Meet Minty Sainsbury: the woman building cities from pencil and paper

If you’ve played Pictionary recently, you’ll have remembered fairly quickly that drawing something that looks even remotely close to what you intended is a lesson in patience and skill. In short, drawing is a lot trickier than it looks. But, for some, bringing to life realistic sketches is something that places them at the top of their architecture classes at Cambridge University and brings them a joyous career.

Meet Minty Sainsbury, a woman who has well and truly mastered the art of putting pencil to paper. Here’s what she told us about what she does…

Tell us what you do…

I am an artist specialising in pencil drawings of architecture. I have been working full time as an artist for a little under two years; this involves organising exhibitions, getting involved in group shows and doing commissions. When I first started drawing I posted my work on Instagram as a way to motivate myself when I was working alone and in need of some feedback and encouragement. Social media has now become a really exciting and important part of my work. I share daily updates showing the progress of my drawings and now have over 40,000 people following these daily photos!

How did you get into drawing buildings for a living?

I have always loved architecture and historic buildings in particular but I never set out wanting to be an artist. In fact, I studied architecture at Cambridge and then went on to work in an architectural practice in London with the plan of pursuing that as a life-long career. But when I was working in the firm I found that drawing no longer has a place in the modern architectural office.

Minty Sainsbury

Hand drawing was my favourite thing about being an architecture student so now it was no longer part of my everyday life I realised how much I missed it. When I quit my job I had no idea what I wanted to do; looking back I think I wanted to either do product or interior design but essentially had no clue! In the week after leaving my job I did a bit of sketching and really enjoyed it, then chose to do a larger drawing of a church I had once photographed in Paris and the rest was history!

You’ve completed quite a few exhibitions, what are your top tips for someone thinking of doing their own pop-up?

Putting on your own exhibition is really great fun if you are an organiser and enjoy the process but is really hard work! My first solo show I found a space to rent, then had to get all my work framed and transported from Scotland to London, order the food and drinks, and most importantly get people to come along.

My advice to anyone wanting to do their own exhibition would be to try and keep costs to a minimum by finding a cheap gallery to rent, this will take the pressure off you feeling like your whole financial stability depends on you selling enough work to pay back the £10,000 gallery space! Most importantly just enjoy it, it’s so much fun inviting everyone you have ever known to an event you have organised.

What have been your three biggest hurdles so far and how did you deal with them?

Loneliness would definitely be the first hurdle that comes to mind. It was a huge transition going from working in an office with people always there to chat to so working from home at first was really lonely in comparison. My first idea to combat this was to get a dog but thankfully I didn’t act on this impulse…although still thinking about it! Something that has been a great remedy for loneliness has been listening to podcasts and audiobooks, even if you’re going a bit crazy from being by yourself at least you feel you’re learning something! In the past month, I joined a studio space that I share with other artists and I’m absolutely loving it!

Minty Sainsbury

Secondly, I think getting your name out there is really difficult and getting a wider audience to see your work. When I was drawing away in my bedroom I did panic a bit that no one was ever going to want to see my drawings apart from my granny.

Because I really love what I do I would happily do it every day of the week, and switching off is really hard. I am sure anyone who runs their own business probably feels the same that it is difficult to just relax at the weekend and do nothing when you know that your hard work is the only thing that can help your company.

Lastly, what have you got planned for the coming year?

I’m really optimistic for 2017! I hope to have a solo exhibition in autumn of this year, I haven’t found a venue yet so any ideas throw them my way! I am taking part in a show called The Other Art Fair where over a hundred artists exhibit their work, it’s always really busy when I have been before so very excited to be taking part this March.

Something I am working on at the moment is designing and creating new greetings cards. I love doing large drawings but it’s also great to offer something small and affordable so everyone can get a bit of art into their lives. I am about to start a monthly card club where you can sign up and subscribe to a monthly delivery of hand-packaged luxury cards, so this should be launching in the next month.

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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