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Interview with an artist: Sue Gardner

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Last month we paid a visit to the talented Sue Gardner, one of our most popular artists at Wraptious. Her vibrant oil paintings are instantly recognisable, and even more stunning up close. We popped by her gallery, situated in the heart of the National Forest to ask her more about her work.

How long have you been painting?

I've been a painter for 7 years. I've been painting on and off for 20 years, but more on than off. As a child I always wanted to be an artist, but you get told it's not practical and that can't make money as an artist. So I worked with animals be honest, that's the same!I set up my own dog grooming business, but then unfortunately I became ill, and I couldn't work on the shop floor. I'd already decided I wanted to start painting again; really try and get into it, learn how to do it properly and spend time every day painting. So I worked from home and painted in between phone calls.

What materials do you use?

I used to work in pastels - my mum bought me a big beautiful set of Unison pastels for my birthday and told me to start painting - get on with it! I love pastel works and it's very much like oil painting - the colours are vibrant and you can blend the colours on the canvas. I was painting all animals, still life and then I joined an art club when we moved to the countryside and they were really helpful and encouraging. I started painting with watercolour and acrylic but I always wanted to try oils. It was awful at first - but I kept trying and trying, and painting every day. I've been using them for 5 years now.

I prefer to mix my own colours - for one you just can't buy all the colours, it's so expensive! But also you learn a lot when you mix your own colours too.

I believe quite strongly you can be put off art when you're younger. Whether that's a teacher who tells you can't draw or somebody else - but you can do it. I get so many people come into [the gallery] saying 'Oh no, I can't do this. I've got no talent whatsoever.' But it's not talent; if you want to do it you can do it, your just as good as anyone else, you just have to put the hours in. I think you get to a point where you think, no I will paint, whether it's any good or not I'm going to do this. And you get better.

How long does a piece take you to paint?

It varies. Sometimes I lose my way with a piece and put it to one side for quite a while. There's a Spaniel on the wall in my gallery which I've exhibited but am still making changes to after two years! Then there's the Wraptious stag - I painted that in an hour. I just had this I idea, and I painted it - and I sold it the same day. And I was like, what?! And then it also became one of the first Wraptious designs. It was such a quick piece, but I think that was because the idea was so strong.

What's your process?

Once I've got my image, I'll usually go straight in with a long brush, with a small filbert and mark out the points I need. Then straight in with the shadows and the big shapes. I like to get the eyes in first; they're kind of company while I paint; sounds a bit strange really, but it's important to get the expression right. When I'm drawing a deer, I make sure I mark out end of the antlers earlier on too - otherwise you can quickly run out of room. I usually leave the background to dry for a few days and start on another painting in the meantime. The drawing part comes towards the end when I'm adding in eye details or feathers.

How do you sell your work?

I have a bricks and mortar shop, I have my work in a few galleries, I have some customers in America too. I use social media too. I use instagram everyday, and I've just started a facebook page. Which is nice - people engage with me on facebook, and I've sold a few pieces that way - even works in progress. The conversations are the most important bit though - even people asking your advice on their paintings which is really cool.

What's your advice for artists?

Definitely I would say paint every day, just because you have to be really disciplined to do that. You have to start your day like you are working for someone else. You need to be able to press on, even if your painting is going wrong. Life's happening, and you just need to get on and do it. I would also say make it fun for yourself; paint what you want to paint, the subjects that you like, in the style that you want to paint in, and do what comes naturally.

You can find more of Sue's work on her Wraptious page


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