ASc_V1_1557, 09/01/2014, 11:27, 8C, 5214x5249 (7+1523), 88%, Custom, 1/12 s, R35.0, G12.3, B37.8

Sara Abbott A Sussex Based Animal Artist

Sara Abbott A Sussex Based Animal Artist

Sara Abbott once lived the dreary London 9-5 life; with a company car, a mortgage, a wardrobe laden with grey business suits and a lack of joie de vie to boot.


“My child minder spent more time with my kids than I did. I was constantly drained” she said.

“It took me time to realise it was my hectic job that was weighing me down”. Sara always dreamed of being an artist. She studied at the Camberwell School of Art in the 80’s, but wound up in the dismal corporate side of London. After she was met with immense stress and feeling unfulfilled Sara decided to trade in her pager for a paint brush just after the millennium and move to Brighton to follow her true passion.

“Back then, I did pretty well. In the start, I created classic figurative works using contemporary models. I regularly showcased my work at a gallery called Synergy, which is now known as The Bee’s Mouth on Western Road.” Her love for animal portraiture began when she showcased a piece named ‘Diana the Huntress’. “She was a tattooed lady with a German shepherd. A friend saw this and requested I do a painting of his dog Badger for him. After someone else saw this, the chain of people looking for animal portraits continued and the rest is history.”

She cites Brighton as her greatest source of inspiration, and that the “utopia” at the coast was the catalyst for her freedom. “Moving to Brighton was a true mixing pot of cultures coming from the quiet country village I was raised in. Over time I hopped from studio to studio, initially sharing one with another artist on Farm Road.”

Sara has used a studio in Shropshire for some years now but is currently relocating further north. “There is always more to learn no matter how long you’ve trained, they don’t call it practice for nothing. But as long as you keep positive and creative people around you, you will maintain a love and motivation for what you do.”

Though a savvy business attitude is a requisite she says, for Sara her business is about far more than filling anyone’s purse. “It’s about creating a balance between a robust work ethic and sincere passion that fosters a business to really grow. I’ve done portraits for 15 years now and I love each one of them. It’s imperative to truly listen to your clients vision. It means a great deal for them to immortalise someone they love so dearly, so I endeavour to make it the most wonderful experience I can.” Though certainly most known for her portraiture of our furry friends, she dabbles in a host of other works from wall murals to nude pieces; most famously her Alice in Wonderland piece on Middle Street several years ago.

Sara creates a collection of works once if not twice a year. She says they are a “mix of more unregimented and colourful albums of work, using many different media in tandem with the more refined animal portrait staples.” She has also taken on still life projects saying it has “crept” into her work as of late.

Being an artist of any kind requires a considerable amount of diligence and independence particularly in the concrete jungle of London. Artists often must take on the role of being their own biggest fan in order to persevere up the ranks. Though Sara is confident and says she does not actively seek external praise, she says a certain amount of it is still reassuring.

“What is far more than any material gain is the joy I feel creating art for others. True fulfilment is the only thing that can drive you, but that’s not to say that appreciation from others is not rewarding”.

The most validating experience she had as an artist she says was when she took on the role of in-house animal portraitist at the Harrod’s Pet Department. “At the time, I said to myself that I must be doing a lot of things right”. Sadly, the pet department closed in 2014 but she says it was still an invaluable experience in her career.

However, irrespective of the London glitterati she may have encountered working in such a place, she says that she treats each and every client like an A-lister; as every commission is it’s own unique and exciting exploit. Making personability a top priority of her practice, she visits each client before beginning her piece and has a photoshoot with them. “Right now I’m spending most of my time in the Pennines as I have a studio there. But I’m on the South Coast at least one week per month.” Being on the road it makes it easy for her to visit all of her clients she says. “It’s essential for me to visit them because being send a photo in the post is simply not the same. I spend time with the dog and get to know them a little bit before taking the photograph I will use to create their portrait.”

She says this gives her an opportunity to observe the unique relationship between the dog and their owner. “What kind of atmosphere is it? This helps me capture their true essence and make the most authentic portrait I can”.

Sara is as altruistic as she is artistic, and donates £100 from each commission to an animal rescue causes. Every six months she works with a different organisation, from the RSPCA, PSDA, Dogs Trust and lesser known organisations. She receives promotion from these charities which generates a lot of press. “I give back to dogs as much as I can, and I set myself a target of £2k per campaign.”

Sara has utilised social media to foster her business. Though much of her work comes through word of mouth and is country wide, she still says this is an essential part of her profession. But she also uses social media to keep in touch with these clients, as working together can be such a memorable and emotional experience on both sides. With that said, she still believes it’s paramount to be as present in the “real world” as she is online. “What I do is such a personal thing. It’s lovely to keep in touch and to meet new people via the web, but it’s important I spend a lot of time meeting my clients too in order to really connect”.

Sara says it is a “privilege” to capture these stories and make them last a lifetime. “No piece is more important than another, I treat each work as if it’s the most important commission I’ve ever made”.

You can check out Sara’s work at

Wesbite – www.sara-abbott.com