Wild About Art with Sara Bell

Image source: Photographer Katja Anton

A toddler drawing all over your wall could be a sign that they’re destined for greatness in the artistic world. John Caruso meets our Cooran-based cover artist who first took to the walls of her parent’s house with a black crayon when she was only three!

Sara Bell’s parents weren’t always supportive of her career in the arts. Maybe they couldn’t see the potential in her bursts of creativity across the walls of the family home when she was young, or they knew that pursuits in creative fields like music, literature, acting, and art were risky. 

“I grew up in Sydney and my earliest memories of drawing were copying the cartoons from the Sunday newspapers,” Sara explains. “My aunt was an artist trying to make a living from her work, however she really struggled financially, and my parents could see that, although now mum and dad are very encouraging.”

Travel was at the top of our cover artist’s list after leaving school early. 

“I backpacked for about ten years and when I returned to Australia I went to Julian Ashton Art School, one of the oldest schools at The Rocks, Sydney, with a reputation for being a traditional art school,” she said.

Another travelling adventure followed once her studies were complete and when she returned to Australia, Sara married and moved to Cooran in the Noosa Hinterland.  

“We simply felt that the cost of living was too high in Sydney, and I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum, raise the children in a small community environment, concentrate on my artwork, and complete a fine arts diploma at Noosa TAFE. That was about twenty years ago,” she says. 

Sara admits that sticking to one style is difficult.

“Like a musician who dabbles in different genres, it can be hard to develop a following if your style and subjects change, however, I’ve always found it hard to concentrate on just one style with my work.  

“I love painting birds and the human form. Figurative painting, dealing with the human figure is really challenging so that’s what drives me to do that,” Sara explains.

The guineafowl featured on the cover of this issue, Frankie, was inspired by a trip to a wildlife rehabilitation centre with one of her sons.

“I have two sons, Louis who is terrified of birds; and my other son Henry who is a wildlife nut. Henry was volunteering at a rehabilitation centre, and I’d drive him there for his shifts and on one occasion while he was working, I wandered about this 40-acre property taking all these photos and there were guineafowls on the property and the painting featured on the front of this issue is from one of those photographs,” Sara said.

The Holmes Prize for Excellence in Australian Bird Art started in 2015 and Sara’s passion and interest in our feathered friends has led to two nominations in the last seven years; she has also been a finalist in both the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, 2017 and Lyn McCrea Memorial Prize in 2016. 

You can see more of Sara’s work and purchase her art at www.bluethumb.com.au/sara-bell   

About the Author /


After 30 years in radio, John now runs the Conversations IN Noosa podcast and in between being our writer, sanity checker, accounts manager, event MC, and delivery boy; he spends time with his first love, recording a daily Drive program for regional radio from home (often in his pyjamas); and presenting Saturday mornings on Hot 91.1. He has previously worked for FoxFM Melbourne, Triple M Brisbane and SeaFM, as well as managing and presenting on ABC Sunshine Coast.

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