This week we spoke to Edinburgh-based printmaker Sally Fisher, a firm favourite with art-lovers across the world. Sally's framed collagraphs have found homes in places such as Italy, Australia and the UAE.
Before her successful career as a full-time artist and owner of her own gallery in Edinburgh, Sally was a nature conservationist. After studying conservation and ecology, Sally went on to work with wildlife in exotic locations such as Mauritius and the island Rodrigues.
Sally's experiences as a conservationists inspires her work as an artist, she creates collagraphs in a naive and self-proclaimed 'quirky style' of various animals and landscapes.
For more about Sally's life before creating art, her work and the future... read on!
How would you describe yourself?
I’d describe myself as new to all this! I spent many years working in nature conservation. In 2013 I suddenly had a change of heart and left my job without a real plan. I had an overwhelming desire to be an artist so I just started doing it!
I guess it just seemed like time for a change. Art and nature were always my two passions in life so it seemed the natural thing to do. Initially I managed to pay for the move by renting out my spare room on Airbnb. This gave me enough income to support myself while I built-up the business side of being an artist.
You’re a full-time artist! What does a typical day for you look like?
It's a great lifestyle. I generally get up quite late as I’m a bit of a night owl. I like to get everything organised and all the admin out of the way before I start creating art. Mornings tend to be listening to Radio 6 and drinking coffee. By about 3pm I’m ready to start sketching collagraphs or work on a painting. I work well into the evenings. I have to force myself to stop and eat. I continue working sometimes until one or two in the morning.
Why did you desire to become a full time artist?
Becoming an artist was a lifestyle choice. I decided that I would rather work late every single day as long as I loved every minute it. I still have to pinch myself when I think about how lucky I am to spend every day doing something I love.
You create really lovely collagraphs. How did you discover the art of collagraphy?
I learnt to make collagraphs at the Edinburgh Printmakers. I spent a weekend learning lots of different printmaking techniques, but collagraph really stuck with me.
Collagraphs are great to make because you can use all sorts of materials. There's a lot of potential to try different textures and see what works. I hunt for textured wallpapers, fabrics, plaster, sand etc… all of which I can use to make interesting patterns within my prints.
What do you like about this technique?
One of the reasons I love collagraphy is that it is something I can work on at home and just do the final printing stage at the printmakers using the etching press. There is so much potential for collagraphs. You can create textures by building layers or cut in to create designs. I still feel that there is a lot to explore with collagraphy but I hope to try different printmaking techniques as well. It is difficult to know how a print is going to turn out until you add the ink. Seeing the first print is always the most exciting. Then each one is totally different depending on the way I apply the ink and clean it before printing.
Your subjects are largely animals and landscapes. What is it about these that inspire you?
I suppose this stems from my previous life working in nature conservation! I’ve always loved wildlife and continue to be fascinated by the natural world.
I’m very conscious of the environment in everything I do. One of the things I love about collagraphs is that you can recycle materials into the artwork. I tend to recycle whenever I can for example when I post out parcels, I re-use packaging and packing materials. There is very little waste!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on some new larger collagraph prints of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Most of my prints so far have been mini collagraphs. I will still be doing more of these, but really excited about the larger prints.
Although I love making my mini-prints, working on a bigger scale allows more diversity. I can try different techniques that would only work on a bigger scale. I can also create cityscapes and landscapes. My mini-prints are so tiny that I’m limited to just a few lines to give the impression of the animals and wildlife I’m depicting.
Have you worked on any interesting projects in the past?
When I first started my new life as an artist I started painting. My first project was a series of 100 cow oil paintings, which I funded through crowdfunding. I still really love painting and try to do both, but its difficult to find the time to do all the things I want to do!
Crowdfunding was my first source of income as an artist. It seemed to be an obvious place to start because you get the funding before completing the paintings. This gave me a certain level of confidence and also I knew that I couldn’t give up because the paintings were the rewards for backing the project! Friends and family helped get the project off the ground and it snowballed from there. I was really pleased with the interest in my work from all over the world. A real confidence booster!
Wow! Why cows?
It was a very intense period of painting. I painted every single day and even painted cows in my dreams. Each one was a unique original oil painting. I chose cows because they have a lot of character. It was great to have a single subject which allowed me to play with colour and texture and really grow as a painter. I chose one of my cow paintings to enter the Royal Scottish Academy Open Exhibition and was delighted that the painting was selected and sold during the show!
You have your own gallery as well as selling online through Artfinder. How did you go about setting-up your own gallery?
I love having my own little gallery! I was looking into studio space, which is really difficult to find in Edinburgh because there's lots of demand and long waiting lists. So I started looking at the prices of renting shop spaces. My gallery is a space where I can work, as well as a great place to show off all my work!
What do you think is the difference between the two styles of selling?
I find Artfinder is a great way to reach people across the UK and the world! My gallery is in a residential part of town, so I tend to sell things like cards and prints to local people as gifts and treats for the home. Artfinder allows me to reach a much wider audience of people who love seeing what I do!
Selling online is so easy and straightforward. I love wrapping up parcels. It's so satisfying to have a little pile of my artworks all ready to send off to new homes. I also love getting feedback and reading through the lovely comments of happy customers.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to do more painting and printing on a larger scale. One of my dreams is to live somewhere warm, making art in the sunshine and selling it on Artfinder, I can only dream of this because I know it could be possible with Artfinder!
I’m starting to work on some bigger paintings. So far these have been big splash/wave paintings. These are really fun to do. I love the blues, greys and whites… I play with the paint to get the feeling of water moving. It's very free work, a complete contrast to my collagraphs which are quite detailed.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I have so many aspirations that it is difficult to imagine where I will be in five years time. Things have changed so much since I first became an artist four years ago, so I think I am just going to go with the flow and see which way it goes. This strategy seems to have worked well so far!
I love being in control of my day and having the freedom to stop whenever I want. I can paint on holiday so I’ve managed to fit in more breaks and keep the business going while I’m away. It's a much more relaxed lifestyle and I would never go back to a 9am to 5pm job!
Tell us something interesting that readers may not know about you.
I have an addiction to tropical islands! When I was in my early 20s I volunteered in Mauritius for a year and a half to help save the endangered Pink Pigeon (cousin to the Dodo). Since then, I have volunteered in the Seychelles a couple of times and on the tiny island of Rodrigues near Mauritius. I think tropical island holidays will always be part of my life and I hope to maintain that link with nature conservation.
After returning from Mauritius, I studied conservation and ecology at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Shortly after completing that course I began working for The RSPB and stayed with them for over eight years. During my time with the RSPB I did all sorts of jobs from project management to data collation and fundraising/grant application. I loved working for an organisation that was helping wildlife, but it was mainly office-based work and I find that my new life as an artist gives me more time out and about enjoying nature!