Sharon Blair is a multi-award winning mixed media artist. Her pieces are intuitive, inspired by imagination and a deep connection to nature. The result is a Contemporary Abstract style that offers a rich visual experience capturing the essence, spirit and feeling of a subject, in an organic and colourful way.
Utilising sophisticated mixed water media techniques, and unusual tools and materials, Sharon creates a rich and vibrant surface that is very textured and unique.
Sharon’s work develops during the extensive layering process consisting of a combination of granulating washes of watercolor, ink, impasto acrylic paints, synthetic fibres, splashes of charcoal powder, water colour pencils and glazes. Sharon also incorporates handmade collage pieces, lino-cuts, homemade stamps and other graphic elements for added depth and interest.
At each stage, Sharon will stand back and watch to see what unfolds, letting the painting suggest a way forward, allowing it to evolve to tell its own unique story.
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong Sharon! When did you first realize the arts were an important part of your life?
I always enjoyed art throughout my primary and secondary education but my big ah-ha moment was not until my late 20’s when I really started to comprehend just how important art was for my happiness and overall health and wellbeing.
This realisation started to emerge after finishing university and I was working in Community Crime Prevention and Safety. I was making a difference but I was often confronted with the darker side of human nature. I transitioned into Human Resources, specialising in Careers Education, which I felt was a very privileged role supporting others to assess their work/life vision and follow their true passion. I enjoyed this work immensely, but it was having my children that was the catalyst to creating my artistic career path.
At 28 years of age our first daughter Ainsleigh was born. She would wake countless times throughout the night for the first 2 years of her little life. At the 22-month mark the overwhelming sleep deprivation finally forced my hand to reassess my own career vision and work/life goals. I needed to find a way to reframe and bring some joyful creativity back into my life, something that I would enjoy and that would recharge my batteries…something just for me! I picked up a paintbrush and two months later my daughter was sleeping soundly and I was fully immersed in playing with paint! I channeled my creative energy into pieces of art that initially decorated my home, followed by friends and family commissioning pieces to adorn their walls.
Carrie: How would you describe your art to Artist Strong readers?
Through a life of artistic evolution, I would now describe myself as a Mixed Media Collage artist. I love creating handmade, coloured collage pieces of a variety of different papers that I layer throughout my work. Some of the collage pieces I make are art pieces in their own right.
Design and the use of colour are vitally important to each of my pieces, as is the energy in each different paint stroke I make; they reflect my contemporary style and inspiration. My art reflects the way I see the world: its colours, its shapes, its light, and the way it makes me feel, and has been the springboard to making my ideas come to life.
Carrie: Have you always made art with this unique vision or what was your turning point into recognizing this style was your authentic “you”?
My style has very much evolved over the years impacted by my mentors and the people and courses that have inspired me as I learnt composition, design and countless mixed media experimental techniques.
I value learning: each workshop, book or DVD, and discussion I have enjoyed with a fellow artist has provided me with a new piece of information, technique or approach that has allowed me to build on my skill base and helped me to find a way to make use of it in my own way.
My real exploration of my artistic style occurred when I pulled away from that phase of intense learning and gave myself consistent blocks of time in the studio to paint and design freely. Countless hours in the studio playing and experimenting formed the catalyst to develop new techniques, through which I was able to clearly see my authentic style emerge. This time gave me the ability and confidence to follow my intuition, whether it be colours that I was drawn to for a particular reason, or a subject matter that took my attention at the time.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
We all experience creative blocks from time to time, when the abundant well of creativity seemingly dries up. It can be a little terrifying. My creativity once took a vacation for a period of two month and I was left wondering when or if it would ever return. I felt no pull whatsoever to go into the studio, and when I did, everything I seemed to touch would turn to mud.
We have to nurture the creative spirit and let our inner artists play. To unblock the kink in the creative flow I make a commitment to have fun, take risks and experiment with different materials, techniques and styles to get the creative flow happening once more!
I also get the camera and go out into nature. There are so many amazing abstract compositions and ideas in nature. Nature also reminds me of the importance of gratitude and allows me to enjoy and trust in the unfolding creative process.
I love hanging out with other creatives and I am blessed to have a circle of friends with similar interests. They are often just what I need to help me jump the next creative hurdle. I love bouncing around ideas and sharing new discoveries as we support one another, each stepping our way along the creative path.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
My starting point is whatever has inspired me be it specific colours, textures, collage papers, surfaces or mixed media techniques, or a beautiful object I have discovered in nature. I often start with ‘Intuitive Play’ – experimental play with no set ideas in mind.
When I am happy with my colours and substrate, I may plan my thoughts by drawing. I may also use Photoshop to create a basic mud map design to refer to whilst developing a structured idea that I wish to communicate through my work.
My work develops during an extensive layering process. I just let it evolve and respond intuitively as my work progresses, drawing on my knowledge of composition and design as I work. I let the painting suggest a way forward. I often stand back at each stage and assess my painting by observing it over a period of time as it always helps to view a work with fresh eyes.
Carrie: What are important strategies or choices you make that help support your creative process?
Balance is one of the keys to supporting my creative process. In order to achieve this balance I am very structured with my creative time. Carving out a block of time to focus on my art can be hard to achieve with juggling other commitments like a young family and other income producing activities, etc. I try to create in unbroken periods of time in the studio by scheduling days where I don’t have appointments and have set aside running about or tasks in the office.
Aside from the obvious health benefits of moving our bodies I find exercise helps the release of positive endorphins and promotes a positive frame of mind that assists me with my painting. I usually try and get a 20-30 minute chunk of exercise in the mornings before everyone gets up and ready for a busy day. For me that’s far better than feeling sluggish throughout the day. It shakes the cobwebs away.
Knowing what your goals are and what you want to achieve is important. I try not to get overwhelmed by looking too far down the track. I just try to take one step forward at a time and keep focus on achievable bite sized pieces each day.
Carrie: How does your life experience and emotional state feed into your art?
I experienced life altering health challenges over a three-year period in my late 30’s. Art was a gift that assisted me to navigate my way through this immensely difficult period. It allowed me to be in the moment, immersed in the process of creating. As I look back over this time I realise this was a significant phase of spiritual growth in my life and as I regained my health and vitality my signature bright, happy colours made an appearance once more.
For many years now the blue and black butterfly has featured prominently in my business logo, in my creative imaginings, throughout my artwork and was the inspiration for my signature colours Turquoise and Cyan.
This beautiful, gentle creature represents something magical and mystical in life. A hidden truth offering a glimpse of something long forgotten.
The butterfly has graced my darkest moments, when I have retreated from the outer world into a cocoon of inner protection. It appears as a symbol of trust, support and guidance, serving as a reminder to pay attention to my feelings and intuitions.
Assisting me to transition from one way of being into another, the blue and black butterfly reminds me to find my wings and remember how to fly. Awake now, living a connected and creative life, I seek to always follow my heart, happy to be me.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
My studio is my creative sanctuary. I have all the tools, supplies and bits and pieces that I love around me as I work. I also have a secret stash of bitter dark chocolate in my paint cupboard that seems to be the only place the kids haven’t searched.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
My professional SLR Camera. I just love it. I use it to capture images to refer back to as sources of inspiration. It also supports my work compositionally, as viewing an object through a viewfinder assists to capture an interesting composition or design to explore back in the studio with paints….and Dark Chocolate, really who can paint without chocolate on hand whilst listening to good music and the aroma of essential oils burning in the background?
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
Since becoming an artist I look at the world with a different set of eyes. I see inspiration everywhere I look. I refer to this as having my “art goggles” on.
I live in Kiama (near Sydney) NSW Australia. Kiama has stunning ocean and mountain views whichever direction you look and I have been blessed with countless inspirations like pristine beaches, rolling green hills with dry stone walls, interesting coastal rock formations, heritage architecture and other spectacular rainforest scenery.
Mother Nature provides ongoing inspiration for me and for my work. I admire the beauty of creatures such as a peacock, discover interesting rock formations oozing with new designs and tonal arrangements, and follow the amazing knotted lines of ancient trees twisting, turning and soaring into the sky.
Other sources of inspiration include spending time with my 2 children Ainsleigh 13 and Jack 10, husband Paul, extended family and friends. I love being able to see the world through my children’s eyes as they experience the world in a new and fresh manner.
Over the years I have made a conscious decision to learn my craft from those artists whose art I feel drawn to. I am drawn to strong composition and design, beautiful colours or unusual techniques.
People who have impacted my work in a very positive way since starting to paint include my art mentor Barbara Spence. She has influenced my work and my understanding of design, colour and abstraction more than any other artist to date.
I was also very drawn to the style of Pat Dews. I love her fun loving and relaxed approach to starting and her in depth knowledge of composition and design.
I also love the work of Mary Todd Beam’s very original style and her warm and thorough approach to assisting others to unleash their creativity. Her books assisted me to find my way out of ‘artist block,’ which lasted 4 months!
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
My short definition….‘Creativity is the life-force energy that inspires us to turn imagination and conscious thought into new form.’
We are all artists in this life of ours; creativity is like the blood running through our veins, the life-force that nourishes our soul, our creative spirit. Creativity is not only the reserve of natural artists, or those who claim their artistic skills, creativity may manifest in the painting of a blank canvas, the parenting of our children, in the sharing of an experience or shaping the story of our lives with words on paper. To create something…. from formless thought manifested into form is within the grasp of each and every one of us.
We all have a purpose and something to contribute. We are all unique and perceive things differently based on our experiences and beliefs. With this in mind, it is vital that we nourish the creative soul with the positive fuel it needs to thrive.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you given yourself consistent blocks of time to create freely? How has that informed your artistic style? I want to know! Let’s talk about it in the comments below.
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