The Royal family are huge fans of this Dorking artist
- Credit: Archant
Impressionist Sherree Valentine Daines reflects on a career spanning four decades, painting everyone from Dame Vera Lynn to Ranulph Fiennes
From the glamour of Royal Ascot’s races and impeccably-dressed socialites at the Henley Regatta, to live charity portraits of Surrey’s famous faces and the sun-kissed memories of our childhoods and cricket matches in our county, the modern masterpieces of renowned Surrey artist Sherree Valentine Daines flawlessly captivate timelessness.
Born and raised in Surrey, Sherree trained at Epsom School of Art, while she and her large family have lived in Mickleham, just outside Dorking, for 26 years. “I have always lived very close to my parents as we are a very close family,” she says.
Not just close, they’re also a very creative family. “My husband, Mark Rowbotham, is a fabulous painter and beautiful colourist, my son, Charlie, paints lots of wonderful cafés and street scenes, while my eldest daughter, Lettice, trained as a classical violinist, performing and writing her own music, and reached the final of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago. Bunty is a sculptress and paints, too, and our youngest, Felicity, who has just graduated in Fine Art, is also a sculptress and painter.”
Lockdown saw the whole family living together, during which time Lettice gave birth to daughter Peaches (nicknamed ‘Pebbles’). “It was great fun with 10 of us living together!” says Sherree. “Our days consisted of family time together.We got through huge amounts of food. Two of our son-in-laws, Tom Howe and Joe Morris, are professional rugby players, so my husband had them digging up the garden for training. It was a very happy and positive time with the young and two grandchildren around, and with all the lovely weather, much time was spent in the garden. Luckily, we had the paddling pool out, too!”
Keeping calm as she carried on creating, Britain’s best-loved modern Impressionist enjoyed setting up her easel al fresco while stuck at home, her beautiful 17th-century rectory house and garden offering a stunning setting for her work. “I loved painting the garden and our vegetable plot, and plan to do more time-lapse videos of myself working on site. My perfect day is in the garden digging, planting and playing games in the evening after enjoying a family supper.”
The modern-day oil painter has hosted a fair few famous sitters at her historic home.
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The internationally-acclaimed artist adores using her amazing artistic skills to benefit a large range of local charities. An active member of her local community, Sherree also promotes the arts in her role as a patron of Surrey’s Mole Valley Arts Alive Festival. “I’m also a supporter of Halow in Guildford, which helps young adults with special needs to involve them in a social life, which is often very difficult for them, and to empower creative spirits.”
Exhibited UK-wide, Sherree will launch her latest wonderful works in Surrey’s high-end boutique galleries Clarendon Fine Art and Whitewall. “Works from my garden over the last few months will feature, and I have been doing many portraits.” She adores attending Richmond and Cobham’s Clarendon exhibitions. “And when asked to paint for charity events, I usually paint a portrait, sometimes a celebrity sitter or a subject that relates to the charity and, at the end of the event, the painting is auctioned to the audience for fundraising,” she explains.
Star-studded gala events raising funds for the Horsham-based Born Free Foundation in collaboration with Clarendon have seen Sherree paint amazing animal pictures in just 30-45 minutes in front of live audiences, including co-founders Virginia McKenna and Will Travers, and celebrity patrons Joanna Lumley and Martin Clunes. “I have been a fan of Born Free for nearly 30 years and have an open-ended relationship with the foundation. Whenever they hold events, I will always paint live so that we can auction it off,” Sherree explains. “I do so admire [Virginia] and the work that the Born Free Foundation do. She’s a truly beautiful and amazing lady.”
Sherree recently raised over £20,000 at a NHS Rainbow Charity Auction run by Woking’s Ewbank’s Auctioneers in aid of the Royal Surrey Hospital, for which both she and Mark bequeathed pieces. “I donated a £25,000 painting to help fight covid-19. We have also collaborated with Guildford’s Cherry Trees, raising equipment for Epsom Hospital, a charity for injured service men to make a puzzle, and also donated to Navy Wings recently. It is so varied and I can never turn a request down. I’m asked on a regular basis and am really happy to help every charity that asks me.”
Having lived in Mickleham for over a quarter of a century, Sherree says she loves the village’s “fabulous, supportive community”. “Nearby Denbies is a favourite place to visit for the café, restaurant, to cycle and walk, and to shop. I have painted the vineyard, too; it is absolutely beautiful and a great asset to our area. I’m so lucky that we live in such a beautiful part of the countryside,” she says.
“Before children, I would paint at least five days a week in the Surrey Hills en plein air, alongside running a small, weekly life class. I have painted all over Surrey, often at Polesden Lacey. Abinger Hammer is very picturesque to paint, especially when the cricket is on. I just drive around and find a spot stop and set up my paints.”
Perfectly blending beautifully-dappled scenery with its high-society calendar, Sherree loves capturing the spirit of Surrey’s social events on canvas but with events in the social season’s calendar cancelled this spring/summer, the contemporary artist came up with inventive ways of still working with them.
“I painted live on Instagram to celebrate the Virtual Chelsea Flower Show 2020, and went live for Royal Ascot week, too. I love the incredibly-vibrant colours and scenes from both these events. It’s everything from the scenery to the clothes that people are wearing,” she says. “They’re such happy scenes, and it’s a pleasure to capture them. Obviously, this year was very different, so I re-imagined both events in my own garden! Two of my daughters, Fliss and Bunty, were my models, from picking flowers in the garden to dressing up in full Royal Ascot regalia!”
Inspired mainly by Stanhope Forbes, numerous other artists have influenced Sherree’s style. “I love the freshness of Sir Alfred James Munnings (one of England’s finest painters of horses), Walter Sickert, Augustus John, The Newlyn School, Michelangelo Caravaggio, Pierre Bonnard, Edgar Degas, John Singer Sargent, the Scottish and French Impressionists - the list is huge!” she says. “If you go to any art schools and see the talent emerging, it’s very inspiring. I’m also really excited by my children - Bunty Rowbotham, Felicity Rowbotham and Charlie Rowbotham - who are now professional artists.”
Sherree’s childhood landscape here in Surrey inspires her captivating collection of idyllic summer childhood scenes. “I had a happy childhood in Surrey and don’t think you have to step very far from home to find something to paint, things that remind me of my childhood - my mother’s vegetable patch, her hanging out the washing, picnics, just life as it is.”
Multi-award-winning Sherree’s second-to-none skills have seen her become a firm favourite with many a celebrity collector, including the Royal Family. She has even painted an intimate double portrait of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, for Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. “It was a great honour to be commissioned, and very special to present the portrait to Her Majesty personally at a private reception at Windsor Castle,” she explains. “It was lovely to paint Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Queen’s favourite horse, Carltonlima Emma, too!
Painting a commemorative 100th birthday portrait of ‘The Forces’ Sweetheart’ Dame Vera Lynn in aid of her children’s charity was particularly poignant. “Dame Vera was very special, especially as my parents were with me and they sang together. My father was in the Fleet Air Arm in World War Two, and saw Dame Vera at the Kit Kat Club in London during the war.”
She’s also painted portraits of numerous names in music and entertainment industry, along with famous faces from the world of sport, including Sir Michael Parkinson, Fern Britton, Rick Stein, Anna Chancellor, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, rugby stars Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson, and Lord Sebastian Coe.
“I am fascinated by meeting people who have overcome huge odds, hearing their stories,” she reveals. Plans are now afoot for former Prime Minister, Sir John Major’s portrait. “I’d love to paint Hollywood actors Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Maggie Smith, and would have loved to paint Marlon Brando… what a strong, beautiful face.”
So, how is she celebrating 40 years as the nation’s foremost modern Impressionist? “By trying to paint even better, and work more from life, with people sitting for me and painting in the landscape. I am really enjoying going back to painting from life since lockdown, but am sure my agent will have a few things up her sleeve for the near future!”
View Sherree’s work at clarendonfineart.co.uk, whitewallgalleries.com and sherreevalentinedaines.com