It’s been a while since we’ve put together an interview as part of our “Maker” series, so I knew that we were going to have to come back with a bang for this one. And, you guys, I feel as confident as ever that we’ve done just that. I’m so pleased to introduce you to Sarah Delaney. A talented artist who understands and honours her creative process, all while running a successful business. It is one of those character traits that I admire more than anything. I loved learning about how she balances staying true to her craft, all while running a successful business. I found myself nodding along to the entirety of her interview, and am looking forward to implementing some of her advice into my own creative business. Read on for all of the juicy nuggets…
If there are any other makers or entrepreneurs you’d like me to feature in this series, please let me know in the comments below. And feel free to check out the others here!
How did you get started?I’ve kind of always been an artist. I’ve always made art. I went to University to study visual art and take studio art classes. From there, I had full intentions to make a living as an artist, but it is a difficult profession to get into and be successful. I had a range of “creative jobs” and even went back to school for Interior Design. I suppose it got to a point where I accepted that the work I did for a living wasn’t creative enough, or wasn’t “me” enough. It’s hard when you are putting so much time and energy into your job, only for it to be critiqued and changed. This is especially challenging as a creative person when you identify so much with what you are doing. It was hard for me to separate myself from my work and it became depressing and not enjoyable anymore.
What is the best piece of advice you were given when starting out?If you want to do it, just do it. I spent about 8 years dancing around the idea of painting as a full-time artist. I painted in my spare time but never actually showed people my work. If you are happy with this, then that’s great. But this wasn’t my goal — all I had ever wanted to be was an artist (since childhood). Finally I just committed to it. I saved my money, quit my job, and made it happen. At first it was hard — the lack of money part especially. And remember nothing happens overnight, and you have to be ok with that.
Where is your workspace and what do you love most about it?I work in an artist studio building just two blocks from my home. My favourite thing about it is that it is all mine and I pay for it with my hard -earned artist dollars. That alone is pretty rewarding. I chose it for it’s bright window, high ceilings, and the fact that I can be as messy as I’d like in it.
What does a typical day look like for you?Every other day I have a full painting day, which means I don’t schedule things on these days. I head to the studio in the morning, turn on music or a podcast and allow myself to work for as long as I want to. The other half of the week I allow for meetings and errands and work outs and email responses. I am my most creative and energetic in the mornings so I typically still work in the studio in the morning (or after a morning workout), then I do the errands in the afternoons.
Biggest lesson you’ve learned about the business of art?That it is a business. . I don’t like business and I wish I could only just paint everyday, but you can’t make money if you don’t do the business side of things. It can be difficult to get into a painting rhythm if you have client emails on your brain, so I have learned that by separating my studio time from business time is helpful in being my most productive (and clients just have to wait a couple extra days for responses, sorry).
When your creativity well has run dry, what do you do to get inspired again?I find that after having a day off from the studio (where I am paint supply shopping, cleaning my house, filing taxes, responding to emails, working out, etc) is a great motivator for wanting to get back in the studio to just make things. Generally after a day of being deprived from studio time is enough for me to long for it. Also time away in nature or a visit to another city is pure gold for resetting the brain, feeling refreshed, and getting inspired.
When it comes to your own home, what do you like your space to feel like?Calming, bright, happy, natural. We (my husband, two cats, and I) live in a Vancouver condo, which means we don’t have a lot of space. It is important that the space doesn’t get too cluttered or busy. There are a handful of materials that I have a commitment to, that helps me curate my space (the colour cream, linen, wicker, clay, natural ash/maple wood, wool). And when it comes times to buying new anything (furniture, dishes, bath towels, candles)- I consider if these things fit into the categories. I like anything handmade or from our travels. I like when the artwork makes a statement.
What colors, textures, and materials are inspiring you at the moment?Lately I’ve been all about shadows and the muddiness that is created when colours collide. I spent time in Death Valley last month and I keep referencing the variety of tones and textures in that landscape that at first glance seem neutral. The dried mud and cracking earth were so beautiful.
What upcoming project are you most excited to work on right now?I am working towards a new series of paintings that will be complete the end of April/beginning of May. A mix of muddy desert and earthy Pacific Northwest tones. Lots of shadows and mark making.
1) My clients. I love them and I’m so dang thankful for them and their support.
2) I know this is cliché, but my husband Andrew. When I first started off as a full-time artist I cried a lot, because I was scared and unsure and worried. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing and whether I made a horrible mistake. Some days I considered taking up a side job or going back to design. Andrew was just my biggest fan and I remember him saying something along the lines of “but why would you do that when your job is a painter?” He believe in me more than I did, and that’s an amazing feeling.
3) The invention of instagram. Truth, it’s been the best platform to share my work with the entire world.
Photography & Artwork: Sarah Delaney
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