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Ann Walker- Parry interviews Sunnie Kanani

Ann: So I am here with Sunnie.
Sunnie: Hello.
Ann: Sunnie is an artist, and we're here in her beautiful studio in Hemel Hempstead. That's just outside of London. And, hello!
Sunnie: Hello.
Ann: Well, as some of our listeners probably don't know, you have been an artist, and you've lived in London for a very long time, and you're pretty well established. You've had loads of commissions, but I don't really know too much about your background kind of as an artist. I know that you are fantastic. You've worked with wax and oil. Yeah. So tell us who Sunnie is? Who is Sunnie the artist?
Sunnie: So I guess when I was choosing my options at school, because dad's a GP. My lovely, wonderful dad, who is retired now. It was very much, "You're not doing art. It's going to be chemistry, physics, biology," which I failed miserably, and then did art later on. So then I did the B tech for two years, Took a year out, which turned into two years. Went back to do the access to change my portfolio from graphics, which is what I specialised in, but wasn't really any good at.
Then got in to do fine art at Southampton.
Ann: Great.
Sunnie: So, that was a three year course. That was many years ago.
Ann: I'm sure not that many.
Sunnie: Quite many. It was 21 years ago when I started.
Ann: Wow.
Sunnie: So then I specialised in painting at college. Had all ideas about installations, and things, but they said, "Look, stick with painting for your degree shows." So I did. Got a from Uni, which I was really pleased with, and I've just painted ever since. I've had other jobs that I've run alongside it.
Ann: Of course, we all do.
Sunnie: Yeah.
Ann: I don't think that people realise that artists, very much like actors, we have to take other jobs to support ourselves because sometimes our creative ones don't actually pay the bills.
Sunnie: Yeah, which is a real shame.
Ann: It is.
Sunnie: Because doing what you love is the only thing you want to do when you're creative, I think. Or whatever you do, if you love what you do, is going to be successful, and I had billions of jobs flitting from sales assistants here in just about every shop there was, thinking that I need to make money. I think it's really hard as an artist to stay on track because you need to rub shoulders with like-minded people. Because when that goes away, for example when we finished college and uni, you're coming back to get a job to earn some money, you realise that it's not what you want to be doing. Just doing jobs to tide you over, and that turns into very quickly ten years. So I was lucky because I taught swimming for 18 years, and I still do a little bit of that now. That's all after school hours, so I can paint in the day, and then teach in the afternoon.
However, as all creatives know, creativity doesn't come at the flick of a button, so if you're in mid-flow, the last thing you want to do is down tools at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and go and teach swimming. And then you're out of the flow. Then you're tired and you don't want to come back to it, so then that flow may not come until another few days. So when people say, "You can paint in the morning, and then do that," it's not as black and white as that. I wish it was, and i think, oh maybe I could train my mind to get it like that. I don't know. If I can, I haven't found a way to do that yet.
The universe certainly does help, because when I lived at home, I had an exhibition which I did really well at, and I was just painting, painting, painting. I was making my frames, and I painted, and it really paid off. I know when you channel it that way, and do what you love, it comes to you. It's just having the confidence to do it, as well.
Ann: And probably the support of loved ones around you as well.
Sunnie: Definitely, could not have done it without my lovely mommy and daddy, financially and emotionally. They've been really good. They've let me do it. This is their summer house, essentially, and their garden that I'm sure they would have liked to have sit in the summer and looked out the garden, bless them. But you know, I guess the parent's love for their kids, isn't it? They just want them to have what they want.
Ann: Yeah. I'm sure they're extremely proud of you, though.
Sunnie: I hope so.
Ann: Just looking at some of this work, it is absolutely amazing. You talked about being in the flow. What for you is the flow? I mean I know that you classify your work as kind of an emotional, stemming from an emotional flow of energy, perhaps. But can you dive a little deeper just so that we kind of understand what that flow is?
Sunnie: Yeah, so we're all really good ... well, I am anyway, at procrastinating and making excuses. So the flow is not complaining that I've got to change into my art clothes once I get into the studio because I've already changed. You know, you tend to put obstacles in the way, so the flow is not questioned. Just getting in and doing it, and being here. Like I said to you earlier, I'm so glad you came today because-
Ann: Oh, me too!
Sunnie: Just sitting in here again makes me feel it, and it makes me just, because I go through phases. I get blocked, and I might not paint for a week.
Ann: Sure.
Sunnie: And then I'm all right for three or four weeks, and I don't paint for a week again because, you know, you've got money worries or whatever, and you want to be selling more than you are, and you want to be exhibiting more than you are. I've got great ideas, it's just putting them together, and how can i make this work. Bright ideas cost money, as well, so it's always a bit of a circle.
Ann: When you say cost money, that's the materials?
Sunnie: Yeah, materials, but also-
Ann: Your time.
Sunnie: Yeah, and some places you exhibit don't just want commission, they want rental space.
Ann: That's right.
Sunnie: Some places want both. It's crazy.
Ann: It is funny that most people don't realise that when they do go to an art fair, or an art gallery, that actually it costs the artist, the creative professional, just to be there. So if they don't sell something, they really are out that money.
Sunnie: Yeah.
Ann: I mean I know that as an artist it's just so fantastic when people come and look at work, and it gives the artist such a buzz that people really enjoy it. Whether or not they're able to interpret it doesn't really matter. But yeah, I don't think that they realise sometimes that it does cost rental space, commission, and just the material cost as well, just to get enough work to be kind of viable in a big gallery.
Sunnie: Yeah, and I did for about 13 years, so we paid for rental space for that. There was petrol getting there, which we all had to do.
Ann: Of course, yeah.
Sunnie: And sometimes I wouldn't sell for about 3 or 4 months up there, so you're out of pocket quite a bit.
Ann: Yeah, definitely. So I was just thinking about this TED Talks. Have you ever been on TED Talks before?
Sunnie: No.
Ann: Well they have a You Tube channel now, and there was this one TED Talk that the most people who are procrastinators are the most creative, and so when you think about procrastinating, do you think that actually you're more creative when you do procrastinate because you have that ability to have more time to think of what you're going to do? Does that make sense?
Sunnie: It does make sense, a little bit like waiting for the deadline. If you've got three months to do something, you're likely to do it in the last two weeks kind of thing. Yeah, I'm a little bit like that.
But also in that procrastination time comes a lot of stress.
Ann: Yeah.
Sunnie: So it's building up. There's a build up of quite a lot of things. Anxiety, and I have a tendency to sometimes, my school reports "always easily distracted," so I'm very easily distracted. Even in my procrastination period, I can get distracted from procrastinating if you know what I mean.
Ann: Yes, I do, as a fellow procrastinator.
Sunnie: Yeah. It's one of the things I've never ... I don't know, I've never been able to be really in control of.
Ann: Yeah. I think maybe there's times when I think instead of me trying to change who I am as a procrastinator, that I'll just embrace it, and just think well actually there has to be something positive that's going to come out of my procrastinating. Certainly, looking around this studio and seeing your work over the course of time knowing you, your procrastinating actually works.
Sunnie: Okay, good. That's good to know.
Ann: Well thanks for talking to us today, and I'm really looking forward to talking to you again. I'm sure that our listeners are fascinated, and if you'd like to see some of Sunnie's work, you can go to, and look in our events page as well, and you'll see where you can see Sunnie. Thanks again, Sunnie.
Sunnie: Thank you.

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