas and ultimately that someone else might connect with it. At the end of the phsyical process, I clean my brushes, sweep the studio and, for a moment, I have uncontaminated peace in my soul. I live for that.
Despite this wobbly first quarter, I’ve got an almost finished collection of new paintings. The setbacks mean I need to catch up, finish off the works, get the odd numbers even and by late(ish) June, I’ll have them on my studio walls. By then, even if Whitley Bay cannot quite deliver us a honeyed tan, at least we won't get frostbite.
Happy New Year!
I hope yours is set to be a very good one. For my part I'll be putting on an exhibition of new paintings. I also plan to publish some new limited edition prints, shambolically run a studio gallery and hopefully avoid the massive biscuit of pressure as it rumbles after me. I'll let you know more details in Spring.
I'd like to think that by now you are sitting by a glowing hearth, sipping yourself into a pleasing yuletide reverie with a good vintage port. You should be getting ready to fondly watch a 1970's Morcambe and Wise Christmas special for the 400th time. In reality you are likely to be stone cold sober, stuck in a traffic jam on your way to Tesco, your credit card has disintegrated in the festive frenzy along with all your nerve endings.
Not much of a Christmas fan, I've put up a tree but only so the cats can pull it down for fun and if they don't topple it by the 26th, I'll do it myself. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of a ridiculous dinner and time with loved ones as much as the next person but I get overwhelmed and a little frustrated by this time of year. All of the extra 'to do's' on the list mean that no matter how much I try, I rarely get to lift a paint brush in December. That's like taking my medication away!
Supposing the last 12 months was a box of chocolates, I definitely got some hard toffees which gave me jaw ache from the chew but there were a few melt in the mouth truffles too.
Greyhounds have been painted, so have foxes, badgers, butterflies and bagpipes (and all in my new studio) so it would be naughty to focus on the relatively minor trials and trifling matters of my own little world . I wasn't forced to use a food bank or have my home burn down in needless flames. Christmas, with all it's unreasonable demands and gaudy IN YOUR FACE consumerism just makes things worse, the stress, expectation and debt takes its toll on too many people. The poor get poorer, the lonely get lonelier, the planet gets more full of harmful, meaningless tat. Surely this isn't the future of Christmas...?
What can we do? Loads. If you can stretch to it, donate some food for the two legged and/or four legged, cut those waste plastics out of your life, cuddle your old people, in fact, cuddle anyone you can get your hands on (within reason). We can all do something to be conscious of those who are chewing the hard toffee and share our truffles.
That's my seasonal nag done. I'd also like to thank you for being part of my world, for visiting my social media pages, website or gallery this year: it is always appreciated.
I'm now off to get a massive bottle of port.
However you do it, I wish you a very happy Christmas.
ps, here's a Christmassy picture. A private commission painted earlier this year for a family who have Christmas twin babies and wanted to celebrate their special birthdays.
I created a monster!
For those of you who enjoy a gothic drama ‘Dr Frankenbiscuit’ is now available as a limited edition print of just 20 copies.
Absolutely terrifying ey?
On a whim, I have also chosen (no offence, boys) to publish 'The scientist'. On the surface of it, this painting may seem a little…… harsh. In my defence, I completed it many years ago while having a severe ‘Bridget Jones’ moment in my love life.
If you or anyone you know is affected by the issues raised in this picture, please seek help. Get a cat.
I've got six now.
An important ps.... Because these prints are very limited in number, instead of the usual email/reservation system, we have simply added the copies to the Print shop.
The next release of brand new original and printed artwork will be late Spring 2018. Our mailing list members WILL be notified in advance for those artworks.