My name is Sarah May, I'm a British Artist and I created my SMArtist brand roughly 4 years ago, even though it is still very much in it's infancy it's been going from strength to strength and I would like to share with you how I got to where I am today.
In the 32 years I've been on this earth I have been drawn to one thing naturally and that is Art. As a young child it was always the most enjoyable part of my schooling. I was often chosen to do special projects by teachers and appeared in the local paper with a small group of talented child artists after doing still life pencil drawings of shells. In every subject I was as creative as I could be. I found as the years went by and as the lessons became more in depth, so did I with my love for Art. One thing that troubled me was that there wasn't much in the way of being taught about different brands and tools that would be most helpful. I found I had to learn along the way through experience and experimentation. And when I wasn't doing that at school, I was doing that at home. It's probably best not to ask my Mum about the giant dragon I painted on my bedroom wall.
I always wanted some form of career in the Art industry either as a professional Artist, Art Therapist, as a gallery owner or even someone who restores old paintings but I was never quite sure of which direction to go in. Whilst deciding I raised two daughters and worked several small jobs that I threw myself into but they weren't as fulfilling as I hoped. My favourite of these jobs was running an after school art club at my daughters school. We did many different subjects in many different mediums and I tried to impart my knowledge of techniques and products for their age levels. One of my students has since gone on to train in Architecture and I like to think his learning from my classes played a part in his decision to choose that avenue along with him being naturally gifted. I also taught the odd private art lessons to friend's children and occasionally was a guest artist in my daughters school when year 5 did their Forest Project and I taught them to paint trees in Watercolour with different techniques.
Up till this time I was predominantly a Fine Artist, I didn't experiment very much nor did I sell very much as it was more of a hobby than anything else. But there came an occasion when I suffered a great loss and became unwell as a result back in 2016. At this time I received a wonderful monthly subscription box which is sadly no longer going called Art & Parcel which supplied different art supplies to experiment with every month. On a weekend whilst I was recovering, my husband and I and our daughters went away for a weekend to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. One of those days I sat beside the swimming pool and used some pastels that had come from Art & Parcel and drew an Elephant. It quickly became my favourite drawing and was named 'Thoughtful Blue' (the first picture below). This was the moment I realised that I was on to something and started to paint and draw and started to have my artwork purchased at first by family and friends. 'First Light' (the middle picture below) was the first painting I did after the Elephant and the first that I sold. I enjoyed it so much I decided to create my own art page on Facebook and thus SMArtist was born. First with a Facebook page, followed by Instagram, then an Etsy Store and now Shopify.
My story however does not stop there. In 2018 I suffered another great loss and one day I woke up and was unable to walk, I developed a tremor in my hands and had random muscle spasms throughout my body as well as widespread pain. I was diagnosed with a condition called Functional Neurological Disorder, a condition of the nervous system triggered by stress, no real treatment, no real cure. Now I know that this sounds awful and it is, it's difficult to live with on a daily basis but every cloud has a silver lining right?!
Refusing to give up on my artwork completely, as I was unable to hold a pencil or a paintbrush at times due to the tremors and my wrists getting painful quickly, I did the one thing I had never truly done, I experimented. I tried my hand at Abstract Art and that's when things really got exciting and started to put SMArtist on the map.
My husband once bought me some mixed media paints that I'd really wanted and I started to experiment with them, first on canvas, then on ceramic blanks and then followed by using them to paint old vinyls to make wall clocks. I built up stock out of all these things and they started to sell. I'm a bit of a perfectionist so it was frustrating when things didn't work, it felt like a waste of materials but the knowledge I learnt using them was golden.
I really got the bug for learning new things and so I decided it was time to start trying resin out and seeing what I could do with it. I had been inspired by so many amazing artists that I want to create my own style with this medium. One thing I will say is that at first, I thought I'd watch some tutorials but I've never really been one to sit and what videos, I'd personally rather learn through experience. Having said that I know how helpful they can be for others so I do strongly encourage people wanting to do this, it just wasn't the right fit for me. It was however, thoroughly helpful with regards to seeing the tools used or makes of resin so that's what I took on board and ran with. Firstly I started making coasters and I got involved with Alcohol Inks and Acrylic Inks (which is my favourite medium of all time). They are such versatile mediums and are a lot of fun! I went on to make mini resin clocks, jewellery and resin signs. I had really built up a wealth of stock in all things and they are proving more and more popular so I started to host Art exhibition evenings at home, including the odd fundraising exhibition for local causes.
As an artist I always had goals which, for the most part, involved being a part of Hampshire Open Studios. If you've not heard of this before, it's basically a 10 day event that most counties do and is an art trail mapped out in a brochure. Artists open up their homes, workshops and galleries for the local public to come and visit and hopefully make some sales. It's something I always desperately wanted to be a part of and feature in. I'd been going around locally every year to others houses who took part to see their wonderful artwork and talent. In 2019 I got my wish and it was a brilliant experience and I made several sales which was fantastic including one of my more expensive paintings. I think the best and most amusing thing during those 10 days was when a very lovely lady came over and purchased one of my paintings and after she has bought it, she asked to have a selfie with me! I'd never been asked that before, I was quite taken aback and flattered but I agreed and here it is below.
Around this time I had something cross my path that was most unexpected, I had an email from Parallax International Art Fair in Kensington, London. I had never heard of them before but it was a huge event, extremely well organised and with a lot of footfall. But regardless, just being emailed out of the blue and asked to attend was such an honour. Between a couple of my dearest friends, I was able make this dream a reality. I spent 4 fantastic days in London, travelling and setting up alone which I had never ever done before. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and it was amazing. I made 4 sales which was fantastic as I learned later that many didn't and met some wonderful artists from all over the world. It was my most accomplished moment as an artist and it really made me realise I really love what I do and I'm good at it.
There was one other event I had always wanted to be a part of which was Titchfield Art & Craft Show. It's local to me and a yearly exhibition of a collection of local artists. I was accepted to feature at their 2020 exhibition which was due to be held in April but unfortunately it was cancelled due to the Coronavirus lock down to aid in preventing the spread. I know it wasn't just upsetting for me, the event organisers were devastated to have to cancel but I hope to reapply and attend in 2021 if they are able to go ahead.
Anyway, that's me and my story of how SMArtist came to be. Thank you for taking the time to read it and be a part of my journey. My aim now is to continue to learn, experiment, create and share what I do with others. And I'm very much looking forward to being a part of Shopify.