Back when a Commodore 64 was a pretty big deal, I would make my own newspapers with archaic clip art and made up stories about what was happening down the street. I know I’m not the only journalist to have done this – Earl McRae at the Ottawa Sun used to make his own newspapers too.
So it’s probably not a coincidence that I ended up choosing the career I did. Same thing for Sarah Hatton, except she decided early that she wanted to be an artist. Now she’s a pretty big deal – she has different agents for different continents, has solo shows featuring her work and can reasonably draw most parts of the human body.
I asked her some questions.
So, you’ve always been an artist?
Yes. I am one of those artists who has been drawing, painting, writing, making pop-up books etc. since I could first grasp a crayon. I used to draw on the blank sides of my Dad’s scrap proposals that he would bring home from work in the eighties. Many of my early works have blueprints for the Olympic Saddledome on the back.
When did you realize it was something you could do for real?
It was never a hobby for me – I always wanted to make a serious career of art, which is why I got my MFA in painting – but it all started to click for me five years ago when my work started getting mainstream media attention, and galleries started calling.
How much would it cost to buy something from you?
Um, midrange would be about $2,500-3,000 (Canadian). It is higher for commissioned portraits, though.
Is there a body part you can’t draw? You know, like hands or something?
I haven’t been confounded by a body part yet, but I am always willing to be surprised. I don’t paint feet very often, but that is often more to do with context in portraits than anything else.
Your website says: As an idea-driven artist, I actively seek subjects that take me in a variety of very different directions as I document and interpret cultural patterns. The subjects of my paintings stem from a desire to provoke questions and elicit strong emotional reactions in the viewer. I’m going to speak up for all the art-idiots in the world and ask you to explain that to me.
Heh. Happy to help. I am always more inspired by the current idea buzzing around in my head than by any sense of duty to create continuity between each series of paintings. For that reason, I take on a wide variety of topics. Many artists are cautioned to be very consistent from one series to the next, and to pick something that works and stick with it. That has never worked for me, and I am always experimenting with new techniques and subject, and following my gut with respect to how people will react.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out?
It may not be for everyone, but my advice is to go to university or college for studio art. You may already have the skills to make it, but the studio time, critical thinking skills and exposure to art history that come from a post-secondary program can give you an important edge: the ability to understand criticism and better self-regulate your own work.
What’s the nicest thing a critic has ever said about you, and how did you respond?
It was probably Ottawa Citizen critic Paul Gessell’s review of my 2005 Dionne Quintuplet paintings: “The paintings were superb. They were among the most arresting images created by an Ottawa-area artist this past year.” This was exactly the kind of comment you hope for when you are starting to build your reputation. It got the attention of the local art scene, and made quite a few opportunities happen. I responded with years of persistent work so as not to waste the opportunity.
What was the worst, and how did you respond?
There were some personal comments lobbed at me during my 2009 Bare exhibition that were less to do with the art and more about my competence as a mother. That was the most hurtful thing I have had to deal with to date, and I had to remind myself that it was mostly a knee-jerk reaction to the nudity in the work, and not a critical assessment of my ideas.
What’s the scariest thing about having a show about your works?
It is interesting that you assume that having an exhibition is scary. I find it exhilarating, as it is the culmination of a period of months in which an idea germinates, evolves and then emerges ready to share with others. For me, it is an intense sense of relief to see the paintings on the wall and out of my head. Perhaps that is because when I am painting, I am constantly posing questions to myself about what I am trying to convey, so I am usually prepared for the questions that people ask, and never really feel out of depth. So… I would say the scariest thing is thinking people might be ambivalent.
How do you decide what to wear to these things?
For art openings, less is more! On the practical side, the galleries get crowded, and heat up quickly with all those halogen lights and hipsters, so I always dress lightly for art events. On the non-practical side, flirty and sparkly never hurts.
Is it like being in a band? Like, sometimes nobody shows up at your exhibition and you have to show your art to the bartender all night?
I am one of the fortunate ones in that it has never happened to me. Perhaps it is because of the free food and drinks that I always provide… But it helps to have a literate (and hungry) bartender as a backup plan.