This month’s cover was designed by “decorative artist” Sarah Arnett. “That sounds like quite an old-fashioned expression,” she says, “but I think that’s what I’ve settled on to describe what I do; it might be on wallpaper, prints, clothing, textiles – but it’s all decoration.”
We were thrilled that Sarah agreed to add magazine covers to that list, and there couldn’t be an artist better suited to illustrate this month’s ‘botanical’ theme. She has “always” drawn inspiration from the natural world: “I find nature – flowers, plants, animals – infinitely interesting and beautiful,” she says. “As a child that’s all I would draw, but I would really pick flowers apart to understand the petals, how they all come together – and I still work that way now. I start off by drawing the different kinds of petals, really taking the time to draw them in great detail. Then I’ll compose the flowers, almost as if I’m putting them back together.” Each flower, or animal, or insect, is created as “an individual ingredient”.
When it comes to bringing a design together, the process is “a bit like composing a stage set,” Sarah explains. “I’ve got the backdrop, I’ve got the ground, and I start to bring all the little characters in, thinking about where the lighting would be and where the shadow would fall. I used to spend a lot of time in the Booth Museum, which is probably why I draw things quite static. I like that sort of taxidermy look, where things are very composed; I’ve never been fascinated by the movement of the animals. I like the way they created a kind of scene in each of those big cabinets: a bird flying up here and a snake slithering down there. When I’m drawing it feels a little bit like that.”
Earlier this year, Sarah launched her first collection of wallpaper designs and she’s busy working on the second. “I also create bespoke wallpaper,” she says. “I’ll go out and have a look at a space and then create the wallpaper specifically for that room, so it’s engineered around the architecture, the doorframes, the mantelpiece. I spent nearly two years working on a beautiful Regency building on the seafront, where the wallpaper design started in one room and grew into the next. It was an interesting creative process.”
And there’ll be another opportunity to see some of Sarah’s work out on the streets of Brighton in the autumn: following on from the popular Snowdogs by the Sea art trail (where Sarah’s decorated dog, Max, raised a whopping £22,000 for Martlets) Snailspace – an installation of 50 giant snail sculptures – will be popping up around the city in September. “I’ve just finished the design for my snail,” Sarah says, “but I can’t say anything about that till the big reveal...” Keep your eyes peeled.