Many of Sarah Connell’s chosen scenes will be familiar to those living, working or visiting Manchester. Their hazy, imperfect skies and drizzled runs of paint evoke a sense of movement along streets, vistas and alleys.

Although accustomed to creative outputs through her day jobs, Connell only began to sell her art in March 2019, but has found fans across the north and beyond. She told Now Then more about her process and placement in Manchester.

What makes you pick up your brush?

A sense of urgency! Painting time is precious. I know that if I have the opportunity to paint and don’t, then I’ll regret it later. I feel calm after having painted even if the painting hasn’t gone to plan. I think doing anything creative is good for the mind – the focus, the problem solving, the meditative aspect.

Canal Street

As a photographer and graphic designer by day, how has this breadth of skills developed your creative output?

Probably in ways I don’t even fully realise yet. I’ve worked as a clothing designer, home wear designer, and most recently as a photographer, which I still do a couple of days a week. I’m sure all these skills feed into my work. I remember starting a design job early in my career I’d blagged my way into, and then having to pretend I wasn’t using a tablet and pen for the first time haha! Little did I realise I’d end up obsessively teaching myself to paint with it. Equally, though, after having worked in very digital jobs, getting messy with real paint is a treat.

How has technology played a role in your art?

Style-wise in the last few years, my digital painting has undoubtedly influenced my non-digital painting. I often plan my paintings on Photoshop before I begin. I then use this image displayed on an iPad as a reference at the beginning, before the painting takes on a life of its own. Once upon a time, I’d have been faffing around with a home printer, printing various reference pictures and photographs. Being able to quickly take a photo of a painting in progress and view it in black and white to check the values is so handy.

Instagram has been fantastic too. I’ve had such encouraging and interesting chats with all sorts of folk who otherwise would never have seen my work. Yes, technology has been a game changer in lots of ways.

What is your process for selecting settings? Do you prefer urban or rural scenes?

I take reference photos all the time while I’m just going about my life. I have folders and folders of them clogging up my phone, hard drives and online storage. I like generally overlooked or unusual viewpoints; they feel more real and authentic. I don’t think I have a preference between urban and rural scenes, I’ve painted lots of seascapes and rural scenes in the past. I’m just painting aspects of my experience, which happens to be more urban at present.

How does your style suit Manchester, or vice versa?

I like dramatic contrasts of darks and lights, and Manchester early on a sunny morning is perfect – all deep shadows and shafts of light between the buildings, catching the details of old buildings and the shiny new ones. Manchester is changing and being redeveloped at an astounding rate at the moment and the contrast of old and new architecture is really interesting. There is also a rich history here of artists depicting urban and street scenes; the most famous proponents of the Northern Art School being Valette and his pupil LS Lowry. There is a certain nostalgia and personal resonance for me with Manchester being home, but I hope to show the familiar in an unusual and contemporary way. I’m interested in light and emotional atmosphere just as much as the specific location.

The Corner of Oxford Road

What are your resolutions for 2020?

Do more of what I enjoy… No, wait; that can only lead to trouble. Paint more. Yes, paint more – that’s it!

manchesterartprints.com/sarah-connell

@connellart

Ian Pennington