Meet The Artist: Sarah Dyer

08 Dec 2023

Meet The Artist: Sarah Dyer

Sarah Dyer's enchanting illustrations infuse our hearts with unbridled joy, making her the perfect artist to craft our latest seasonal postcard - which you’ll find tucked lovingly into every one of our parcels. Her work perfectly captures the magic of the season, weaving narratives that resonate deeply. In this interview, Sarah unveils her artistic journey and reflects on the sheer delight of savouring a simple, meaningful Christmas.

Can you tell us what sparked your interest in illustration?

I always drew as a child, and throughout school, I had some very supportive art teachers. I originally 'discovered' illustration on my Foundation course because, before then, I didn't really know it was something you could specifically study. I went on to do a BA in Illustration and Animation at Kingston University and have never looked back!

What does an average day look like for you?

Now that my children are all at school, I try to fit in as much work as possible every day between 9-3! It's not always easy working with this schedule; sometimes, I'll hit my stride after lunch, and it can be frustrating having to down tools to do the school run. I work in my garden studio and feel very lucky to have a dedicated space to work in at home, yet also separate from the house. My day is normally a mix of admin tasks and drawing. The drawing part can be work-related for a deadline or just for pleasure, like joining an online life drawing class, creating a post for my Patreon, or sometimes, if the weather is good, I'll go out to draw. I listen to the radio when I work and drink a lot of tea!

You transitioned from creating picture books to working as an illustrator. Could you share some insights into this journey?

I consider myself an artist and illustrator, and that might look like many ways of working. For years, I worked mainly on children's books as an author and illustrator. However, in 2019, after having my third child, I felt lost creatively and needed a re-boot of sorts. This change of practice came in the form of stepping back from children's books and working in my sketchbooks again to rediscover my love of drawing. I joined lots of online life drawing classes (particularly during the pandemic), and it gave me space to rediscover how I wanted to work. By putting out this 'new' way of working, I've had some really lovely jobs come my way. Highlights last year included illustrating the book by Dodie Smith, 'I Capture the Castle,' published by The Folio Society, being invited to draw at the Chelsea Flower Show, and now illustrating this Christmas postcard from Rowen & Wren. I've learned that things can take time, but it's worth waiting and defining your practice to be able to put out the work you'd like to get back.

How might you characterize your artistic style?

I work mainly in mixed media. I enjoy using many materials, getting messy, and feeling connected to my work. For this illustration for Rowen & Wren, I used a mix of paint, pencils, soft pastels, and collage. I use the computer right at the end if I need to touch up anything, adjust colour, and send it to a client, but I try to use it as little as possible. I prefer the decision-making that comes with making art in a more direct way; there are too many choices or going back if I use the computer!

What led you to explore the different techniques you use in your art? How does your use of mixed media contribute to the overall narrative you aim to convey in your work?

 I don't think it's techniques as such that create a narrative in my work, but I know I enjoy narrative in my work. I've always been drawn to sequence and the play of an image that perhaps shows us something before or after. I naturally work like this, I think, after years of making picture books and obtaining an MA in Sequential Art and Design. I find that I draw or record things in my sketchbook that naturally fall into narrative concepts. I enjoy drawing people on my commute or putting figures into landscape illustrations. I like world-building, imagining spaces beyond what you can see in the illustrations. I want my work not to feel too static; I hope to convey a movement of sorts, perhaps language too. I hope that by using mixed media and collage, there feels like there isn't stillness in my work; the textures and varied lines give a sense of energy and narrative to what I draw.

It was a pleasure working with you on our Christmas postcard. Can you share how the idea for the festive theme evolved?

The images of your Christmas collection evoked that feeling of the days before Christmas - the build-up and excitement. I thought of the small but important things you do as a family before Christmas to get ready. Particularly at home with my children, they take great delight in decorating the tree and hanging baubles we've collected or made over the years. For the illustration, I wanted to have a parent and child sharing this moment of decorating the tree, making sure they were fully connected in their placement in the middle of the page.

Lastly, what are you eagerly anticipating the most in the upcoming Christmas season?

This Christmas, I'm looking forward to slowing down with work and being present when my children finish school. I enjoy the run-up to Christmas, spending time together before the big day. This year, I'm aiming to take it slow, not putting pressure on doing too much. It's not lost on me the huge privilege to be able to do all these things when it feels like so much of the world is awash with conflict and sadness. So, I'm aiming to not overdo it and enjoy happy simple moments together with my family.

Sarah’s delightful postcard is tucked inside each parcel we send out throughout December. To explore our Christmas Collection, please click here.

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