Interviews

A Day With Sandy Dooley

Sandy Dooley in her UK studio

Sandy Dooley is a celebrated landscape and abstract painter from Kent, England. Letting the seasons, sounds and serenity of her home inspire her, she composes visually rich, sensory abstract paintings that celebrate nature and the memories housed within it. We caught up with Sandy to learn more about her artistic process and how she spends a typical work day.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I love coffee, so that’s first with breakfast, followed by some sort of exercise, usually a cycle, walk or swim. I live in a rural corner of Kent, south-east England, and am surrounded by fields and woodland – at this time of year everything looks beautiful, from the hedgerows with cowslips, to apple orchards and vineyards.

What inspires you to create every day?

It’s a way of life for me, I studied at St Martin’s School of Art in central London and have been immersed in creating things in one form or another for my whole life. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work every day….as to inspiration, it’s bottom of my list. Turning up to work and getting things done is much more real.

Sandy Dooley, 'Feeling A Breeze,' 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 40x100cm.
Sandy Dooley, ‘Feeling A Breeze,’ 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 40x100cm.

What does your work space look like?

I have two work spaces. The photos you see are from my outside space. It’s a little shed, where I store my immediate work and my paints. I work outside as much as possible…I’m obsessed with natural light and I own a lot of paint spattered sweaters, coats and jeans! I have a large inside studio as well, it’s in a barn and is great when it’s too cold or wet to be productive outside. I do some quite large paintings, and these work better inside, large canvasses can be very unwieldy.

Describe the core of your technique or style.

I work on canvasses, usually stretched. I use top quality acrylic paints, Golden and Lascaux are my favored brands. Both highly pigmented, they deliver on color intensity, pigmentation levels and consistent texture. I like to use paint media too, currently pumice for texture and a heavy gel for shine.

Sandy Dooley, 'River Of Light,' 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 120x180cm.
Sandy Dooley, ‘River Of Light,’ 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 120x180cm.

I work in many many layers, building up tones and areas of intensity. This I do on the ground as I use lots of very thin paint initially. Once I have my bare bones, I will work on the easel or the wall. I like to use lots of implements to apply paint. Palette knives, a variety of brushes, rags, and sometimes a plastic credit card or ruler to spread paint. I spatter paint on my landscape paintings by masking areas of the canvas off and flicking paint onto the canvas surface. It’s great to keep spontaneous, that’s a crucial part of my practice.

What are your top 3 studio essentials?

Perfect light, lots of time and I have just got myself a Spotify account, late to
the party I know!….it’s fantastic. Depending on what I’m doing and how I feel, I listen to music, or I work in silence. Working alone can be lonely, but you can do exactly what you need in order to create a good working environment – and that is a real luxury.

Sandy Dooley, 'Colour PUNCH!,' 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 40x40cm.
Sandy Dooley, ‘Colour PUNCH!,’ 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 40x40cm.

How do you know or decide when an artwork is finished?

Give it time, I work from home so I bring paintings into my house and spend time living with them. My poor family have got used to a parade of propped up paintings, I think it’s probably very annoying! The worst thing I can do is to work into an almost finished canvas without thought…the closer I am to completing a painting the longer I spend looking at it without making any marks.

What do you like to do to unwind after a day’s work?

I like to have fun, and I also have an active Netflix account. I find that I am quite intense during the day so unwinding with family, friends or just loafing around not doing too much is the perfect antidote.

Sandy Dooley, 'Camber Sands Beach,' 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 40x100cm.
Sandy Dooley, ‘Camber Sands Beach,’ 2019. Acrylic on Canvas, 40x100cm.

What’s your overall favorite aspect of the creative process?

Starting a painting, or two or three is so exciting. I love that part. As I have several canvasses on the go at any one time, it’s fun to switch from one to another to keep fluid and to keep engaged. When there are lots of beginnings everything is full of possibilities – as I move further in the process I change the way I work and spend time looking and decision making. I love meeting clients too, I do lots of commissions and like discussing projects. I enjoy exchanging ideas and helping people to create a painting that will be perfect in their home or work space.

Thank you, Sandy! See more of her beautiful work on Singulart.

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