Sarah Danes Jarrett


I have always worked on people, faces,  I love the translucency & reflection of skin,

furrowed lips, long curving necks,  confrontational eyes narrate a story I can't vocalise. 

My style is paradoxically chaotic and controlled, brazen and aggressive brush strokes form soft curves, 

precisely cut with a sharp edge.  

My controlling personality constantly tries to form some order  in a world that is constantly in flux. 

I use colours that bear no similarity to our skin.  My shameless scale breaks our intimacy barriers.”

Good Taste Magazine  2016

You describe your artwork as ‘naturalistic’. Can you elaborate on what that means?

I mean that it is derived from nature, from things that actually exist in our world, but depicted through my eyes and my technique, some opposites of naturalism would be abstract work such as a Picasso and the realism seen in the work of Chuck Close.

Hues of red feature prominently in your work, what draws you to the colour?

Without sounding gory, the red is our blood, you know that our skin is translucent right ? Well, the red is what flows beneath our skin and if you look closely you'll see how none of the colours I have used are actual “skin “ colours, yet when you see all the reds, purples blues and greens together they “appear“ like skin.

What was the first thing you ever painted, and what made you decide to become an artist?

The first painting was about 20 years ago, a portrait of my father.

Becoming an artist wasn't a decision, it's the only thing I have ever done, at school the one lesson I enjoyed and took seriously was art, then I trained and worked as a graphic designer which to me is also an art, so becoming an artist was just a change in medium rather than a change in career.

You have a background as a graphic designer; do you bring a graphic element into your work? If so, how?

Definitely. All the same rules apply wether you're a designer, photographer,

painter, sculptor, or even here on this page as a magazine art director, we all employ the principles of balance, dimensional thirds, colour opposites, contrast and so on.

Do you paint from live models? How do you choose your subjects?

I have sketched from live models but when it comes to oil painting the process is just too long to ask someone to sit for days on end and the light conditions constantly change, so I ask my friends to pose for me and I  take photographs to work from. I will also google images. Choosing a subject is not easy to explain as it is more instinctive.

What else do you like to do? Any unusual hobbies?

Nothing unusual, I'm afraid I'm very boring so a good book, cooking for friends or fixing up the house and garden is all I need to keep me happy, I also enjoy crosswords and the totally artless challenge of Sudoku as an escape.

Where’s the oddest place a painting of yours has ended up? Please describe.

More a story of an odd couple, from Bulgaria, who spotted one of my 2 x 2 metre portraits in the Hout Bay gallery. The husband was concerned it wouldn't fit inside their new house which was half way built, but his wife made it very clear in loud Bulgarian that she wasn't budging until the architect changed the design. So the obliging husband phoned the architect and had the plans redesigned there and then.

What is your top tip for artists starting out?

Extend yourself, because the more life experience you have the more depth your work will have.

We want two words from you. A word your family would use to describe you, and a word you would use.

I have just asked my kids and they came back with 20 words each, all good and positive I'm happy to say. The word I would use to describe myself is “awkward”.

Who are your favourite SA artists and why?

Deborah Poynton, her paintings (also portraits) are very large and painted realistically with a tiny brush, One canvas must take her 6 months to complete and the many details she includes tell a story that can't be glanced over.

Please include something about your family and where you live now.

My brother also an artist lives in Zimbabwe, while My Mum is a 'swallow' summering in the UK. My 2 teenage children and I live in a victorian home that we are renovating in Wynberg, Cape Town.


1964 born in the UK,

1966 family emigrated to Africa, raised wild in Zimbabwe

1985 qualified with a Graphic Design diploma,

1986 arrived in South Africa and embarked on a highly successful career in the design industry,

         winning three CLIOs and two London International Advertising Awards.

1998 retired from design when she became a mother

2000 purchased her first blank canvas, oil paints and brushes

2002 first painting consigned to the Hout Bay Gallery

2006 erotic art Exhibition, group show, the Hout Bay Gallery

2010 editorial feature in Habitat magazine

2010 works purchased for the Bay Hotel collection

2011 works purchased for the Cape Heritage Hotel collection

2014 featured in House and Leisure magazine

2015 featured ion the cover of Good Taste magazine

2016 ‎South Facing Exhibition, Eclectica design & Art, Cape Town

         Opening exhibition for new Imbizo gallery, Durban

2010 Interview with Sarah Danes Jarrett
Sarah excels on the human form, painting with technically masterful brushstrokes and vivid colour, working with large canvases lends her work a powerful impact.
Did you have a mentor when you were studying Graphic Design in Zimbabwe?
My mentor was Martin Van der Spuy, an anti-apartheid activist, he was our life drawing lecturer, he constantly challenged our narrow mindsets and opened our eyes to the world.

Any mentors now ?Up until recently I sold my work via one gallery only, the owners John and Marika Hargitai have kept me going through my aimless or despondent times, friends and family keep me going too of course.

Do any contemporary artists influence you ?
Jenny Saville for her raw honesty, John Virtue for his large scale brushwork and Lucien Freud for his colour palette.

Now that you are a full time artist, do you find that you are more fulfilled
then you were as a graphic Designer, and if so why?
It bothered me that design was such a disposable thing, all the energy, time and money spent on packaging, brochures, posters that once read were thrown away. Using my talent to sell products I knew little about and in some cases I did not believe in felt wrong.  

Your work is constantly evolving and your concepts are always fresh and original, where do you find your inspiration?  I'm not political, or one for social comment, my art is closer to home, simpler, more humble, I watch people, how they interact, I love subtle body language. Inspiration I get from you, the person standing next to you, my memories, all other artists good and bad, my kids, friends who have strange dreams.....

Do you ever find yourself painting very personal works?
I am a reserved person and find it difficult to “share” so it took some years of painting inanity before I could express an opinion or share a personal experience on a canvas, the first painting I sold was of a bunch of asparagus ! I have done some intensely personal works, I find them difficult to part with but I feel so much more connected to the buyers and I admire them for their bravery in purchasing these pieces.

Your Favourite medium is oils, what other mediums do you work with?
I started with acrylics and have dabbled with other mediums such as ceramic sculpting, etching, but none beat the richness in colour, workability or even the smell of oil.