This article is a first in a continuing series of interviews with interesting personalities all around the world. First up is Sophie Harding, a UK-based illustrator.
How I got this opportunity is by discovering one of her works in my partner’s belongings, and decided to research for her website.
This has been with my partner for a very long time, and I didn’t think of getting in touch with the artist, until I decided to email her earlier this month. I attached the picture below with the email. And then she replied that it’s a print she made for a London-based company named Rosenstiel’s around 12 years ago.
With that introduction, I have asked her permission for an interview, to which she agreed.
Charica Roche: I am interested to know how you started doing what you are doing now. How and when did you know exactly that this is unquestionably your calling?
Sophie Harding: I’ve always painted, drawn and sewn since I was very young. I remember sewing when I was 4 with a piece of fabric, needle and thread, and I loved it. I used to draw most days when I was little.
Who inspired and encouraged you to pursue your passions? Any past and present mentors?
I was always being told that I was creative by adults so I must have shown some promise. My granny was an artist and my dad was very creative. In fact the creative gene runs on both sides of the family. I have 2 sisters who are also creative – one’s an artist and the other an illustrator.
Did you have to do part-time work in another industry to support yourself while doing paintings, illustrations and related work, or did you immediately build the creative and financial side of your business from the start?
I’ve always managed somehow to do just this and not have to get another job to support myself. I’m not sure what I would do if I wasn’t doing this!
What courses did you took to hone your artistic talents?
After watching a documentary on television about Central St Martins School of Art when I was 14, I decided that that was where I wanted to go. So luckily I got in when I was 18, having completed a foundation course for 2 years in art and design.
What or were there any specific challenges did you encounter while pursuing your passions?
At St Martins I studied fashion and textile design for 4 years and I loved it, but decided that I didn’t want to be in the fashion world for a career. So when I left I managed to get into illustration design mainly for cards, gift wrap, jigsaw puzzles, and a bit of textile design for women’s wear, plus selling my paintings (I’ve sold my paintings from the age of 16). I worked freelance and it was a slog to get into initially, traipsing around London with my portfolio and suffering a fair bit of rejection, but once I ‘d had one commission it roller coasted from there. I designed a lot of cards and wrap for Marks and Spencer which is a really big chain store here.
Did you enter any competitions, and what have you won or at least been placed in (finalist, for example)?
Wow, that’s awesome! Describe to me your a typical day, when creating new works of art.
A typical day for me starts with answering emails first, then I take my 5 year old son to school. When I get home I get on with painting or sewing, depending on what orders I have or which exhibitions are coming up. I don’t procrastinate with work; I get on with it and usually have a quick lunch break, then back to work until I pick my son up. I work all day on a Sunday too as my son goes to his Dad’s house. Sometimes I have to drop work off at galleries and then I make a jaunt of it if my son is with me. We may tie in with going to the beach. I love going to exhibitions too. If I’m not feeling creative then I ‘ll do paperwork, look at mags, books, blogs, etc.to get my mind going and find inspiration. Going for walks is a great way to get the mind whirring.
Aside from your official website, what other online and physical shops you currently partner with to promote your work? Can anyone around the world purchase your work and the items be sent to their addresses? Any names of companies who have commissioned you for specific projects?
My work appears in various galleries dotted around England – Red Rag Gallery in Bath, Janet Bell Gallery in Anglesey, Gallery Tresco on Tresco, to name but a few. I’m happy to sell worldwide to anyone if they are happy to pay for the postage costs. I’m also just about to have my own card range printed. If it is successful then I’ll expand the range, but I’m starting small with 6 designs which I’ll sell in galleries and on my web shop. I’ve designed cars for other companies for years and they’ve always sold successfully – Marks and Spencer, Artist’s Cards, Art Cards Cornwall, Framecard, etc.
What pieces of advice can you share to a creative person (whether performing arts, illustrations, sculpture, painting) who would like to pursue their passions, make money, and live a happy life? Whether or not there are people in their inner circle who supports their dreams. Do they need to go back to school and learn the basics? Anything that you can share is welcome.
It can be a challenge being self employed and creative as you can’t ever rest and relax as you have to keep it going all the time. It was easier before the recession, in fact it was so easy that it wasn’t a challenge at all selling work and my paintings used to sell very easily, but now it has changed a lot. My advice is to not give up if someone is pursuing a career in something they are passionate about. For me there’s nothing else I could do! You have to believe in yourself and rise above the rejection. It’s always good to study and get your skills honed. I’m thinking of doing a dressmaking course as I’ve become very rusty even though I have a degree in fashion design, but I still love making clothes and perhaps one day I’ll design a very small range of clothes or I may just continue making things for myself.
I have a very happy life because I’m doing something I love and being true to myself. I earn enough to be able to do what I want but I like the simple things, going to the beach, cafes, exhibitions, a bit of traveling locally, camping, seeing friends, being at home, reading.
What makes your work, your art different from the rest. How would you describe it? What are your inspirations? how do you keep your work fresh, exciting, and fun?
I think I’ve always had my own style of work which has evolved through the years into a style that I think is recognizable as mine. I’ve also had the same themes running throughout my work since I was child which is interesting especially when I look back through some of my childhood drawings. I’ve never imitated anyone else’s work, although there are lots of artist’s work that I find inspiring- e.g. Matisse, Craigie Aitchison, David Shrigley, David Pearce, Margaret Mellis, Pierre Bonnard, Bob Bourne, to name a few.
I would describe my work as having a sort of charm and thoughtfulness and with an undercurrent running through. The themes are personal to me, but other people can find aspects that resonate with them too. Someone recently said they felt there was sort of loneliness in them. I have a bit of symbolism within them too – for instance in the past few years I always include 3 birds in flight in the sky and these symbolize myself, my child, and my child’s dad. I also paint a little stripy whippet, and this was my little dog that I used to have. I would love to live in a pink house and this is why I often paint them, weirdly the back of my home is pink so I think I’m already there. A lot of my work shows boats on journeys – another piece of symbolism.
I think my work stays fresh because I only paint if I’m feeling inspired and full of creativity. It’s hard to be creative all the time; and I find that if I force it, it doesn’t work. Instead I may sew, knit or bake.
She was kind enough to send a most recent photo of herself. I’m glad this picture has her works in the background. She’s such a wonderful person, even though I only did the interview through email.
UPDATE: 14 May 2014
I have asked her another question, this time related to intuition and her work. Read on what she has to say.
Do you usually use intuition when making your artworks? Would you be able to cite examples when you’ve listened to promptings in any manner and the artwork was sold many times over, or something similar like that?
I guess I use a bit of intuition with my work. I find that things flow well when I’m relaxed and working and try to have space in my head for ideas to evolve. However, when I first went to art college when I was 16 I could never talk about my work as I didn’t know where it came from as it just used to happen. But now I sometimes have to work to briefs and that means less scope for intuitive work as I’m working towards a client’s idea. Sometimes I’ll be really happy with a painting and it’ll be the one that doesn’t sell! I couldn’t ever predict what will sell but I think it’s really important to enjoy what I’m doing as that will come across in the work.
For more information and queries about her works: