SHARRON Blackmore started painting properly two years ago. You might find that a bit hard to believe, given the array of accomplished animal portraits on these pages.
She injured her foot, she says, and “needed something to occupy myself”.
There had been previous, short-lived false starts. “I’ve tried several times in the past to paint, but something always cropped up and I never pushed on,” says Sharron.
“This time I was sitting in a holiday cottage and I had no option. I bought myself some art materials and off I went.”
One of those things that “cropped up” was breast cancer. Sharron, who lives in Houghton- le-Spring, says she has been clear of that now for three-and-a-half years.
This is good news, because her animal portraits – done first in pastel but now more often in acrylics and oils – are attracting a growing number of fans.
This weekend she is off to London because her pastel picture of an Irish wolfhound, which she called Gentle Giant, has pride of place at an art exhibition called It’s All About Art.
It was organised by the Society for All Artists (SAA) which encourages all people, amateurs and professionals, to paint and currently has 46,000 members.
Sharron’s dog portrait won her the SAA’s June Atherton Beginner Award 2011. It beat 5,000 other artworks to land the title which comes with £100-worth of art materials and an engraved crystal goblet.
Naturally, Sharron was delighted. “You always hope that your work might be selected but I didn’t expect anything, to be honest. You don’t raise your hopes up.”
It was probably inevitable that Sharron would paint dogs. She once had 11 of them and showed German wire-haired pointers and miniature wire-haired dachshunds.
She reckons walking them daily, in several shifts, were what did for her foot. She and husband John, who has also taken up painting, only have two dogs now.
And you might be surprised to learn that one of them isn’t an Irish wolfhound. Sharron spotted the subject of her prize-winning painting at a championship dog show at Wetherby racecourse.
“I took a pet portrait course online and we were set little assignments. One was a head study. I decided to go to a dog show and take some photographs.
“I saw this dog looking at me and he had such a lovely look about him, so I thought: ‘I’ve got to do him’.”
Do him she did. And while she has no idea if the dog went on to win a prize at the show, her painting of him has landed her a very nice prize.
Sharron, who is 54, says she has become fond of the Gentle Giant picture, but would part with him for the right price.
“He’s not one of my dogs, you see, so I think I’d have to let him go.”
You can see Gentle Giant and other entries at the exhibition, which runs at the Islington Design Centre in London from today until Saturday.
You can find out more about the SAA on their website, www.saa.co.uk