Welcome to the latest edition of my Small Business Focus series where I share the story of an inspiring business. This week, I welcome Sarah Eden of Sarah Eden Portraits.
Even though Sarah is based just a few miles away in Malmesbury, it took the Making Malmesbury Better Facebook group for me to discover her page and discover what a talented artist she is.
Her animal portraits are just exquisite and she is the first pet portrait artist I have ever seen who truly captures the sparkle of a staffie’s eye. Being an owner of two staffies, this is what really drew my attention as well as her incredible ability to make a painting, not just look like a photograph, but the real thing.
So, please welcome Sarah Eden.
Sarah Eden Portraits
Tell us about yourself and what you do?
The pathway to my career as an artist, like so many artists, has not been a conventional one.
Following a languages degree and an early career in sales and marketing, I realised I was essentially a square peg in a round hole. I had always wanted to paint, having realised at school where I took art at A Level, that it was definitely in my blood.
However, my head rather than my heart ruled when it came to further education and I opted for a less risky future. Thankfully, with a very supportive family, I took the plunge into art around 6 years ago and can honestly say that I haven’t looked back.
What began as a rather tentative approach at figurative art quickly turned into a full time role as an animal portrait artist.
I registered self employed in 2014 and have been a ‘busy bee’ ever since doing what I love most in the word. I have to be the one of the very few people who wake up excited on a Monday morning because I have an entire week of painting stretching out before me.
Now I would consider myself to be a realist painter and specialise in custom oil portraiture of all animals, from pets to equine work, agricultural stock to wildlife. I work in a highly detailed, lifelike manner and aim to create a pure and objective representation.
Based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, I take portraiture commissions from all over the world and most recently have painted portraits for clients in Milan, New York and even Tasmania.
I can work in either a traditional, contemporary or fine art style and appreciate that specific environments, or the inclusion of narrative objects are often extremely important; they convey not just a lifelike painting but also the essence of the subject’s personality and identity.
At what point did you think “this is what I want to do on a day to day basis?”
I knew immediately!
As soon as I begun getting actual paid commissions, I knew this was how I wanted to make my living. What better way to earn a living than to do something you absolutely love every day!
I don’t think I’d have had the opportunity to make this a viable career as little as 10 or 15 years ago, but with the advent and enormity of social media, I have free advertising at my fingertips to large numbers of people.
Years ago, I would have had to pour everything I earned back into the business to pay for stands at shows and exhibitions, which would have only reached a fraction of the number of people who see my work now!
Who are your biggest influences?
On a professional level, my biggest influence is probably Debbie Boon, I adore her loose style and use of light. She’s become a great success at what she does.
I also love an American oil painter called Derek Penix…his mastery of oil paint is out of this world!
On a personal level, it would have to be my Mum. She has taught me to just keep going no matter what. She has experienced some incredibly tough times and has kept smiling throughout. She’s the strongest person I know!
What one tool in your studio can’t you work without?
My daylight lamp!
It allows me to work any time of day or night, whatever the lighting conditions outside.
Artists can’t conform to the number of light hours that nature allows.
Which piece are you most proud of and why?
‘A Quiet Word Between Friends’ was a commissioned work by a returning Maltese client.
Her brief was to show a close up of two zebra, perhaps nuzzling but she wanted the whole painting to be monochrome to fit with an interiors scheme.
It was a challenge but I decided to paint the main two in amongst a herd so that the entire painting became a maze of stripes.
It was important to ‘throw back’ the background zebra and to blur them slightly to make the subject zebra ‘pop’, but it seemed to work and like my client, I was thrilled with the end result.
What would be your dream commission piece?
I think it would probably be something large scale of a close up of an African Animal. Or a large piece of wild horses galloping that covered an entire wall.
What has been the most difficult piece you’ve done and why?
I’ve done many posthumous portraits, which are obviously difficult from an emotional standpoint, but often the reference images are poor as people don’t always think about getting a portrait of an animal done whilst they are still alive.
Dark and grainy images are difficult to work with and can often make the end result look really flat.
Have you ever got to a point in a piece where you have decided to start again, and why?
Yes, I recently worked on a commission of a large Welsh Cob. It was a beautiful horse that I’d photographed myself but my perspective wasn’t right from the beginning of the painting.
Sadly, it was only once I’d finished the piece that I decided I needed to begin again!
What is the best part of doing what you do?
I have two young children so it allows me to be flexible around their school hours. I can then pick it up again in the evening after they’ve gone to bed.
It’s also just a wonderful thing to be able to create lasting memories for people.
You’re an extremely talented portrait artist – does your creativity extend elsewhere?
I quite enjoy decorating and interior design.
I enjoy considering different colour schemes and seeing what works together in a room to best compliment the light etc.
As it’s the start of the year, what is your aim for Sarah Eden Portraits for the year ahead and longer term?
I have vowed that this will be the year to work on my own collection alongside my commissions.
I’m having to be quite strong minded about what I take on in order to free up enough time. I’m currently working on an African series, similar to the zebras I painted but exploring all different animals.
Get in touch with Sarah
Thank you Sarah!
As you can see, Sarah is an extremely talented and passionate artist. I wish her the very best of luck for the year ahead, I can’t wait to see the start of Sarah’s own collection.