Many artists have since enjoyed the exposure that The Studio offered and have continued to become part of Jo’s own space here on the estate – The Mason-Laurence Gallery.
This week, Jo has been talking to Sara Gilbert, a Devon-based artist known for her paintings of the sea.
J-M-L How did we meet?
SG I came into the gallery and thought it was a really nice space and thought it would be a good place to show my work locally, especially with Dartington having such a long connection with the arts.
J M-L Ah yes, I remember that day, at my previous gallery at the Craft Centre here at The Shops at Dartington…..a lovely light and airy space but it’s so lovely now to give you all a home to call your own in a separate building with its own identity.
SG Actually, I remember you from school days Jo!
JM-L Yes, that was weird how it suddenly dawned on us both that we’d met before! What brought you to Devon?
SG I have lived here all my life! My parents were from the north and they met whilst at Lancaster art college. They moved south to Plymouth in the 1950’s to look after an elderly relative. They renovated a derelict cottage during the 60’s and 70’s in the hamlet of North Huish and raised me and my sisters there.
Wild Sea Triptych, by Sara Gilbert
J M-L How has living in Devon changed or developed your style?
SG I went to art college later in life and it was here I first started painting seriously on a large scale as it was the first time I had the space and time to experiment. Previous to this my work had always been freehand pottery decoration and illustration.
Devon is a very creative place, loads of artists live here which makes the whole art scene more vibrant. Also I think people have to be resourceful and determined to make a living here as there aren’t many employment opportunities, which is why so many of us are self-employed.
JM-L There is something very liberating about being your own boss too. So how long do you spend creating in a typical day?
SG Most of my work is done in the studio and I try to spend at least three days a week there depending on other work commitments. I sometimes go out sketching and take photographs of places that catch my eye and I gather material for future work. Sometimes just the act of walking gives me ideas for new work.
J M-L What inspires you?
SG My surroundings, my thoughts and history. I’m never short of inspiration living in the beautiful South Hams – there is everything here, coast, moors, wooded valleys, the folklore and its people all inspire me.
I enjoy abstract work and colour. Paintings with energy and passion.
J M-L Who inspires you?
SG My parents. True individuals! Also the artists that I come into contact with daily; they are such a bunch of hard working dedicated individuals. I admire Cornish artists like Peter Lanyon and others from that period, I think it’s probably something to do with the light and the feeling of space in their work.
J M-L Tell me why you like to work in your particular medium.
SG I work mostly in acrylics because this medium allows me to work quickly, I am too impatient to work in oils and acrylics don’t let you stop and think too much as they dry quickly – this makes me work in a more impulsive way!
J M-L Mmmm, that would make sense. I always describe your seascapes as having tremendous power about them, I’ve seen the way that you almost through yourself at the canvas!
SG Ha ha. Sometimes I use mixed media also as this often throws up unexpected surprises or problems.
Storm, acrylic on canvas, by Sara Gilbert
J M-L Tell me about your subject matter.
SG I am known locally for my sea paintings, for their energy and movement. The canvases are often painted as diptychs or triptychs so that I can get a nice long, big painting done in one piece but this also means that they can be easily transported in sections. That’s a practical reason, there isn’t any deep significance! My abstract work comes from an accumulation of ideas, feelings and influences.
JM-L Why does the sea particularly appeal to you?
SG I love the energy of the sea, although as a non-swimmer I have no idea why I am drawn to sea paintings. People often ask me if I am a sailor as the paintings appear to have been done from far out in the ocean. I think it’s to do with solitude, there are never any boats, people or seagulls in my sea paintings!
JM-L Where do you go to think?
SG I like being somewhere high up on Dartmoor or on a cliff-top, somewhere quiet.
JM-L Do you see yourself living in Devon forever?
SG I’ve always lived here and can’t see myself moving now, although I do fancy living on a Scottish island away from civilisation. If I won the lottery I would buy an island somewhere I think.
J M-L Tell me something about yourself that has nothing to do with art.
SG As a child I saw a ghost! He was always coming to the front door but when you opened the door there was never anyone there. It wasn’t until after we moved that any of us mentioned it and realised we had all seen him.
J M-L Eeeeek!