Down below The Windsor Workshop people bustle by. Chapel Street is noisy with traffic, coffee machines and business workers talking on their mobile phones. Everyone looks to be in a hurry. Even the young student beside me seems in a rush to put out his half smoked cigarette. But up above the streetscape, it is still. A relatively serene space beckons you in. Big arched windows draw in the natural light; it reflects on the polished boards and drapes pale yellow shapes across the exposed brick wall. The room is sunlit in the winter mise-en-scène.
It is within this little alcove that Sarah set up an art studio with her sister, Bree. The Hankinson sisters are both artistic. There are flowers loosely arranged on an wooden bench top, a few bottles of wine lay to the side, slinky Mac computers adorn a few desktops and paint palettes lay scattered about. It is a nice place to be in. It is here where the younger of the pair, Sarah, has created much of her artwork.
“Initially, I just thought I had to get a job in graphic design if I was ever going to make any money. So I did a year studying graphic design at Uni and pretty much realised straight away that it wasn’t for me, that I wasn’t all that good at it and I didn’t really enjoy it so I quit and started studying fine art and after three weeks I thought, ‘Oh no! This isn’t really for me either.’
My Mum said that she found an illustration TAFE course. That was in 2002 when it wasn’t such a big thing as it is now. I did that and absolutely loved it! It was the perfect combination for me- drawing but commercially- so drawing with more of a purpose.”
Sarah’s drawings mix seductive glamour, with a vixen, femme-fatale hue. The skeletal outline is of deceivingly simple execution. The defined lines structure the finery and the splashings of colour draw the eye. Delicate shading accentuates the detail and the features emerge with a dangerous beauty.
“I use grey led pencil but as soon as I take it into Photoshop I enhance the contrast so it looks like a sharper black line. I think it’s important to add some sort of interest and contrast and impact using a bright or strong colour.”
“For ages, even when I was drawing for long hours after work and on the weekends I would still say to people, “I’m a receptionist” and my sister would say to me, “You’re an illustrator”, but it didn’t feel like a real job and I didn’t think I was allowed to say I was an illustrator just yet.”
Sarah’s clients range from Portmans to David Jones, to global brands such as Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and Maybelline.
“I once got an email from Stella McCartney asking me to draw at her event in New York. They weren’t aware that I was in Melbourne. That blew me away. I looked at the event afterwards and Jerry Seinfeld and Anna Wintor were there and so I could have been as well. I was very tempted to buy a ticket but it was all too much too soon.”
“I got my first publication in Girlfriend Magazine. Once you have one thing published it makes it much easier to show that you can do it and you have done it.
From there, things just started to roll along.”
Things just didn’t happen overnight for Hankinson. Since a young age, she dedicated much of her time to art, drawing and colouring, finding her own style later down the track.
“The first day that I start a job, I always feel a bit nervous starting with a blank piece of paper.
I think it’s good, though. You have to have those nerves because it keeps you excited and you want a bit of a challenge.
“Today I’ve been listening to The National, Kanye West and the new album by Angus and Julia Stone. I listen to quite an eclectic mix of music.”
There is a playful quality to Sarah’s artwork and a youthfulness. She loves to travel and sightsee and this is reflected in the artwork that she makes.
What started as a hobby for Sarah has now turned into a day job. She is one of those lucky few who combine love and work into one. Her illustrations now make their way out of her studio and into shops and homes. The vivid colours brighten the dwindling winter here in Melbourne and cheer up many a beige setting around the world.