Interview with Alison G Saunders (me)
1.What’s your background?
My parents were both amazing artists and I didn’t feel equipped to compete when I was younger, so I became an accountant instead. Time spent in the USA gave me the distance to explore the possibility that I could make art worth having. I took classes there with professional artists who were incredibly supportive such that when I returned to the UK, I took a foundation in Art & Design and then went on to study a BA in Fine Art.
- What does your work aim to say?
My work is mainly about colour. I am fascinated by how colours work differently side by side with other colours. You would think that once discovered that was it, but no. Constantly mixing and experimenting with colour placement is a never-ending journey. Alongside that I have produced works influenced by the tropical fish we keep and my garden which we have filled with beautiful flowers and trees.
- Does your work comment on current social or political issues?
My commercial work doesn’t comment on social or political issues but the war on plastics has had an effect. I have stopped using resin on my work until such time as I can find a more earth-friendly way to use this wonderful medium.
In my ongoing university studies, I do ensure that the work I produce makes statements about single-use plastics, what I see as the breakdown of our society and the effects of ignorance within our society.
- Who are your biggest influences?
In terms of colour my biggest influence on a very personal level is a wonderful teacher called Denise Beal. She really put me on the road to wanting to know and understand more about how and where to use colours for the best results. In terms of well-known artists, there are many, but Joaquin Sorrola for his incredible use of light and shade, John Singer-Sargent for his amazingly beautiful renditions of the human form, Rembrandt again for his use of light and dark and his human forms. Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Hannah Hoch, Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy and Antony Gormley. The list is endless.
In addition, I know some amazing artists whose work I love and would love to own, Francis Hatch, Lewis Noble, Jane Anderson Wood, Tessa Pearson, Diana Croft and Laura Boswell. Tessa, Diana and Laura are all printmakers and have shared their knowledge and love of print with me and I in turn love to share printmaking knowledge with others.
- How have you developed your career?
Taking a BA alongside taking classes with other incredible artists has been a joy and a privilege and something I hope that I can continue to do for years to come. Working with other artists gives a valuable understanding of how others work and inspiration which may or may not be incorporated into my own work. It does however inform me such that I am able to share so much more with my students through these interactions hopefully making what I deliver to students much more worthwhile.
- How do you seek out opportunities?
I keep a close eye on what is going on. Information can be gained from numerous websites, through contact with fellow artists and through the many online artists groups I belong to. Within a closed community of fellow artists, sharing information is key to the group’s success and through that I have made interesting and worthwhile connections which I value highly.
- How do you cultivate a collector base?
I make sure that everyone who buys my work is made to feel special because they are special. Often when someone has bought from me once, they will return and purchase other works, but I believe that is only because I make sure that they feel valued by me and I give the best service possible to them.
- How do you navigate the art world?
I still struggle with this when it comes to galleries. I have shied away from galleries largely because I have friends who have had their fingers burnt and because the few gallery owners I have come into contact have not been the kinds of people with whom I would want to become involved. I probably just haven’t met the right owners.
In terms of networking with other artists I am very happy to do so. I run two support networking groups, one an online group with members from all over Europe and the USA and an in-person group which meets regularly to support and share details about local events and activities.
- How do you price your work?
Having been an accountant I have some experience in costing out work and calculating a price. Looking at what others sell their work for is also very helpful but this year I was awarded some pretty significant commissions with clients who wanted bespoke canvases which come at a far higher price.
So I worked out a system for calculating selling prices which I felt were fair. I have a price I charge per cm2 and to that I add the price of the canvas. So, if I am buying off-the-shelf canvases for work to be bought at an exhibition, the price is obviously far lower than if I am producing work for a client who wants a bespoke canvas size. Framing is also an addition when bespoke but the frames I generally use for work are fairly inexpensive and are just really a form of protection until such time and the purchaser figures out what kind of frame they want in their home. Framing work can be rather expensive and in response to the waste in our society I would far rather not have something framed into a wonderful and expensive frame which could very well finish up being thrown away within a short time. The frames I use are mid-range in price which helps to keep the overall price down and makes it easy for clients to change the frames to suit their home.
- Which current art world trends are you following?
I follow all sorts of things all the time. I post daily to Instagram and Facebook and through them I am able to follow works of artists around the world. I am not a huge fan of the current contemporary artworks coming out of art schools in the UK right now. I am a huge critic of the way art students are currently treated. They hand over the same amount of money for their tuition as students covering every other imaginable subject but get very little actual instruction in return. I was getting an average of five hours contact-time per week when I was taking my BA in a bricks and mortar university whereas my friends who children were taking sciences (and medical science in particular) were getting 35 – 40 hours a week interaction. I remember asking the one and only painting teacher at university if she could give me some advice about using acrylic paint as I had only used watercolour and oil paint previously, and her response was “Google it”.
Every year I produce work to help raise funds for charity. This year I have been working with St. Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, Surrey producing three hearts for them. I also give a percentage of all annual sales to support a very small charity called APA which stands for Action on Podoconiosis. This horrible condition is completely curable and really cheap and easy to fix. Every penny given to this charity goes straight to the men, women and children who need our help. To fin out more about the condition and which you can do to help, please visit https://actiononpodo.com/