Interview 123Art.Net

Was there an important moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?

I wouldn’t say that it was a particular moment, my path has been interrupted for quite a while, I have only just returned to it in earnest. 

After finishing my art degree I was focused on developing my professional career and for many years I didn’t really create any great volume of work.  

At the start of this year, I decided to buy some lino and do a small print. From that print I seem to have turned my creativity back on and now it is very much an integral part of my life again, as it was 25 years ago.

Following my path as an artist feels like I have regained a part of myself that was lost for years. 

What is your daily routine when working in your studio in Malta? And can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I have a family and work full time so working in my studio very much fits around those commitments, some days I do not have any time for art and others I can really get involved. Luckily my family are very supportive of my passion and accommodate me.

I like to work quickly so I can maintain my passion and enthusiasm for the work and make the best use of the time that I have. I also work in stages so I have time to come back to the work in progress with fresh eyes.

The process of making my work usually starts with a scene that I see that I find inspiring. It can be a tiny detail or a dramatic landscape, I like to appreciate and celebrate inspiration wherever I find it.

I often spend a few days thinking about how I am going to interpret the scene without actually starting the work. Usually my vision of how the piece will look comes to me whilst I am out walking, something I do every morning with my very energetic Samoyed.

I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of the beautiful Xemxija Heritage Trail in the north of Malta. The trail has great historic significance dating back to Neolithic times but more than that I has an abundance of trees and plants and some amazing dragonflies.

It’s a very peaceful place early in the morning. I like to walk and think and usually that’s when I formulate the image of how I would like the artwork to look. 

One of the joys of the creative process is not knowing how things will turn out so even with a plan in mind I usually end up with something different in the end.

When I start work I have to have everything I need to hand, I start off neat and tidy and get progressively messier, something that can be a hindrance for a printmaker where some degree of precision is required.

When I no longer feel inspired I stop, I have to feel genuinely excited by the work or I leave it until I do.

What mediums do you work in and why?

My background is in printmaking, at university I studied an art foundation course and a degree in Textile Design, specialising in printmaking.

I like to work with lino, it’s easily accessible and affordable. It lends itself well to the bold marks that I like to make and I enjoy the process of relief carving and seeing the finished design emerge. The “reveal” moment when the paper is peeled away from the lino is a great joy and sometimes reveals some effects you did not expect.

Recently I have also started to work in acrylic. This is a relatively new medium for me but one that is perfect for the quick way that I like to work. Unlike lino printing ink, acrylic dries quickly so I do not need to wait long if I feel inspired to move onto the next stage of the work. Lino printing is a bit of an exercise in patience as the ink layers often take days to fully dry out.

I am enjoying using acrylics in a thick and textured way, applying them with a palette knife and working texture into the layers. 

Painting also has the advantage of allowing me to work on much larger pieces without the limitations of lino size. I am enjoying the freedom of working on large canvases and really being able to create statement pieces created in a bold and free style.

You say you are a lover of good stories. Is there a story you are trying to give with your art?

I have always loved reading, my favourite stories are tribal stories. I am really interested in African and Oceanic tribal art and the meaning of the symbolism in the tribal art.

My art is about telling the story of my life and experiences, depicting snapshots of places and things that capture my imagination and have a special meaning for me. I am very much a believer in enjoying the small things in life.

You’ve traveled a lot. What are some of the most inspiring places for your art, and why?

India has to be one of the most inspiring places I have ever visited. On a visual level it is a complete assault on the senses. I love Indian street scenes, the amazing vivid colours of the saris and the colours of the stalls, especially those selling the ubiquitous marigold garlands and heaps of coloured dyes and spices.

For someone like me with an interest in decorative design, India is a treasure trove with its architecture and textile heritage.

Ethiopia is another one of my top inspirational countries. I was fortunate to spend three months there working with a women’s support charity. During that time I visited the amazing Omo Valley, a place with great tribal diversity. Photographing the tribes there, with their distinctive face painting and use of plants and flowers as personal decoration, continues to provide a source of inspiration, the colour combinations are simply stunning.

How has your art evolved over the years?

I used to be a lot more cautious and controlled with my art work, to some extent I still am with the printmaking. Starting to work with acrylics has really freed up my creative style.

I would say that in comparison to years ago I am much more confident, I guess this comes with age and experience. I worry less about what people think about the work and am more focused on creating images that I am proud of. 

What’s the artwork you’ve enjoyed working on the most recently?

I have to say my recent acrylic painting of the “Teddy” sunflower of Mgarr in Malta has been really enjoyable to work on. It started off as a frustrating piece, I couldn’t seem to get the colours as I wanted them but once I let go a bit and let the painting take on it’s own rhythm I found it really exciting to work on, particularly with the textures and bold colours. It also helps that the sunflower is such a positive, feel good flower. 

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

I am always happy when someone likes my work enough to buy a piece. It is a huge compliment for someone to want to have my art work in their home so I would say that each purchase is a memorable event for me.

What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?

Locally the Malta Artisans Markets are a great forum, people who visit have a genuine interest in art and handmade products. The organisers of the markets do a brilliant job of promoting the events and the individual artisans. 

I also use Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest a lot to reach a wide international audience. I still have a lot to learn about marketing but it’s an area that I am working on.

I guess as artists we have an advantage in that the work we produce is so visual that it lends itself well to social media marketing. The challenge is to stand out from the crowd. 

Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?

I will be exhibiting at the upcoming Malta Artisans Markets in September, October and December. These markets are a great forum locally in Malta where artisans can display their work and meet people who have an interest in locally produced, high quality, affordable pieces.

The markets are extremely well organised and take place in historic settings in Malta, I really look forward to participating, meeting fellow artisans and interested locals.

What’s next on the horizon for Sharon?

Developing my art business is my key priority, at the moment it is a start up. I have recently launched my website, it is an ongoing work in progress but I hope to really accelerate the growth of my business through it and raise awareness locally and internationally. I want to continue to enhance my skills as a painter and printmaker and produce work that really speaks to people. My work brings me joy and I want it to do the same for others. Seeing my work hanging in your home should make you smile every time you walk past it - that’s the aim.