Sally began by asking us a curious question: What is the difference between a large pizza and an Artist? The answer: A large pizza can feed a family of four! When the laughter died down, she explained that she felt very privileged to be an artist and that it is not something that just happens to a person. As well as having a bit of luck, you have to have talent, obsession and be tough enough to cope with critics and rejection.
With the aid of a slide presentation, Sally then proceeded to relate the lucky events in her life that lead to her success as an artist.
Arriving in Australia at the age of 8, she left behind her cold, grey life in London and instantly fell in love with the brilliant colours and textures of this new, exciting landscape. Her mother had always loved art and although her own plans to go to art School were unfulfilled, she always continued to draw and paint and encouraged her children by constantly providing them with creative activities. So in 1970, to her mother’s great delight, Sally went to National Art School in Sydney, where there was a vibrant silk screening dept. Heavily influenced by the Pop Art of the time and using photographic images she created “synthetic realities” of the Australian people and culture, fauna and flora. This lead to her first real job, as Exhibition Designer for the Museum of Sydney where she absorbed the richness of our heritage and was privileged to go on many expeditions where few people ever go. A highlight being in 1990, when Sally was Artist–in–residence at the Antarctic. She was amazed at how much colour there was, even in the ice: mauve, blue, green and yellow and contrasting with the dark rocky outcrops made for some stunning works.
However, working with silk-screening and the chemicals involved, for 20 years took its toll on her health and she also felt the need for artistic change, so Sally created her unique approach to art by using acrylics and “painting with stencils”. Over the years she has amassed hundreds of these stencils (numerous patterns of dots, dashes, letters and numbers etc. in various sizes) which she personally designs and has laser cut. She started with abstracted landscapes and her fascination with body language and facial expressions has led to her love of portraiture, both of which she paints concurrently.
With great excitement Sally exclaimed, “Painting portraits is the only job where you get to hang out with your heroes! You can spend time, take photos, ask all sorts of questions and not get arrested for being a stalker!” A good portrait should be of the person, not just like them, it must make them look alive and say more than a photo does. To achieve this sally takes hundreds of photos of her subject whilst talking to them and combines them using a computer, to build her own image of them. Using an A4 printout as reference, she draws the image onto canvas, then blocks in flat areas of colour and builds up the tone and texture using a variety of stencils. In some cases she even uses letter stencils to portray words that have particular meaning to the subject, to give the complete essence of their character.
The most poignant part of the evening was when Sally described the portrait of her 89 year old mother, who had been recovering from cancer at the time. It was a landscape of her mother’s face with a complex expression of humour, warmth and fragility. A fitting tribute to the woman who had enabled her to have a career as an artist.
Thank you Sally, for allowing us into your unique and intriguing world.
Visit Sally’s website at www.sallyrobinson.com.au