Building a business from art
Fine artist Sophie Slade is making a name for herself
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By Sarah Becker
It’s been three years since Sophie Slade graduated from the University of Northampton with a first class degree in fine art.
In that time, Sophie, 25, from Wootton has built up a full-time art business, which started from painting Northampton buildings in diverse colours.
Many aspiring artists would have settled for an ‘ordinary’ job when starting out, and painting as a side hustle to start with, but Sophie had only one career aspiration.
“I graduated in 2020 and was quite set on the fact that I only wanted to do art. People had told me that I’d need to get a normal job and then build my income gradually but I found I needed all the hours I had to put into the business.
“Actually I didn’t officially graduate,” she says. “We went into lockdown in March 2021 and I used the lockdown to build a collection. Fortunately there was also no one around at that time saying to me, ‘when are you going to get a proper job?’”
At university she had enrolled on its Enterprise Boost scheme, which helps students and graduates to become self-employed and start their own businesses and social enterprises.
Sophie reveals that she started off her business by painting her first collection of 10 Northampton buildings using a diverse colour palette. The collection was called: Painting the town in Colour.
“I knew I wanted to use colour as I had spent my whole degree experimenting with it and exploring subject matters. I thought animals had been painted hundreds of times, but Northampton buildings hadn’t had their spotlight yet and I felt I was the first one to do it.
“I thought if I took photos of buildings in black and white, and painted them in different colours, it would draw attention to the architecture.”
It was a concept that was commercially-driven - she knew she wanted to make a full-time living from her art.
“The idea was that I would paint the building and then post on social media and tag the business.
“In the beginning, it didn’t really work,” she says, “but now people seem to know who I am, they get quite excited at the fact that I am going to paint their building.”
Sophie paints in acrylics and her style is very detailed. It usually takes about two weeks to complete a painting with some taking longer such as her highly detailed painting of The Guildhall in Colour which took four weeks to complete.
“I love painting evening scenes with lights – that has become a specialist subject for me,”she says.
“By painting the buildings in colour, it really makes people observe buildings in a new light.
“I love drawing attention to things people don’t normally notice as they look at eye level but if you just look up and around at the buildings there is a plethora of detail that normally goes unnoticed. I love making people more aware of what’s around them.”
Once she has painted an original painting of a building, she photographs it and reproduces prints which she sells on her website for an affordable £30.
“I’ve had offers from people selling my prints but the commission would be so high I’d rather sell them independently.”
Her business has diversified in other ways too. She takes commissions for acrylic paintings and sells jigsaws of some artwork - some of which are sold in Northampton Museum and Art Gallery – and also runs art workshops.
In May she is hosting a themed workshop entitled Art Jam for the first time in Saints Coffee in Stony Stratford as well as her monthly workshop at Saints Coffee in St. Giles Street, Northampton.
At each workshop, Sophie demonstrates painting a themed painting. Participants are then encouraged to create their own pieces and experiment with acrylics while Sophie is on hand to offer advice.
“I feel quite inspired watching other people paint and seeing the positive impact it has on them.”
Looking to the future, Sophie wants to explore more creative ways to develop her business, and to paint Northamptonshire landscapes. She has just finished a scenic painting of a canal seen through a bridge at Stoke Bruerne entitled: Spring Breeze at Stoke Bruerne. Could Salcey Forest, Becket’s Park or even the Racecourse become the subjects of future paintings?
Looking around her small room and art studio in Wootton, Sophie gives a grateful grin.
“I never dreamed that my business was going to go as well as it has,” she says. “I actually hadn’t thought a few years ago that this could actually be real life whilst my friends and family around me are doing ‘normal’ jobs but I am very grateful that I’ve managed to achieve making a living from my art.”
You can see all of Sophie’s paintings and details of her workshops on her website at Sophiesladeart.com.