I often get asked how I started as an artist. The truth is I’m not sure!
I think I’ve always been an artist…. I’ve just tried really hard to cover it up!
I grew up in the beautiful bushveld of northeast South Africa, surrounded by wildlife and nature. Along with my parents and brother I was lucky to make frequent visits to the nearby Kruger National Park, which definitely inspired my life-long passion for wildlife. I also had an eclectic mix of beloved pets, including a hamster, rescued dog, a mistreated horse and an orphaned goat named Wally.
It wasn’t until my final year of high school that I really tried anything arty. My family had moved to KwaZulu-Natal and my new school wouldn’t allow me to take only science-based subjects, so I tried art for the first time ever… and ended up
getting a distinction. But my love of science and animals prevailed and I pursued biological sciences at university, majoring in Zoology and Entomology (BSc Hons), which led to a PhD in evolutionary ecology (on bird colouration) in Sweden.
The next stop was Australia where I was an academic researcher for 12 years, working with the incredibly colourful and endangered Gouldian finch. Although I loved my academic work my creative side was ever-present and in my spare time I tried various creative courses, ranging from painting, ceramics and sculpture to metal welding.
During one of these creative bursts, I tried mosaics at a local Saturday morning class… and I caught the bug!
Around this time fate chose another path for me and I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and advised to discontinue with a stressful academic career. Although it was hard to leave Australia, I returned to South Africa for treatment (bringing with me my self-appointed best friend, Jade, who I had found as an abandoned puppy on an outback road when I first arrived in Australia).
To keep me busy and distracted during the gruelling medical treatments I decided to take up mosaicing. I started with the traditional mosaic tiles but very soon began experimenting with different techniques and materials, trying to find my own unique style. Indeed, experimentation has been, and continues to be, a fundamental part of my development as an artist, and I am continuously developing new techniques, approaches and materials to remain fresh and innovative.
Within two years of first cutting a tile, I sold a mosaic of a kingfisher and
officially became Sarah Pryke, Full-time Artist.
My love for nature and animals has never waned. When I’m not in the studio working, I’m out walking my new friend, 3-legged rescue dog, Joey, or playing and cuddling with Charlie, officially the cutest cat in the world. Living in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, I am fortunate to be close to nature, with cheeky monkeys visiting the studio daily, a spectacular array of birds and wildlife in the garden and so many inspiring scenes in the local countryside. I am also close to game parks and I spend as much spare time as I can in the bush gaining inspiration from the birds, animals and flora.
It might not be the career I expected to have, but as they say ‘Every cloud…’. Each and every day I feel so privileged that I can spend my days working on something that I absolutely love.