Sarah-Jane Morris - Re-Invention & Inspiration
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Leigh-on-Sea has long provided artistic inspiration, but for Sarah-Jane Morris, it also proved the perfect place to develop a change in style after a life-changing medical condition. Her bold, colourful, “simplistic” images of the local landscape have proved a hit among the community and her first exhibition at a local gallery sold out in two days. Her story is inspirational and illustrates the power of creating.
Sarah-Jane’s life was transformed in an instant three years ago after experiencing a brain haemorrhage. During her recovery, she knew she had to return to painting but was unable to create the fine art images she once had - “I couldn’t just give up painting”, Sarah-Jane stated, “although everything about how I am, how I perceive the world, how I see things changed. It was about finding a way to carry on painting … art just seemed the most natural way for me to get well and occupy my time”.
A new style “just happened overnight and had changed so much – I don’t know where it came from but it made me feel happy.” In place of her previous dark coloured pencil graphite images emerged bright, bold colours. “I don’t want to paint dark things anymore”, she states. “I want my life to be bright and happy.” Brightly coloured animal images emerged which were a “complete and utter change … I’m a completely different person, you have to kind of reinvent yourself and that’s the journey I’m on … finding out where I fit in and making my life calm and happy which I hope reflects in the art that I do”.
Encouraged by a friend and fellow artist, Sarah-Jane exhibited her new style in her then Canvey hometown, the Canvey Art Trail and assisted with sea wall murals. However last year, she fulfilled a 20 year dream to move to Leigh-on-Sea. Walks along the cliffs looking over the Estuary to Kent provided a new inspiration – “Everything was just so pretty and I just wanted to paint what I could see … There wasn’t so much detail as it’s so far and … I see it as quite simple. I sat there with my sketch pad and drew the lines as I could see them”.
A chance encounter with Leigh-on-Sea artist Andy Downes led to a weekend exhibition in his The Little Known Studio gallery last month and her dream of locals experiencing and enjoying her work was realised. The paintings' joyful exuberance and affordability led to huge success - I personally witnessed several customers leaving with a painting under their arm in a very short amount of time when I made a visit!
Depicting the local scene using a credit card, creating 'Wild Gardens' and painting on ceramic tiles are among Sarah-Jane’s latest projects.
However, a recent diagnosis of a second haemerroage and imminent surgery means Sarah-Jane will need to see how her future style is affected – “I don’t know how I’ll perceive things post-surgery – whether it’ll be the same or be completely different again".
“I don’t want this to define who I am though”, she asserts. “There’s so much darkness around it … but I want to let people know there can be a way around getting better and finding something … this isn’t the end but a new beginning. Whatever health condition you have, you can find something, however small, to do with your life”.