Christchurch illustrator/designer/artist Sarah Greig got her Fine Arts degree back in the day and has since worked in a variety of jobs including shoe and bag designer, graphic designer, and ski patroller! After living in in Antwerpen, Belgium for a decade she moved back to Christchurch in 2014 to start a new adventure. Working primarily in watercolour and dip-pen, she loves to create quirky artworks inspired by nature.
What do you make?
Original illustrations on paper, old maps and recycled wood. Some are turned into prints and cards but I also have a range of originals. There is something about watercolour pigment on paper – it is just really vibrant and makes each piece unique.
How did you get into your craft?
I was always drawing as a kid. In my early twenties, my big O.E. led me to Belgium where I landed a job working for a pretty amazing artisanal shoe brand. My drawing during those years was mostly laborious vector drawings on the computer. It wasn’t until returning home to Christchurch five years ago with two pre-schoolers in tow, I realised that it was the perfect opportunity to re-direct my focus and follow my original love of drawing. Joining the Pay it Forward co-op in Christchurch was a game-changer for me. It was the first time I had my art accepted for anything and suddenly I found myself surrounded by like-minded people who were all trying to make a go of it on this crazy creative journey.
“Putting your work out into the world is the hardest step but once you have done that, you will realise that it wasn’t so hard after all…”
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design), from Canterbury University.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My tin of watercolour paints, paper, a dip-pen and waterproof black ink are my every-day tools. They are so compact, easy to travel with and they will last me for years.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your artworks:
Once I have my sketch ready to go, I place it on the light-box and put my watercolour paper over the top. I can see my sketch through the paper but not every detail so it gives me an idea of where to draw the outline in ink without being too accurate. Using the light box means that I don’t have to use a pencil which also means I don’t have to rub it out later.
When the ink is dry, it’s time for the watercolour paint. Sometimes I’m slow and careful and other times I just slop it on and see what happens. Watercolour can be beautifully unpredictable and have a mind of its own. Sometimes this is a blessing and other times it results in my drawing going on the recycling pile that I make my gift-tags from. Once the paint is dry (only a few minutes later) I tidy-up the lines with my dip-pens until it is finished.
What inspires you?
Getting out in nature always inspires me. Walking in the hills, being by the sea, seeing native birds, shapes in the clouds. I love a good sky, especially a Nor’west arch over Canterbury.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Be original, be authentic and try to make people smile.
Reducing my environmental impact where I can is really important to me too. I gave up plastic packaging for my cards and prints a couple of years ago and I have never looked back. Luckily the places that sell my products have been really supportive about this and let me sell naked products.
“By shopping small and shopping local for the products we need, we support real-life people in our community instead of corporate money-making machines. We have the power to change the world for the better with the way we shop.”
Describe your creative process:
I have two types of creative time: one is at a market where I can draw away, talk to people and soak in the hustle and bustle around me. When my mind is only half-thinking about something, the most interesting ideas seem to appear on the paper – maybe because I am not questioning too much or labouring over my thoughts.
The second time I can properly create is when the kids are in bed and I have my thoughts to myself. I’ll still have something on in the background but I can really focus and get my work finished.
Describe your workspace:
It’s on my wooden kitchen table at the moment. It has great natural light in the daytime and at night it is warm with bright lighting. I’d love to have a separate studio to call my own one day but it feels right working in the heart of my home at the moment.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I recently did a commission for someone who wanted a special gift for a friend who was leaving New Zealand. After opening it they said that ‘Happy tears were shed all round!’ which was really sweet. An artwork that has a connection to people and places is really special.
What are you currently listening to?
Podcasts, audiobooks, random mixes on Spotify – a bit of everything! I like to mix it up every day with an equal measure of learning new things and zoning out to music. I always have something on in the background.
Recommend an album:
Bill Withers Live At Carnegie Hall.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The BFG by Roald Dahl really stands out in my memory. I read it again as an adult to my kids – it still made me laugh and the illustrations by Quentin Blake are timeless.
What are you reading now?
Although I haven’t been finding a lot of time to read for myself lately (other than audiobooks when I draw), I have been making my way through the junior section of the library with my kids! At the moment we are reading Go Girl: A storybook of epic NZ women by Barbara Else.
My non-illustration hero would be Malala Yousafzai because she gives me hope for the future.
A favourite quote:
‘We must travel in the direction of our fear’. That’s me. Right now. Putting myself out there. Eeeek!
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Super Sketcher Person! I would make people lose their fear of drawing and give it a go (so many people tell me they can’t draw but everyone can).
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Just do it! Putting your work out into the world is the hardest step but once you have done that, you will realise that it wasn’t so hard after all. Then you’ll be ready to take the next step and the next…
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
By shopping small and shopping local for the products we need, we support real-life people in our community instead of corporate money-making machines. We have the power to change the world for the better with the way we shop.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A tiny rabbit toy by Stuffed Kingdom for my niece and a Refined Handmade pencil-case for myself. I bought them because they were beautifully crafted, thoughtfully produced and made right here in my home town.
What’s in store for the rest of 2019?
My dream is to illustrate children’s books so I’m going to keep working on improving my technique and adding to my folio. The lead up to Christmas will be busy as usual with markets, workshops and commissions.
Sarah is offering Felt readers a generous 20% discount on all the lovely artwork in her Sarah Greig Illustration & Design Felt shop, for the whole of her feature fortnight! Just purchase before 5pm Monday 2 September, and enter the code TWENTY in the voucher code field at step 4 of checkout. Thanks so much Sarah!