On a rainy day in May, we head off to meet Sarah Gillard in her home just beyond the pretty market town of Nailsworth in Gloucestershire.
The rain pelts down in monsoon sized droplets, gulleys and drainpipes gush with water. We peer through the windscreen wipers and slowly make our way up the winding lanes that lead upwards out of the town, past honey coloured stone cottages with views across the valley. We are surrounded by lush green fields and the faint smell of wet grass and wild garlic. Even so, on such a rainy, grey day we weren't expecting such a blast of colour....
Sarah has left clues for us - a trail to follow, leading us to the front door - a washed out canvas covered in bright colour, a porch filled with vivid red geraniums and a welcoming front door with a brightly coloured home made stained glass. We begin to understand Sarah's obsession with colour!
A warm welcome awaits, and we are soon cocooned inside her comfortable home, surrounded by confident, bright and warming paintings. We get straight to it with talk of the new painting holidays she will be leading for Authentic Adventures - 'Island colours of Gozo' on 3rd October 2015, and a completely different palette will be required for Morocco in Autumn 2016. She enthuses about her many painting trips abroad, in particular a visit to Greece in 2014, staying for six weeks in a simple stone dwelling, that led to a series of wonderful paintings. She says, "I've never felt so inspired, and leapt out of bed each morning to go and paint for hours and hours uninterrupted," there speaks a truly passionate painter.
|Sarah's work and gouache colour palette|
After graduating in 1983 with a Fashion Textiles degree (at her end of year show she presented a series of colourful rugs) she was commissioned to produce a rug for The Conran Shop in South Kensington. Some years later her dream was fulfilled when she joined The Liberty Design Studio. This was her first introduction to using gouache, a perfect medium for colourists. It was during her time at Liberty's that she began painting and experienced her first painting holiday in Italy. The Liberty Design Studio used gouache for colour mixing - an ideal medium in order to produce the flat colours for the colourways. Gouache is a water based paint, like watercolour, but whereas watercolour is transparent, gouache is opaque. It can therefore be applied in multiple layers of the same hue, reinforcing visual intensity.
From 1989 - 1994, Sarah worked in a team of seven colourists, which was responsible for producing the entire colourways for the fashion fabrics. This consisted of two collections a year - Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter for a variety of fabrics eg. Tana Lawn and Varuna Wool. The studio colourists would produce four colourways per design and occasionally produce colourways for Mulberry and Jean Muir.
Liberty has a strong collaborative history, notably commissioning William Morris as designer during the Arts & Crafts period. The company helped develop Art Nouveau through its encouragement of English designers and soon became associated with this new style.
Sarah recalls the thrill of seeing her design on a gentleman's tie whilst sitting opposite him on the tube, and proudly showed us a quilt that she has been sewing for years, which incorporates many of her colourways.
It was whilst working for Liberty that Sarah embarked on her first painting holiday to Tuscany. It opened her up to painting en plein air, and she's never looked back. It's where she feels happiest - in a field of wild flowers with her easel. We spend the morning looking through her sketchbooks full of eye popping colour, filled with notes - she's quick to offer anecdotes, "this painting was inspired by a dove that an artist borrowed from a local farmer in Italy...." or, "This sketchbook was based on a painting of a boat each day seen from my window in Devon" - intense colour sizzling off the page.
|'A boat a day' on a painting holiday|
Her painting has taken her all over the world in search for light and inspiration. She has used colour as the basis for all her work, and the vivid, happy colours are a reflection of her warm and positive personality. She has a plethora of palettes, ideas and techniques to ensure that all her pupils return home with crammed sketchbooks, full of energy for new projects.
|Sarah in her 'happy place' - a field full of flowers|
For more information about the painting holidays and workshops Sarah will be leading, please contact us in the office: 01453 823328 or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Island Colours of Gozo
3rd October 2015
£1,199 (including £100 off offer)
No single room supplement