If you’ve ever been lucky enough to receive a greeting with an exquisitely painted animal, chances are it will have come from the brush of Sally Anson. Formerly a graphic designer with a lifelong passion for art and wildlife, Sally decided to follow a career path that combined both interests, after having a family. She set up her company Sweet Design in order to create a range of cards, homewares, notebooks and coasters bearing her realistic yet humorous illustrations of endangered species, plus other creatures closer to home. Sally has since collaborated with Create and Craft to produce even more collections featuring her lovely art – despite her busy schedule, she still found time to sit down and tell us more.
We know you started your career as a graphic designer; how easy was it to switch styles and become a wildlife artist?
That was quite easy as I’ve always been good at art from my school days, and would happily paint or draw just for fun! While I was working as a graphic designer, I kept my hand in by painting pet portraits as a sideline. It was only a small transition to paint a snow leopard instead!
What is is about painting animals that inspires you, and what do you aim to achieve with your artwork?
Of all the subjects to choose from, animals are my favourite by far. It amazes me how much expression and feeling you can put into an animal’s face and paint an interpretation of its personality or thoughts. As a lover of all kinds of animal, it struck me that we could do more to help those that are endangered due to human activities. By supporting some of the charities that do fabulous work to raise awareness and implement projects to assist in their survival, I hope that through my paintings and products we can help to keep them from extinction.
How do you approach a new project or illustration?
Every new painting takes a lot of research. Naturally I start with the internet, by watching a lot of videos, and looking up as many facts as I can to support the painting or product. If I have photos from the garden or zoos, I will use those as reference. Then I compile a pose to suit the caption which accompanies the painting on our greeting cards.
What is your preferred medium to work with?
I always sketch out in pencil first and prefer to work with watercolour or acrylic. I’ve worked with watercolour the most and understand its behaviour the best. I have tried other mediums but I feel a lot more technique and practise is needed to perfect those skills before I’d let them loose on the public!
You’ve successfully turned your art into a series of craft collections – what prompted this and what was it like to appear on live telly?
I was approached at one of the trade shows by Create and Craft TV, who asked to licence eight designs at first. ‘A Wild Time’ was the first collection, which was a big success with a sell-out show. However, I was terrified the first time I appeared on live TV to promote it! I couldn’t sleep at all the night before, and my heart was pounding on countdown. However it went quite well, and as everyone will tell you, I’m quite good at chatting, especially when I’m nervous! My collection demonstrator Carly Duff is amazing and our presenter Dean Wilson did a wonderful job at making me relax and have a giggle. I’m getting more used to it and quite enjoy it now. Three more collections have been featured since then, and we’ve got another one in production.
What’s been the proudest moment in your career so far, and do you have any exciting plans for the future?
Every time I produce a new painting, I’m always in love with that animal until the next one! Sometimes I can’t believe that I can paint, so I’m humble and proud of that. In the future, I would love to be recognised as an artist working with some of the bigger conservation charities, and see myself on safari with my team (family) painting, filming and getting involved in some of the conservation projects, particularly with big cats as they are my all-time favourites.
What are your three top tips for budding artists?
Practise, practise, practise! It always amazes me how much better you get each time you paint and perfect those techniques. There are lots of online tutorials out there too, which show you how to achieve a particular effect.