Following her exciting win of the Buxton Spa prize & teaching workshops at Cass Art on behalf of us, I caught up with the very busy Sandra Orme to find out a little bit more about her & her artwork.
Sandra was a full time art teacher in London before becoming a full time artist in 2002 & is based in Buxton, Derbyshire. Sandra has won many awards, had articles featured in art publications & is a professional member of the Peak District Artisan's.
What do you prefer to paint?
I am predominately a landscape artist specialising in skies (I am actually pretty sky obsessed!) Living in Buxton I have great views from my studio across the moors of the Dark Peak. I am constantly inspired by the changing colours, weather & seasons. I do occaisonally paint buildings for example Whitby Abbey.
What is your favourite medium & why?
My favourite medium is soft pastel. With a Fine Art degree & a number of years as a Head of Art, I've explored lots of different ways of working over the years. Drawing remains my passion. I have never felt comfortable with a paintbrush in my hand. I feel most happy when I make a 'hands on' connection with the medium & the work. I also work in charcoal & in fact was my first love. I predominately worked in black & white until I gradually began to explore colour which naturally led to working in pastel. I can happily spend hours building up layers of pastel & blending in subtle & different shades to recreate a particular cloud or sky. At other times if I am unable to concentrate so intensely I will turn to charcoal or mixed media with pastel (e.g. using the pastel liquefier)
What is your favourite subject to paint?
In all my pieces, I am trying to capture the atmosphere of wild open spaces - whether land or sea. What it feels like up on the beautiful bleak hills & moors - in dramatic & frequently inclement weather. My favourite subject is very much dependant on my mood but without a doubt my main obsession is certainly clouds & skies
Why did you choose to use Unison Colour pastels?
When I first began to introduce colour to my work I tried a number of different brands of pastel but once I discovered Unison Colour, I stopped looking. What first strikes you about Unison pastels is the beautiful buttery texture of the pastel itself. I remain amazed by the consistency of the pastel & the way it applies to the surface of the pastel paper. It works very well with strong toothed paper & also very soft papers. I think the most crucial thing for me is the way the pastels can be applied on top of each other, even after the tooth has been filled. As I work with a large amount of layers, this is vital. There is minimal dust & the pastels interact beautifully with each other. I also find the huge range of both subtle tints & strong colours just wonderful & inspiring in themselves. There is nothing better than opening a new set of pastels - I almost want to eat them!
You have been painting for a number of years, do you have a painting that remains special to you?
There are some pieces that have a special place in my memory. A couple of pieces that stand out for me & remain favourites are 'On the edge of the White Peak' & the 'Burning Moor' series.
On the edge of White peak (picture above) was my first really large skyscape that I felt I had completely captured the beautiful cloud formations on that spring evening above Chermorton. It was a complex & layered with lots of subtle texture & hints. It was hard work but I was delighted with the outcome, which is not something artists feel about their work very often.
The Burning Moor series was a different challenge. It was harder! I was trying to capture the burning back of the moors above Edale. I was fascintated by the way the colours of the land moved up into the sky, but it was difficult & smoke doesnt follow the same rules as sky! I had to fight with them all of the way to get that movement & drama of the smoke. I ended up exploring pastel liquefier & finding new ways of working with that.
Do you have any tips for upcoming artists?
There are quite a few tips & I have started a blog where I talk through particular tips & techniques http://www.sandraormeoriginals.blogspot.co.uk . One key tip is to join an art collective of some kind with like minded individuals whose views & opinions you value. I joined Peak District Artisans when I became a professional artist & it has been invaluable. Being an artist is very solitary & I found being part of this group gave me people to turn to for ideas, inspiration etc. The group also helped me to promote my work as being part of a vetted professional organisation gives your work a certain status & allows you to attend group events.
Finally, what are you up to at the moment? current work, exhibitions & workshops?
As a result of winning The Buxton Spa Prize, I am having a garden studio built so that is taking up a lot of my time & energy! I am exhibiting with the Peak District Artisan group at Art Out Loud at Chatsworth http://www.chatsworth.org/attractions-and-events/events/chatsworth-festival . I am also running four workshops - with subjects ranging from seascapes, to skies to charcoal. Information for these can be found http://www.sandraorme.co.uk/workshops.html
Sunset over Axe