Sarah Perkins, Owner of Sarah Perkins Art

An animal and pet portrait artist based in the centre of Derby

You don’t have to stick with everything for the long term. It’s about adapting to what life throws at you…

I studied Fashion at university and worked as a designer for five years; then I grew frustrated with the industry. Weirdly (you might say), I applied to join the police. The older, more cynical officers were flabbergasted by my backstory, but to me it made perfect sense. I’m very good at relating to people, dealing with confrontation and resolving conflict. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy that side of life!

For the next two decades, I was happily employed in the force, but towards the end, my long-term back problems grew unmanageable. My last role was in the control room – sitting down and answering 999 calls for up to 12 hours a day. Already in agony, I then ruptured a disc lifting my little one.

After taking time off work and having surgery, I requested to be medically retired. After years of dedication and teamwork, it felt like a bereavement, but I had to prioritise my health.

For the first few months, I took stock whilst supporting my youngest son, who is autistic, to transition into mainstream school. I then applied for jobs working in coffee shops. Being turned down was a blessing, my friend said. It meant I could paint instead!

I gifted her a surprise pet portrait for her 50th birthday and even I was taken aback by how quickly I got back into the flow of painting. A Facebook post led to a couple of commissions. My police pension, although reduced, allowed me to go for it!

Seventeen months on, I’m based in an incubation studio subsidised by the University of Derby. I divide my time between commissions and my own creative work – all based around the genre of animals. My signature style is modern and lively – focusing on capturing personality.

Police work has made me very organised and analytical, so I’ve diversified into reproducing my original artworks into prints and homeware – adding multiple revenue streams.

I’ll forever have to work around my back and its limitations, but I’m on the right path – having connected with the creativity that’s always been inside me.

Sarah Perkins Art

Photo credit: Rachael Cox, The Appleyard