IT'S safe to say that Teesdale artist Sandra Parker's favourite subject are sheep. Swaledale sheep, to be specific. In her art studio on Horsemarket, Barnard Castle, many different manifestations of the black-faced breed stare out from the studio walls.

At home, too, Sandra is surrounded by sheep. She lives high up at Holwick, near Middleton-in-Teesdale, surrounded by open fields where the hill farmers stock this hardy breed. No wonder she is able to turn her keen artistic eye to painting them in such incredible detail.

Sandra will be showing her new collection of oil paintings at an exhibition at The Station, in Richmond. Alongside this, she is launching her first book. Entitled Sit Thissen Down, it's the story of her life from childhood on a Nidderdale Farm to artist, beautifully illustrated with photographs and her paintings, some showing the progression from photograph to sketch to finished artwork.

"I'm inviting the reader to peer through a small window into my childhood and what influenced me whilst growing up that led to my being an artist today, a journey which wasn't always easy and spanned four decades," says Sandra.

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She first started painting when she was 21, encouraged by her sheep farmer father. He bought Sandra her first easel for her 21st birthday. She set up a studio in a small caravan on the farm and proceeded to paint anything she could, copying pictures of wildlife from books, or sitting outside painting farm scenes. Then, when she had children, life took over and she stopped painting again.

It wasn't 2008, when Sandra decided she needed some pictures for her sitting room, that she took up her brush again.She hasn’t stopped painting since. “I finally decided on which direction to go in, painting the iconic Swaledale sheep,” she says. “I find them inspiring, from the geometrical curve and swirl of the horns, to the random depth of the fleece and the defiant twinkle in their eyes.”

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She and husband Phil opened their Barnard Castle gallery, which also stocks work by other local artists, in 2016 and her work also sells consistently well in galleries around the country. "Is is my 60th birthday next year and my dream was to have a career as an artist with my own gallery and a book published before this monumental birthday," says Sandra. "I have made it with months to spare!"

  • Sit Thissen Down: A new exhibition by Sandra Parker is at The Station, Richmond, from Saturday, October 5, to Wednesday, October 16. The accompanying book costs £35 and is available from The Station – Sandra will be signing copies both weekends of the exhibition – and Sandra's shop in Barnard Castle.
  • The Sandra Parker Studio, 34 Horsemarket, Barnard Castle, DL12 8NA.