Updated: May 10, 2020
I was born and raised in New Zealand but as many kiwis do I travelled. In my early twenties I spent months at a time in Indonesia escaping our cold winters. There I travelled by motorbike hunting out surf spots, meeting the locals, camping next to jungles, eating amazing local cuisine, lazing on isolated islands [ where I was bitten by a tropical Centipede and danced around by a local witch doctor] and drawing in my journal.
I continued my nomadic lifestyle from there to London where I worked as a waitress and mural painter - even painting part of the ceiling of the famous 'Polar Bear Pub' in Leister Square. I spent time in Morocco and later in Italy and France.
Eventually after some more time in London I returned to Dunedin, New Zealand at 27 where I received a degree in Fine Arts. I was lucky enough to get a job at Animation Research Ltd where I worked for 12 years. During this time I did everything from 3D animation, creative direction, production management, concept art, web design to even working on Formula One race courses. I was painting as well at this time and my boss Ian Taylor was incredibly supportive allowing me to reduce my hours so that I could paint more.
I am self taught and even though I went through Art School I focused on computer related arts so beginning a career as a painter presented a very steep learning curve.
Initially I was inspired by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo so my work was quite different to what it is now - more bright, elongated and bold with simple lines. See right an example of my early work. I didn't know how to paint hands at this stage. It wasn't till someone commented at my first show that the hands looked like bunches of bananas that I made an effort to learn!
With each painting I tried to improve on the previous learning through trial and error. It wasn't until around 6 years ago that I discovered online tutorials. These covered some great basics about painting the figure and more in-depth techniques about light , colour and form.
I started exhibiting in Dunedin in 2004 at a few local galleries - Moray Gallery, The Artist's Room and The Temple Gallery. One of my favourite early bodies of work and was produced while pregnant with my son and the resulting solo show was at Orexart Gallery in Auckland in 2008. It was called' Art Of Darkness' and explored themes of nature, death and female literary characters. I have also always been a big fan of listening to audio books while I paint - usually selecting one that matches the tone or theme of the work. The below piece was painted while listening to the gothic novel 'Gormenghast' by Mervyn Peake.
Eventually though having a young child brought about some big changes - one of them being a reluctance to continue with a job that demanded long hours and quite often a lot of stress.
So I decided to leave my day job and give painting full time a go. It was a great move as it gave me more flexible hours and it felt like a commitment to my craft. That was both exciting and scary...goodbye steady wage.
I had my first solo exhibition in 2012 as a full time artist at Orexart in Auckland. The show was called 'Spindle' and featured large scale portrayals of fairytale characters and archetypes. I was reading a lot of fairytales to my son and fell in love with the darkness of the original tales by Hans Christian Anderson and of course the brothers Grimm. To the left is the painting based on the wicked witch.
Since making the decision to become a full-time artist I have been exhibiting both nationally and internationally - Orexart in Auckland, The Artist's Room in Dunedin, Internationally - Beinart Gallery in Melbourne, Roq La Rue in Seattle , Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. You can see a full list of my exhibition history and features in publications here.
You can also view a wider selection of my work at www.sarahdolby.co.nz .