Sophie Long is a Bristol artist who mainly works in Acrylics, exploring the boundaries of expressive art, usually in the way of exuberant animal portraits. She says ‘Following in my father’s footsteps and growing up in an innovative family, I found it very easy to express myself creatively. I knew sitting in an office for the rest of my life was never for me, but to take the plunge and say “I am an Artist” is the most terrifying but incredible thing I have ever done.’
Bit of background and how you got into art.
I have always been creative, probably held a paintbrush before I could walk. I remember being as young as 6 sitting round the dining table with my father trying to imitate everything he painted. Art was all I was ever interested in. I had a handful of jobs.. none I could say I loved and I suppose being an artist has always been a dream I thought would never come true, until about 18months ago when I had a rugby accident where I tore the ligaments in my knee. Being house bound and waiting for my operation, my painting hobby turned into a daily fix. I was being asked to paint commissions and started to sell my own artwork. Before I knew it I was making a living from it. I was lucky to get pop up exhibitions around Bristol, I applied to everything art related that was local to just get my name out. I had a website made and branded myself as SOPHIELONGART. I successfully applied to Upfest last year, which for me was my biggest stepping stone, having such an incredible and successful time there, I was then invited back to exhibit my work at Upfest gallery on North street with 7 other female artists. I then continued to exhibit my work there through out the year. Being put forward to various events and opportunities, one being painting the huge Cormorant that hung at Wapping Wharf for 5months, which I later donated to this years Upfest fundraiser. I had an exhibition at Better Foods in St Werburghs, which incredibly got me my first proper mural. An entire house. The owner had seen my farm themed exhibition at BF’s and commissions me to create an entire farm scene on the front of her house, which I have pretty much finished now. Last week I was on Made in Bristol, TheCrunch talking about upfest and my this years festival piece.. all these things have added to my incredible journey as an artist so far. I continuously want to reach further, be better, be known and get my art work seen by the many.
Influences on your work
During my A levels I was obsessed with an artist called Jenny Saville. Her subject matters were very much out of the box, but her use of acidic tones, under-colours, using colour which maybe wouldn’t be seen with the naked eye. Ever since then I was so interested in using blue and green undertones, exaggerating reds and highlighting yellow, it’s like someone dragged the contrast bar up on photoshop and that’s how I saw art. Jenny inspired me from the ages of 16 upwards. I still see her work as beautiful, although I know some would see it as bizarre.
I guess I find my influences through sharp photography. If I wasn’t artistic and creative I always said I would have been a vet, because I absolutely adore animals, of all shapes and sizes, big and small. I find different species incredible. And when I see a beautiful photo, rather than see if for what it is, my usual first thought is “Ah, I want to paint that”. I sometimes see what I want to paint before I digested the image properly. That’s the joy of Pinterest and Instagram. Just seeing someone’s, anyone’s photo, whether it be taken by a famous artist or not, if I can see potential in it I will more times than not decide to paint it.
Can you tell me a bit about previous exhibitions / events / festivals / walls – what have you been doing?
Illuminated – Upfest Gallery Oct 2016 – After upfest last year, myself and 7 other female artists who took part in Upfest 2016 for a chance to exhibit 6 pieces of work for the all female exhibition.
The Victoria Park – Sophie Long exhibition – a variety of my recent pieces hung for a month.
Better Food – Sophie Long The Farm exhibition – 7 farm themed paintings hung for a month.
Mural – Stokes Croft/Kingsdown – next to the Hare on the Hill Pub – a farm/cow scene on an entire house (scaffolding still due to come down)
Tell me about the shows / events you have coming up this year
I have actually very recently applied to Artrooms London, which is an International Contemporary Art Fair for Independent Artists. There is a panel of judges who pick the artists due to exhibit their work, which have already been picked. Then there is also a popularity/public vote and the artist with the most votes get the opportunity to exhibit their work for the 4 days in January 2018, amongst some top contemporary artists from all over the world. I registered 5 days ago and in that time I have managed to accumulate over 2000 votes and I am currently in first place. The voting is simple and takes seconds. Simply head to:www.art-rooms.org/applications/long/ And click VOTE FOR THE ARTISTVoting ends in 2 weeks (5th Aug) and then the winner will be crowned.
I am also taking part in the Bristol Art Trail the first weekend of September. It is an open house exhibition, artists all over Bristol have and still can register, there is an app where you can plan your map to see the artists you want to see. I plan to fill my entire house with art.. and I hope I shall have many come to see.
Tell me about your acrylic on canvas Ivory IV
This piece was the extension of my Upfest piece 2016. Although a very different style, I have kept the name and numbered them. Personally I think Elephants are incredibly beautiful animals. They feel emotions just like we do. They are loyal family members. And sadly they rapidly becoming extinct. My style as you will know flows with gravity. Which I find can also accentuate the sadness in their eyes. Running like tears. The multicolour expressing their beauty, and the composition expressing their bravery.
And can you tell me about PANDAMONIUM
This piece I had actually seen a series of Bob Lazo photos, he had captured some beautiful pandas up close with very dark backgrounds. They looked like fluffy white floating heads. I knew instantly I wanted to work with a white on black palette, and well it would be a Sophie Long without a drip of colour. Naturally in my style with drips and flicks of paint.. I feel I managed to capture the soft and sweet eyes of the panda, what with them being so playful and dopey, I wanted to capture that essence and I feel I did.
What is important to you about your art?
That other people see it how I do. That the animals expressions portray the message I’m trying to get across. The sadness of the animals becoming extinct, or the brightness and the happiness from the beauty of the animals lucky enough to be ripe in their strength and loved enough to be preserved. I’ve been told that my art work has lifted someone out of a dark place, that they found my art beautiful enough to cheer them up enough to think “you know what, I can be happy” .. that in itself made me feel so much joy.
Can you tell me something about what you will be doing for Upfest?
I will be painting an animal so incredibly beautiful, sadly one of not many left in this world. All to be revealed next week.
What are you looking forward to about Upfest ?
Just the general feeling, being surrounded by people who love the same thing as you, who express themselves in the same way you do. Upfest is just an incredible confidence boost.
See Sophie’s work at Ashton Gate Stadium
Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017