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Southsea artist brings the past to life through her paintings

By Kate Thompson

Casting around for inspiration one day, Fizle Sagar hit upon the perfect way to bring the past to life.

Initially an exercise to keep her artistic muscles flexed, her talent for taking tiny black and white photos and bringing the subjects to life with a muted palette has brought commissions to her door.

“I started painting quite late as I was in my fifties. I enjoyed taking classes and attending courses — and I soon realised that I enjoyed painting people’s faces and capturing the essence of the person.

“It’s not always possible to be able to draw from life, so that’s when I started looking at old black and white photos.

“Some of them are tiny only an inch by an inch and a half, but if you look closely you can still bring that person to life.

“The people in the photos are now in their fifties or sixties so it can be quite emotional to capture them as kids on the canvas,” she said.

Her initial success sparked an obsession and Fizle found painting her own mother 

particularly cathartic.

“I became almost addicted to bringing the people in the photos to life in a way that they had never been seen before.

“It was like reaching back in time and finding these people who are your ancestors and making them real to you as opposed to black and white snapshots.

“It really brought it home to me when I painted my mum. I had always known her as a woman afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, so it really affected me to see this young woman with healthy limbs,” she said.

When Fizle receives a commission, she first scans the precious family photo and creates a larger print to work from.

“Even when you enlarge the image, you really have to study it to decide sometimes if the person is smiling or frowning.

“I never use garish colours, I am aiming for a slightly faded look,” she said.

For many years, Fizle’s talent went unrecognised. School left her feeling she was no good at art, but she always retained a love of sketching.

“It was reading a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that really persuaded me to give art another go. The book is for artists who are blocked and gives them a series of things to read and practice.

“After working my way through it, I was encouraged to take up life drawing classes and life painting tuition as well as joining the Prince’s Drawing School in Shoreditch,” she explained.

Painting the Past has become a passion for Fizle, and she admitted that hearing about the reactions to her work has brought her great joy.

“You have no idea how people are going to react to the finished painting — I’m told that people often feel quite overwhelmed when they see them.

“All I can do is give my attention and care to the painting – and hope that is appreciated,” she said.

Fizle Sagar can be contacted by emailing: 


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