Because Instagram is the playground of the creatives, it was inevitable that I would find another artist to interview. And since London is where I live, it made sense that it would be a London-based artist…in fact, the @london_artist1…aka Sharon Walters.
If you asked me to list the things that come to mind when I think of Sharon, one of the top items on my list would be a bold lip. Sharon refers to it as part of her “war paint”. I think she has the largest collection of bright lip colours this side of Heaven. Trust me. Any shade you can think of. Don’t test her. She will win. Another item on the list would be hair. After 20 years of relaxing her hair, and “trying to live up to someone else’s ideal of beauty”, Sharon went natural four years ago. Just like that, she simply went to her hairdresser and asked to have her head shaved. When asked how she feels about her hair now, Sharon admits that she has “never felt more liberated. I love it! I am happier with me. It’s about embracing who I am and being comfortable. Everyday I play around with it.” And she does! This woman can switch it up like nobody’s business. I mean, she’s currently rocking a purple ‘fro. Say no more. While we’re here, let’s add smize to the list. Now, maybe Sharon’s been watching ANTM on repeat or something, cos my girl is channelling Tyra on the regs! But, one of the items at the top of the list would be creativity. She oozes the stuff. If she’s not painting, she’s creating collages. If she’s not creating collages, she’s organising cultural, community events or creating women’s art collectives in West London (check out @artsagender over on Instagram) or just doing her day job – coordinating public programmes in a park and museum 🙃 Sheesh!
Sharon also freelances as an arts facilitator. She has worked with young offenders, delivering painting-based workshops to the young people. Her background is in delivering and facilitating workshops and training teachers in how to deliver the same. She likes working with communities within communities outside of the mainstream, those often perceived by others as outsiders, and has coordinated and delivered both arts and political literacy for children, young people and adults for 10 years.
Sharon acknowledges that she uses Instagram and Facebook as a reminder of the positive things that are going on in her life. But, “as much as Instagram looks perfect, things are happening behind the war paint. For example, I almost didn’t go the party I posted about the other day, as I spent the previous day in excruciating pain”. Smoke and mirrors… Sharon underwent spinal surgery 12 years ago due to a degenerative spinal condition. She did this while working and studying (a two-year foundation and then five years part-time at Central St. Martins). A lot of her art at the time was based on her condition. She produced a series of self-portraits and sound recordings looking at pain and showing how she was actually feeling as opposed to how she was telling everyone she was feeling. Her art provided an outlet. After the surgery, doctors told Sharon that she may not be able to conceive and that running might never be possible. Three years after her surgery, she had her first child. Next month, she is doing a 10km charity run…
This brings me to the other items sitting alongside creativity at the top of my imaginary list: strength and determination.
Thank you for sharing your life with us Sharon.
Hey! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an artist and public programmes co-ordinator for a museum. I am a freelance artist and facilitator. I have recently co-founded a multi-disciplinary artists collective for women living in Ealing. I live in Hanwell, West London with my husband and two kids, aged 5 and 9. I have lived in West London all of my life and have been with my husband for a whopping 23 years! I graduated from Central St Martins’ College of Art and Design as a mature student 6 years ago, just before having my daughter. I am now focussing my attention on furthering my career, post-children, through commission-based work, the artists’ collective and my work at the museum.
Woah! I need to sit down for a minute! That’s an immense amount to be getting on with. You must need ALL the time. When do you get up on a typical weekday morning and what’s the first thing you do?
A typical weekday morning is busy as I work four days. I tend to wake up around 6:30-7:00am, before the kids. It means that I get a little head space before they get up. The first thing I do is I reach for my mobile to check the time. If my husband is awake I say good morning to him first 😁 I follow some truly inspiring women and reading their posts is a good, positive start to the day so I like to take an early peek at Instagram. I have also recently started running, and I prefer to run in the mornings. I run 3 times a week. On the mornings when I’m not running, I try to paint or collage before the kids wake up…unless I’m just too tired, in which case I don’t do any of these things! Anyway, because I work from home and not from a studio, I then clear everything up and we get ready for breakfast. I’m still waiting for that studio though. I haven’t given up hope…
I used to love running too…before my knees began ageing in dog years 😔 Once everyone else is up, what’s your routine like?
My husband makes breakfast for all of us and then I am responsible for getting our two kids ready for school and taking them in. He starts work earlier than me and has a longer commute so leaves an hour earlier than the rest of us. It can get quite hectic in the mornings if things aren’t organised, so I have quite a strict routine regarding timings for things like how quickly I expect them to be dressed.
I hear you, sis. Strict routines are necessary. I mean, you’ve already done your morning run, so you probably want to avoid the literal school run, right? I, on the other hand, know that one well *heavy sigh* So, what time do you leave the house?
I leave the house at 8:30am and take the kids to school before heading to the museum by car. It is a short journey and I love the drive as it’s time where I can listen to loud music all on my own. I tend to listen to the running playlist that I’ve made, which is mainly uplifting, house music.
I occasionally work from home. When I do, I start at 9am after dropping the kids off at school.
So, what is a normal “work” work day like for you then?
I check my emails. Make a ‘To Do’ list. Plough through it. Make calls and plan and manage public programming. Essentially, this involves engaging the public through workshops, talks and tours. My role is to encourage adults, children and families to come into and engage with the museum space and the park.
Uh huh. Sounds like work to me. Can we talk about lunchtime please?
When I’m at work, I take a 30 minute break for lunch at around midday. I tend to eat fish or chicken with salad and sweet potato. I also try to take a short walk in the park.
What a treat working so close to a park! It’d be rude not to take advantage of it, right? What next?
More work as above. I leave the office somewhere between 4:30 and 5. My husband usually picks the kids up from after school club, as I have dropped them off, so I go home and make dinner. I am usually home by 5:30pm at the latest. If he is home before me, he makes dinner. Dinner time is at around 6-6:30pm.
Oh yes! I do like a good, solid, equal division of labour. And what does a typical dinnertime look like?
Well, every day we sit down as a family and eat together. We talk about our day. If I’m having a tough day, I might try to encourage us all to talk about 3 positives. This helps me to refocus and helps the kids to focus on the positive things in their lives.
And what about after dinner?
I try to steal some time to myself if possible by reading after dinner time. The kids go to bed by 8:15pm. My son, who is 9, loves reading and I’m happy for him to read at bedtime until about 9pm.
Yeah, Kid 1 doesn’t want to even touch a book until I tell her it’s time for bed. Then she has about 16 of them lined up to read. KMT! Once the kids are down, do you get a chance to relax?
I relax in the evening by watching TV, meeting up with friends or making something creative. When I am making something I feel calm and free. I love working on commissions as it pushes me to complete a piece and keeps me focussed while doing something I enjoy.
Sounds wonderful! So, you must be feeling all kinds of Zen by the time you’re ready for bed. When is bedtime for you?
(Sharon laughs) If only I went to bed feeling Zen every night! I go to bed at around 11:30pm. By that time, I’ve had a chance to wind down after the kids have gone to bed.
Be honest, how heavily does social media feature in your day?
Very heavily. I look at it throughout the day. I follow mothers, fashionistas and artists who inspire me and help me to maintain a positive outlook.