Introducing Sarah Bee – winner of the Derwent Award at the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2019

As lead sponsor of the Pastel Society Annual Exhibition, we have the difficult job each year of choosing one winner from the eighty artworks to receive £1,000 worth of Derwent product.

It’s never easy, especially with so many fantastic (and varied) pieces of artwork proudly displayed in the Mall Galleries, London. After much debate and discussion, the Derwent team chose Sarah Bee as the recipient of the 2019 Derwent Award.

We interviewed the Devon-based artist to find out how she felt about winning the award.

How did it feel to win the prize?

It was so unexpected; after winning a prize last year, I thought that my chances were slim! The Derwent Award is the first prize given out and when my name was read out, I leapt in the air! None of the executive committee had even dropped a hint to me!

The winning piece: Limes with Ivy 59cm x 59cm

Tell us about your art journey…

I’ve been painting for a long time but more as a graphic designer – which was my role long before the introduction of Photoshop or PC’s. I did want to do a lot of my artwork at college, but it just wasn’t viable at the time.

So I started painting as a hobby, starting with watercolour but for me, the colours were never vibrant or powerful enough.

I then picked up pastels on the suggestion of a friend and I’ve never looked back.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I moved to Devon around a decade ago; after 30 years in London. It’s the perfect location because I’m surrounded by such an array of landscapes and textures. There is Dartmoor, heathland, forests, beaches and rolling hills surrounding me.

You can visit the same places on a different day with different conditions and different emotions and the art created will never be the same. I love the fact that I can influence my own work, as well as the variations in light and weather.

Plus with the differences in texture in Devon, it makes for great artwork.

I define myself as a ‘dancing artist’ too. I love to have BBC 6 Music on when I’m working, listening to new music alongside the classics. I love Christine and the Queens as my one ‘go-to’ artist.

Haldon Forest Gorse 59 x 59cms

Your artwork features a lot of trees…

I love trees, especially during winter as they are gnarled by the elements and have beautiful skeletal shapes.

You’ll see from my winning piece that I’ve focussed on a lime tree – there’s such a difference in textures, due to weathering.

My artwork features lots of trees, it’s a big focus of mine at the moment. But in the summer months, I get out, sketch a lot, plan a lot and take photos of everything I can to prepare me for winter in the studio!

How long have you been using Derwent product?

I think everyone has some Derwent product in their artbox – I’ve been using them for years and years.

But I use a lot of graphite, particularly the Graphic range for basic outlining. The Pastel pencils are ideal for when I’m adding touches of detail here and there.

Personally, my favourite is the Inktense Blocks – what a product! They’re so vibrant and versatile, ideal for underpainting or using to sketch when I’m out on the moor!

For people inspired by you, what tips would you give?

Firstly, I’d say don’t try and tread the path on your own. Search the internet, visit galleries and take inspiration from other artists around you. Don’t steal their ideas, but it’ll help you think about your own art in a completely different way!

Secondly, think about what your tools can achieve! Can you blend them? What marks will they make? How can I adapt them for my own creativity?

Thirdly, and most importantly, don’t give up! It might sound slightly clichéd, but just keep creating. I often paint one scene more than once to achieve the final effect you require.

Find out more about Sarah Bee or via her Instagram at Bee or on her website at