Sarah Britten Art

Paintings in lipstick

Painting again after a dry patch

Two weeks ago, I was in a deep creative slump. I couldn’t imagine painting again. Every now and then, I’d experience a faint urge to express myself, but it would soon evaporate.

A Saturday afternoon meeting with a 12 year old changed all of that. Taylynne Cavaliero’s mom, Chanome, and I, had attended Bryanston Primary together. Years later, Facebook brought us back together again.

Chanome told me that her daughter had a school art project and needed to interview a South African artist. So off I went that Saturday afternoon, complete with one of my earliest paintings (from 2002), some lipsticks, a blank piece of cardboard and makeup wipes to clean my hands. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d been feeling utterly uncreative, and generally defeated and depressed.  I wondered what I’d say to an impressionable young person.


In the end, it all happened quite naturally. After meeting her very friendly family (which included a Chihuahua) I sat down at the dining room table. Taylynne asked me a very comprehensive list of questions while she recorded my answers on her phone, and I demonstrated my technique as I talked.


I hadn’t given much thought to what I was going to paint. I randomly selected donated lipsticks from the icecream tub in which they were jumbled and began working with the colours. First a bright orange, then a screaming pink, then black for depth. Then the shapes of the birds created with an earbud. It felt good to create this. It wasn’t perfect, but it felt right at the time.

As a final touch, I added a tiny unicorn in the lower right corner.

Afterwards, we had coffee and cake and chatted. I laughed at stories told by Chanome’s  delightfully friendly mom and smiled as Taylynne came out of her shell, revealing more of the personality behind her more formal interview persona.

This is Taylynne’s art report, completed well ahead of deadline:


It turned out that being forced to paint – how could I possibly say no to a child? – was exactly what I needed. The next day, I completed a painting I’d been meaning to work on for a long time, for Nisha Varghese’s friend Gaynor Young. I had read Gaynor’s post about hearing again after 18 years. The last line reads “..the girl put on her slippers and merrily skipped out of the room”and that is what inspired the painting, which like the post is titled “The Wonder”.

 Lipstick painting of The Wonder


After that, I still wanted to paint more – so I painted a young woman diving into space which could either be air or water, and was neither and both at the same time.

Lipstick painting of swan dive


Gaynor was severely injured after a terrible fall at the State Theatre during a production of Camelot. Her autobiography is titled “My Plunge To Fame” and this painting – titled “Swan Dive” – was a nod to that moment, turning it from something terrible to something beautiful.

The effects of that afternoon have lasted surprisingly well. I painted again the following weekend and I’ll post those images to the site soon. My venture into art was and remains an expensive failure and a defeat from which, If I’m to be honest with myself (and you, dear reader), I will never escape, but at least something of the pleasure in painting has returned. I was worried that it would be gone forever. Thank you to Taylynne and Chanome for helping me find a way out of the morass.

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