Interview: Sarah Sculley Designs
Cecile Blackmore | On 05, Jul 2015
“The only difference between me and them is that I work harder.” Brisbane graphic designer turned urban artist Sarah Sculley lets The Creative IssueÂ in on some of the secrets behind her commercial success and what drew her to branch out into painting.
Brisbane’s Sarah Sculley works with a mixture of paints and digital imagery to achieve her final product. Sarah uses bold colours, text overlay and layer upon layer of paint to achieve depth and movement in her work, depicting subjects from Bettie Page to Buddha.
Sarah’s art bears some similarity to the iconic street artist Banksy’s stencils and the way her figures inhabit a blank space – but unlike him, she draws her shapes freehand with a Niko (permanent marker). Her resume boasts exhibitions in Brisbane, Sydney, San Diego and Shanghai, and her imagery has been commissioned for surfboards, skatedecks and murals for local businesses. We chat to her about her process, working to an audience and the importance of making art more accessible.
TCI: What came first, artwork or graphic design?
Sarah Sculley: Graphic design came first – that’s what I studied at university, at the Queensland College of Art. After doing that for a couple of years, I started painting – I liked not having to work to a brief. A lot of graphic design is on a computer but a painting is something you can hang on the wall and physically touch at the end of the day.
TCI: Who would you say was your target market?
Sarah Sculley: That’s a really hard question to answer – having studied graphic design, and now a bit of marketing – it’s been bugging me that I don’t know who my target market is. I thought I knew who it was – but now it shocks me. I’ve been experimenting lately with Facebook, seeing who’s attracted to what images I put up and I saw that it was attracting both men and women between the ages of 20 and 40 – which is such a massive group.
There was a stage when I was going through a really dark time myself, and that was when the paintings I came up with really stood out for women in their 30’s, in my own demographic but nowadays I’m shocked at the range of people buying my stuff.
TCI: Your work is very distinctive and thematic – do you put a lot of your personality into your art?
Sarah Sculley: I do – I think my artwork is very much a mirror of myself – as much as I’d like to say I’m like the beautiful women in the pictures (I’m not!) I think the colours and themes are very much “me”, and when people meet me in person they’re not surprised by who I am and I know that a lot of my artwork – every piece that I create – is essentially for me and how I’m feeling, it’s what I need.
TCI: How long do you typically spend on a piece?
Sarah Sculley: All in all not very long and that’s why my paintings aren’t that expensive. I like to put prices I can afford to pay on my art, because I want people my age and in my demographic to be able to purchase it. The longest time it takes is coming up with a concept and then drying time, because there’s so many layers – I’ll spend five minutes in the studio just putting layers on a couple of different paintings , and then I’ll leave and come back the next day to do more – it’s just the drying time.
TCI: What’s the biggest challenge of producing work for a commission rather than creating your own personal artwork?
Sarah Sculley: It’s funny you say that, because I’m in the middle of a commission at the moment where we’re going back and forth with imagery, and I think the biggest problem is that people want some parts of me but they don’t want other parts. The client will want the free-flowing brushstrokes and the graffiti-style figures, but they won’t want the bright colours, they just want monotone and I am struggling not to put colour in there, so I feel a bit torn.
But to tell you the truth, I actually prefer commission work – I know it’s a sale at the end of the day, and especially doing commission work for friends. I feel as I sit there and I’m painting for them, all I can think about is them – not in a creepy way! It gives me time and space to think about my friends which is good.
TCI: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to artists trying to achieve commercial success?
Sarah Sculley: Work harder than the other artists. With a lot of art, I know other people stand there and go “I could totally do that”. I guarantee you, 90% of people could do what I do – the only difference between me and them is that I work harder. Find the time, put all of your heart into it. I think some artists have this terrible stereotype of being – not lazy, but a little bit “fluffy”, so if you’re a hard-working artist it’s easy to get out there.
All images courtesy of Sarah Sculley