It’s no secret that I have a big creative crush on Sarah Kelk. I have had the pleasure of working with Sarah together with her sister Helen, through their homewares brand Hello Polly and Sarah was the first artist on my list for this years Hunting Collective collaboration. Her artwork makes me feel at peace. Perfectly balanced colours and shapes manage to float in front of you whilst fixed in place. Much like her personality, her work is open and invigorating.
I visited Sarah in her home studio in Carlton North, the only sounds that can be heard are the weather and the school lunch bell across the road. Her space is littered with imagery, neatly arranged or tucked away for future reference. Her studio is cosy and welcoming with a comfortable couch in the perfect position to watch Sarah paint, which I did. I was surprised to watch how Sarah starts her paintings – extremely quick with dry layers of paint, Sarah builds on each layer without a moments hesitation and lets the markings dictate its direction. Sarah brings this signature style to her clock creating a layered patchwork of the most perfect of colours.
Can you describe the feeling you get when you are creating?
I try not to over-think it. I just go with it, go with what I’m doing. I really try not to second guess myself. If I find that I am second guessing myself, then I try and take a step back. I’ve probably always created stuff since I was a kid so, for me, I guess it’s not really, it sounds really cheesy, but it’s not a specific feeling. It’s just part of who I am.
When did you realise that you were creative?
I realised I was creative when in my spare time growing up, I used to choose to paint or create things. I think I knew then because that was my go-to, just to have fun. I’ve always loved doing that. I think I always knew that really early on. My family are all creative but in different ways. Something was always happening in the household. Dad was always painting or building something and mum was always sewing or cooking, so I think probably being surrounded by it definitely helped inspire creativity. I’ve always known that I loved creating.
Where do you draw inspiration?
I think it’s the same old cliché that you draw inspiration from everywhere. I have a box full of postcards and little bits, trinkets, just things that I’ve collected. I’ve always collected, I think since I was probably in my early teens. If I’m lacking inspiration, I’ll open that box of things up, pull bits out and go through them. I can be flicking through a magazine and see some colours or some shapes I like, or our next door neighbour’s garage gets this really lovely shadow on a certain summer’s day. I think that’s what’s really nice about inspiration, is that you don’t really know when you’re going to get it, so it’s important to be open to it.
How do you start a new artwork?
When I start a new artwork usually I have a rough plan. Sometimes I’ll sketch something, sometimes I won’t. It might be in my head. I always start with one undercoat and that could be a really rough, quick, fast undercoat of one or a couple of colours. I always do that really, really quickly. Often my favourite part of the painting, is the beginning. It’s really exciting because I don’t know how it’s going to end up. It also gives me somewhere to start. It gives me parts that I really like, that I want to keep, little textures or drips or something that I like that I know I want to work around.
From then on, I just keep adding layers and layers, working over bits I like and keeping bits… Working over bits that I don’t like and keeping bits that I like. For me, it’s not necessarily how it looks visually but also the feeling I get when I know it’s right. It’s hard to describe. If the colours and the shapes to me feel visually balanced and I’m happy with all the textures within that, then we’re on track.
What do you think is the most important part of the creative process?
I think one of the biggest factors for the creative process is time. Having enough time to create and enough head space to create. I mean some days, you just feel like you’re hitting your head against a wall. I just take a step back, go for a run, meet a friend for lunch or do something else. When I get back to it, I’m feeling a little bit more with it. I can’t rely on anybody else to paint for me. It comes down to me just getting into it and going for it. So yeah, time is probably the biggest thing.
Who or what has been a major influence in your work?
I’ve grown up with a really amazing family but also really strong female role models in my family. I’ve always been shown by both of my grandmothers, my mother and my sister especially that you can do it. There’s nothing stopping you. My family and my husband James have always said “Go for it. Go paint, go do that.” In that way, their support has been really great. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t do it.
They must be very proud of you!
Yeah, I think so. I hope so.
How do you know when you have finished a piece?
I know when I’ve finished a piece if I’m reluctant to add anything more to it. If I’m umm’ing and ahh’ing about it then I just leave it. I’ll often leave it for a couple of days. Sometimes I’ll hang it in my living room or somewhere where I pass by. I constantly look to see if anything jumps out at me. I also use my sister Helen as a bit of a sounding board, as well as my husband James. I appreciate their opinion and ask if I need to do more work to it, but they often just say “No. Don’t touch it. Just leave it. Don’t do anymore.” I’ll generally get a feeling and nine times out of ten, it’s right.
Do you find you need to be restrained?
Sometimes I need to be restrained. Sometimes Helen will come and say, “Don’t, just don’t even touch that piece.” I do wonder how much I go over that I maybe shouldn’t go over. But it all comes around at the end.
What is something that we don’t know about you?
I love the smell of bacon but I don’t like the taste of it. Drives my husband insane.
Why did you say yes to this collaboration?
I love doing collaborations because they let you step out of your comfort zone a little bit. What I really loved about the clock idea is that it’s bringing a painting into an object. It’s a clock that’s going to be used. Also I was really excited about working on a circle, that’s not something I’ve ever done before. I’m always up for a challenge and really excited about it.
What is the inspiration behind your clock?
I’ve just started the clock so we’ll see how it goes. Even if I have a really strong idea of how a piece is going to end up, once I start working on it, my plan usually goes out of the window. It’s all about how I feel when I’m working on a piece. The balance of colours, textures, shapes and in a way, it guides me as to how it’s going to end up. We’ll see. I can’t wait!
How do you choose your colour palette?
I don’t really know why I choose the colors I do. I just get a strong feeling. I might come across an old book in a charity shop that has really great colour combination and I’ll often take a photo or pick up references and use them as a starting point. I love using mustard and I use it a little bit of it in almost every piece I do. I didn’t realise that until recently, subconsciously mustard is probably one of my favourite colours.
What type of person do you think will be drawn to your clock?
I think the person that will be drawn to my clock loves colour, loves abstract pattern, texture and I guess the feeling that they get from the piece.
Where do you think this clock will end up? Any particular room or space?
I haven’t thought that far ahead. I hope I get to see where it ends up actually. I love it when someone sends me a picture of where a piece ends up.
It must be a great feeling knowing that someone is enjoying your artwork as much as you.
I’ve always had this thing in my head where I know that somebody else has it, but it’s still mine. It’s still my piece but someone else is looking after it.
What do you love most about creating?
What I love the most about creating is I never know how a piece is going to end up. When I start, there’s lots of energy and it’s really exciting. The difference between that and when it’s finished is completely worlds apart, and I love that. I love being excited when I start and also being excited when I finish. The pieces almost feel like completely different pieces from start to finish so I love that whole process.
You work a lot with paint, is that your favourite medium?
My favourite medium definitely is paint. I’m an awful drawer. I’ve always loved painting since I was really young. I think it’s my go to medium that I feel really comfortable using.
Sarah Kelk’s Clock for the Hunting Collective 2016.
Sarah’s clock is made with acrylic paint. Sarah’s clock is available via online auction. To bid, click here. Sarah Kelk is an artist based in Melbourne, Victoria. Sarah works at a quick pace beginning with dry layers of paint. She builds on each layer without a moments hesitation and lets the markings dictate its direction.