We last spoke to Sarah around Easter time when she embarked on making entirely solid chocolate eggs (which are as delicious as you'd imagine), but since then she’s been furiously drawing for Andrea, a friend she’s known for 10 years, using pen, pencil and ink.
Sarah’s partner has been on tour with Andrea and other US poets and writers, of whom Sarah has worked with at different times, so when Andrea asked Sarah to illustrate her new book, she said yes immediately.
Here she tells us what it was like to visualise poetry alongside a selection of illustrations from the book.
"Andrea’s writing, whether spoken on stage or written, is rich, warm and immediately likeable; it’s full of love; accessible, funny and engaging despite rugby-tackling some of life’s thorniest issues head-on," says Sarah.
Take Me With You is split into three sections (love, the world and becoming) of one liners, couplets and longer form poems, so it caters to pretty much everyone.
Because the pair knew each already, Sarah was given complete creative freedom – which although can be quite intimidating – wasn’t this time.
Each pencil drawing on its own may seem humble, but when seeing the collection together you begin to notice a beautiful, consistent style of clean simplicity. This also helps to make reading the poems easy.
"My illustrations needed to nudge in and settle down alongside the words, not overpower or interrupt them," explains Sarah.
"The style was not a conscious choice though – I think this is as close as it gets to ‘my natural hand’ when picking up this particular kind of pen. By that I mean, I didn’t have to think about the style; it was already in place and it was only a matter of thinking about the content."
Sarah kept a floppy Moleskine journal full of pencil sketches on the go for around four months. She took each line or poem in turn, but in no particular order.
"I started in the middle of the manuscript and drew some little thumbnails of the different ways it could be represented," she says.
"In most cases I sent these to Andrea for perusal and input on which worked best, in other cases I could tell immediately that one felt right and the rest weren’t, so I’d ink that one in and send that off for an opinion."
There were only two illustrations that didn’t make the cut – one because it was too controversial.
As Sarah puts it, "Andrea delivers some seriously 'mic-drop' lines on some politically sensitive issues, so for that one the words were actually enough."
And the other because the words spoke for themselves.
Although Sarah has never considered herself as "into poetry", classic novels (she’s a massive fan of Wuthering Heights and subsequently Emily Bronte’s poetry) and pop song lyrics have always been used as a resource pool or start-point for a lot of her personal work and some commercial work too.
She says it stems from listening to lyrics from a very early age and picking them up quickly, interestingly claiming it’s because she has a verbal memory rather than visual one.
“Most of the time, producing pieces of work for poets presents with an opportunity to explore something very personal, as was the case with a collection of responses from international artists that we put together for Buddy Wakefield,” she says.
“I felt like I was reaching into some of my most personal demons for my particular contribution to the show, and with the big body of work I did around Sage Francis’ work – it’s as if the poets, having put their own souls on paper, have given me permission to to do the same.
“I actually find it difficult to just draw for drawing’s sake – but give me a line and I can climb up it with my pencils and I’m in. There are so many lines still to explore. Run the Jewels have a veritable treasure trove of them, and just can’t keep up with Sage Francis’ output, for example.”
Sarah’s favourite illustration from Take Me With You is the piece that went with the poem about the Pulse nightclub shooting (seen here) – or the portrait of Andrea’s dog.
"I can’t draw animals well at all so this was a challenge. Although, I was also very pleased with the defiant gay dinosaur in leggings and crucifix."
See more of her illustrations in this feature.