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Friday interview | Sian Jordan on confidence, beauty and ink

A self-taught artist, 38-year-old Sian (pronounced Sea-Anne) found her unique style three years ago when she mixed ink with watercolour. We catch up with the woman behind the art...

By Laura Kingston

I don’t know one person who could walk into Sian’s workspace without a gasp and a smile. A corner studio in Newcastle’s artistic hub, B&D Studios, her corner office is filled with natural light from windows across two walls, a view straight up Northumberland Street and her colourful artwork covering the walls. 

The studio reflects Sian’s personality perfectly; Welcoming, open, confident, feminine and artistic. 

Tell us how you first got into art, is it something you’ve always loved?

I’m South African. I grew up in a suburb of Durban and spent most of my time at the beach. I started drawing at the age of 5 or 6 and just remember having drawings everywhere, stashed under my pillows, under my bed and all across my room. My mum used to show my dad my work and he didn’t think it was me because they were so good – the dimensions and depth were so spot on.

I always sketched on the floor and still do, I like to be over my work. I used to have a humming habit when I was younger – I’d just hum the whole time I was drawing. I became self-conscious of it, as you do when you get older, and I made myself stop in front of other people. Now I hardly do it unless I find myself really caught up in my work. My cousin Nicole was my best friend growing up and she used to laugh because I’d keep all of my pencils in my toes. My drawing was very natural, it was just something I really enjoyed doing. 

Fast forward to five years ago, my son was three and I started to draw again. My partner’s father gave me an old watercolour set and I started to teach myself how to use it. Watercolour is a very difficult medium but I’m not a traditionalist at all. I fell in love when I started to add ink. Mixing ink with water, you really don’t know what it’s going to look like when it’s done, which is what I really like. 

I rarely know what I want to do before I start creating a new piece. There are certain elements I stick to – wet on wet, no prominent lines and blurry outlines. I can come back two days later and add to it. Now I’ve developed a style which is really unique to me, it comes very naturally but it’s also always evolving and I like to experiment with colour and techniques.

You paint a lot of women, where do you get your inspiration?

I find women so visually beautiful. For me, it’s about capturing a moment – I like to show movement and emotion. That feeling of taking your top off at the end of a long day, or taking a minute to breathe out and let your hair fall around your face. I stare a lot at women in the street – it’s real women that I get inspired by. For my nudes, I prefer to paint a fuller, curvaceous lady. Not because I find them more beautiful, I think all women’s bodies are beautiful, but as an artist, I find them more interesting to paint and I love the final pieces. 

How have you been affected by the rise of digital and social media?

When I was younger and finding my own style I used to use Instagram a lot for inspiration. Now, I actually try to not to look at other artists on social media so that I don’t get influenced by other artists. For creatives, social media and Instagram in particular is changing the landscape when it comes to getting your work out there and being recognised. It’s essentially a marketing platform and the benefits can be huge – I get a lot of my business through social media. In terms of other apps, I use Sktchy – people upload images of themselves for artists to use. It stops me having to stop women and ask to take their picture in the street! 

There is something personal about everyone and that’s what I look for. It’s confidence that makes a woman beautiful, regardless of what people categorise her as.

How did you turn your passion into a business?

For me, it’s an escape. It doesn’t feel like work. When I first started creating my business I was worried that a need to make money from my work could make me lose my love for it but it hasn’t at all. The first time I got paid for my art was a commission from an American woman who asked for a painting for her daughter – one of my women with writing on her body. It was at that point I realised I could start to make money from painting and I started to sell more and more of my original work and then prints. 

A lot of creatives struggle with pricing their work – what advice do you have for them?

This is definitely an issue for a lot of artists and something I struggled with myself when I first started out. I used to discount a piece just so I could say I’d sold it but now I’m much more confident and consistent in my pricing. You have to ask yourself, what is this worth to you? I want art to be accessible and enjoyed. I encourage my customers to rotate their artwork – you don’t need to keep the same pieces on the wall all of the time. It’s important to keep the price point reasonable but make sure you know the value of your work and price it appropriately. 

Let’s get to know you better! 

Go out or stay in? 

I’m a home bird! I love spending time with my partner Geoff and son Freddie. Geoff has always been really supportive and helps me out a lot with the business.  We love the comfort of our own home, watching TV shows like The Marvellous Mrs Marvel and Fargo

Favourite drink? 

I like red wine and gin. I love a Bloody Mary. But I’m not a big drinker. I drink a lot of tea during the day and have just started drinking coffee again after a 20-year break! 

Favourite snack?

Pomegranate or almonds at the studio, or garlic stuffed olives at home. I’m a savoury girl but if I had to choose a sweet treat it would be Fry’s turkish delight – straight from the fridge! 

Favourite place in the world?

We love Berlin for its laid-back vibe, culture and food. 

What do you listen to?

Erykah Badu. 

Interesting fact?

The first time I used the internet I was 21! I was working away at a Summer Camp in America. 

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