Todmorden, a small market town, probably not a place you’d credit with the makings of a talented graffiti artist and graphic designer but take a look at its official tourist information site and you’ll see it boasts being ‘blessed with stunning scenery’ and has a ‘thriving art community’.
So when I get chatting to Sarah Yates – the woman behind local graphic design, street art and illustration sensation Faunagraphic, who takes a huge chunk of her inspiration from nature – and she begins by telling me that she hails from the creative hub of Todmorden, I decide to dive straight in and find out more about her artistic roots.
“Even though I liked drawing people as a kid, nature always interested me a lot more,” explains Sarah. “The way everything works, I have a respect for that – it’s much more interesting than just drawing a portrait of someone you know.”
Sarah is a talented young woman who creates art that you fall in love with a little bit more each time you look at it and she has an inspirational story to tell, too. Her love for drawing began at a young age, when she would watch her mum sketching characters for the children’s stories she wrote. The skill rubbed off on the young Sarah and she went on to study a graphic design course at Halifax College despite a battle with acute myeloid leukaemia.
Sarah, 23, has been working as a freelance artist since the age of 17 and chose the business name ‘Faunagraphic’ as a nod to her love for nature. “Being able to draw nature gives me many more ideas; it means I can do so much more than just draw patterns.” Her work has been described as ‘an imaginative mix of art meets graphic design’ and Sarah plans to take her talents as far as possible, branching out into creating more designs for clothing ranges and snowboard designs.
Sarah credits her graffiti art for attracting wider attention to her other artistic skills. “My graffiti art is popular with people and has helped to push my name and my other skills a bit more. “No one in my home town did graffiti but I wanted to learn the art. I liked the 123 Klan, who mixed graphic design with graffiti and I wanted to do it as well.”
Graffiti has done more than boost Sarah’s talents; it was also the shared passion that brought her together with her partner, fellow graffiti artist known as Rocket01, who she now lives with just outside of Sheffield.
“I met Chris (Rocket01) when I started going painting alot, we would hook up to go painting every weekend and fell into a relationship. It’s worked out really nice. We’re on the same wavelength; we both like nature and things that are organic and quirky. On occasion, we’ve done mural projects together.”
But graffiti art doesn’t come without its hassles as Sarah found out when she and her crew ended up in a police cell after a passing horse rider took offence to the art that they were creating. “Graffiti art has landed me in a couple of sticky situations; it’s been 50/50,” she explains. “We were once painting on a derelict quarry and the police came along but they weren’t bothered because they liked what we were doing. “Another time, a horse rider saw us painting in a legal spot and called the police so we spent ten hours in a police cell, just because police have to act on the reports they receive from an area.”
Looking to the future, there’s no doubt that it’s really about to take off for Faunagraphic as the artist has her fingers in plenty of creative pies. Last year, Sarah opened a studio in Ball Street, just within the Kelham Island quarter of Sheffield, that she shares with Rocket01. They host range of workshops both in the studio and on location that anybody can take part in – such as sketchbook sessions, marker pen murals and art and t-shirt design – and no two workshops are the same. What’s more, ‘Res Nullius’, an exhibition of Faunagraphic’s detailed canvases in inks, spray paint and prints, based around the theme of abandoned buildings and wildlife, recently opened at The Old Sweet Shop in Sheffield and runs until the end of June. ‘Res nullius’ translates as ‘nobody’s property’ and the work on display uses the the theme to examine the idea of finding ownership in lost and abandoned things.
If you wander in to The Old Sweet Shop in Nether Edge Road, you’ll see that the work displayed there by Faunagraphic is truly stunning, but Sarah takes a modest approach to her work. “It would be nice if it gets a lot of people coming in; it might do ok,” she says. Projects are cropping up on a national and international scale, too. Faunagraphic will be teaming up with a range of talented graffiti artists to take part in ‘Upfest 2010’ in June, the third annual urban paint festival held in Bristol, home to street artist legend Banksy. She’s also part of an exhibition in Amsterdam with The London Police, the street artists who spread love on the streets of the world with pens and stickers.
“I get lots of invites to go and work abroad,” says Sarah. “It’s exciting because I’m having the opportunity to paint with artists that I looked up to when I was studying.” Sarah has already seen her designs printed on Head snowboards after winning a competition and as a keen snowboarder, she is excited by the prospect of more work in this field.
Although she has already begun branching out into the clothing and accessories market – with limited edition Faunagraphic hoodies and organic bags available through the website – it looks like Faunagraphic could soon be dominating this market too as Sarah is currently designing a new clothing range for Ed Hardy. “There’s more to come; this is only the beginning,” added Sarah. Couldn’t have summed it up better myself.
Check out more of Faunagraphic’s amazing work at www.faunagraphic.com