For the second interview from our Meet The Maker Series, we talk to Sophie Harden. One of our most popular artists at The Wedding Present Company, Sophie specialises in wildlife paintings, and bespoke commissions of pets and horses. Join us as we chat to Sophie about her inspiration, her favourite commissions to date, what the future holds and her favourite wedding presents.
I started Sophie Harden Art in 2016 following a five year career in marketing. With a move out to Oxfordshire and inspired by the wildlife and sporting lifestyle that surrounded me, life took a different path forged into the art world. Over three years down the line I haven’t looked back. I've sold my unique art in London and local galleries, done private work and commissions that I've shipped as far as Australia and the Middle East.
I have always drawn and painted, back from my early days it was a huge distraction from lessons as my text books suggested! Horses and African animals adorned many of my books and art was always my favourite subject gaining me one of the highest marks for A Level in the country... I think the life-sized elephant clinched it! Having only been taught at school and not ‘professionally’ trained it has given me the possibility to paint what I love and not follow rigid a concept or formula.
I use a contemporary, fluid technique which allows movement to flood the painting, to form my animals and sporting scenes. I use a very limited pallete of colours, often using a contrast of white oil on bright background colours which I work to accentuate the adaptation of light, making the viewer perceive a 3D object from often just small marks and brushstrokes. Using bold, but limited colours, buyers find my art works well with their interiors allowing the painting not to dominate the overall effect they may be wanting to create in their room.
Inspiration comes from several sources including studying masters of animal art in the works of David Shepherd, Sir Alfred Munnings, Christian Hook to name a few. However, nearly all of my subjects, settings and compositions come from real life experiences and photography. I love to explore and travel with my work taking me to some extraordinary corners of the world including Kenya and Namibia in recent years. To see the animals I paint in real life, to understand their movement and their behaviour gives me a first hand experience of how to capture this in a 2D form. I hope to continue my travels to far and wide and continue to grow my portfolio of work.
I certainly do. I specialise in horse and dog portraits in both oil and pastel, giving a lifelong memory of that special pet. In more recent times and especially following glorious honeymoons in Africa, I have been asked to capture memories of wildlife and special moments on canvas. It is such a privilege to be able to record such important memories in people’s lives and being a romantic at heart, I do cherish a good love story.
This is tough hard to pick one as I have a couple. My favourite African painting to date and one of my best sellers is "Paradise". The colours are fantastic and it goes in any room. I have one in my bedroom at home, but they work in kitchens, living rooms – anywhere. You cannot beat a good flamingo! Then on racing side of the spectrum it has to be “Goggles Down". The colour and the movement work so well together and although it is pretty simplistic, using simple marks and loose brushstrokes, it gives such a sense of speed and momentum across the painting.
I have quite a bit of my own work on my walls - having just moved house, I do have quite a bit of wall space to fill! However, I have recently been buying pieces from artists I follow with the aim to buy more if my bank balance allows! My favourite piece is an underwater charcoal by Patsy McArthur, she has such a way with the most simplistic techniques to create atmospheric and absorbing work. I also have a print of a tiger from Snaffles which is just pen and ink wash, so accurate in form, but overall sketchy which I love. Then as a total contrast to take me back to my London days, I have a scene of The Houses of Parliament by Ian Weatherhead. This bright vivid painting takes me straight back to those hectic commutes through Westminster and the bright lights and buzz of London.
Sophie Harden Art has been running for nearly four years and has gone from strength to strength with sales going globally, so the plan is further expansion! I had planned a few exhibitions for 2020 all of which have been postponed or cancelled due to Covid-19. With this in mind, I am now planning to launch an online 'Isolation Exhibition' later in the year. This will include work from my Namibian trip in 2019 and new ideas that I have been plotting during this down time. There have been many helpful and supportive groups and incentives within the art world during these tricky times, one which has been the Artist Support Pledge. This is through Instagram where work and sketches are sold for anything under £200, then when you have sold £1000 worth of work you pledge to buy another artist's work. It has been great to keep things ticking over, however I pray for everyone that things return to normal soon. I also hope that all those reading this still manage to have the weddings they deserve and of course a huge shout out goes to the NHS and all essential working staff, this country would not be standing without you!
As a past WPC bride I have chosen some of our favourite presents from our list, as well as some new items that have since been added to your portfolio. I absolutely love all of our wedding presents, they serve as the most wonderful reminder of our special day. We continue to recommend WPC to all our friends and family, no one else comes close to the reassuringly personal service that you guys provide, and your selection of brands is so much more special and unique than any other gift list company!