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London based Illustrator Sarah McMenemy has been with The Artworks for over 30 years! Joining the agency as one of our first ‘Startworks’ artists during her time at Brighton School of Art, Sarah is best known for her delicate use of ink and collage.
Sarah’s favourite project since joining The Artworks has been the series of mural illustration’s she created for Shadwell underground Station in London. Working with Transport for London, Sarah created a series of gorgeous Illustrations that reflect the surrounding area and explore the rich history of Shadwell.
We had a chance to chat to Sarah and find out more about her life as an artist…
Where do you live? Where is your studio located?
I’ve always lived in London, and the architecture, the colours, the people and visual stimulation of the city has had a strong influence on my work. As a teenager I used to draw the beautiful Georgian terraced houses of Hampstead and Highgate on commission. I am often asked to create images of the city, some of my favourite and most successful projects have been based here. I have a broad client base from the London Underground network to City law firms, and Publishers and have depicted many London pubs, restaurants and city institutions. This type of work has lead to a wide travel portfolio and I enjoy capturing the atmosphere of different destinations worldwide.
My studio is in the mean streets of De Beauvoir Town in Hackney. I work in a Victorian artisan studio. There are eight of us including architects, graphic designers and illustrators. Plus, a rather chunky studio cat.
Can you describe your creative process?
I’ve got a thing about paper – its physicality, the sometimes-unpredictable way paint behaves on it. I like creating abstract, graphic elements and rich textures through collage, paint and ink; combining fine line details with loose brush strokes and abstract shapes. The enjoyment of the physical process of making images is central to my work. It has an intrinsic optimistic and uplifting character giving it wide appeal across many areas of the industry.
What does a typical working day look like?
I usually go for a walk or a run before I get in to the studio, and I like to make sure everyone knows about it before getting on with my jobs. At lunchtime we sit down together to eat our overpriced but convenient sandwiches from the local deli.
I work through to the end of the day, sometimes into the evening if the deadline is tight. If I’m on my own, I may play some dance music. Come to think of it I may do that even when I’m not on my own. If there is a music god I think his name is probably Nile Rogers.
Do you listen to music or the radio whilst you work? If so, what’s on your playlist?
I like it when it rains as it makes a loud noise on the roof and I feel like we’re camping in a tent (aka UK camping). We generally listen to NTS, the local Dalston radio station. I also like 6Music, a bit of Radio 4, and sometimes Pop-master – yes, Radio 2.
How long have you been with the Artworks for? What drew you to Artworks?
I have been with the artworks since before I left college, only a few years ago now. Ok 33 years. I started in their Startworks group when they visited Brighton School of Art to give a talk, and we met when they looked around our studio in the lunch break. Actually, I missed their talk as I was shopping at Miss Selfridge but it doesn’t seem to have harmed my career much.
What books or programmes did you love as a child? Have they influenced your work in any way?
Books were a big influence on me as a child and there is certainly a flavour of them that comes through in my work now. Edward Ardizzone’s illustrations for Stig of the Dump and Jean and Gareth Adamson’s Topsy and Tim, Richard Scarry, Beatrix Potter, Shirley Hughes and Miroslav Sasek are a few that come to mind.
Loved all the Oliver Postgate children’s programmes Bagpuss, The Clangers, and Noggin the Nog. Mr Benn was endlessly fascinating. Trumpton, Camberwick Green and, of course, The Magic Roundabout.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be instead?
If I wasn’t an illustrator I would be a Club DJ playing exclusively Funk and Disco.
What was the most important lesson your learned at Art School, if you went!
Art school taught me to interpret a brief in a way that I can enjoy and therefore do my best work. And that the fine art students are top of the pecking order, in their eyes (love them really)!
What inspires you the most to create?
I find inspiration in the big skies of the Norfolk coast, the gently rolling hills of Hertfordshire, as well as noticing beautiful colour and shape combinations in everyday life. The energy of cities, particularly Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, London. And of course a bit of studio cake helps.
Name three artists that you admire
I can’t name three. Here are eight. Some favourite artists are John Piper, Raoul Dufy, Abram Games, David Gentleman, Toulouse L’Autrec, Humphrey Ocean, Saul Steinberg, Saul Bass.
What kind of commissions do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy collaborating with clients and other creative professionals. I enjoy seeing my work at large scale in public places. Writing and illustrating a variety of children’s and adult’s books. It is exciting to have my work animated. I also like working in branding, visualising architecture and interiors, book covers and editorial. I enjoy the thrill of working live, at conferences or events. Short deadlines, long deadlines, they’re all good.
What would your dream commission be?
Dream Commission would be a set of stamps depicting beautiful skies around the or the grand international hotels like Claridges, The Savoy, The Ritz.
Do you have any pets? If so, what and what are they called?
We have a studio cat who walks along the roof light above our desks. It’s always nice to hear the soft thud of his paws on the polycarbonate. Purposeful, like he knows where he’s going, but sometimes he just stops and has an altercation with another cat, or soaks up some sunlight.
What 5 things could you not live without?
I cannot live without houmous, my mini, trees, tea and 6music.
What is your very favourite meal?
Fish Pie and peas.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Singing in a choir, dancing, walking, running, exhibitions.
What is your current dream travel destination?
Quite fancy Barbados at the moment, but Copenhagen, Seville and Northumberland are on my list.