Sarah Calleja: ‘Keep working towards your goal patiently’

Architect and artist Sarah Calleja tells all in our Q&A

Sarah Calleja (photo: James Bianchi)
Sarah Calleja (photo: James Bianchi)

Sarah Calleja is an architect, artist and mother of two. Currently, her second solo exhibition titled HARBOURED is on show at il-Kamra ta’ Fuq in Mqabba, until the 15th of August 2022. Calleja is renowned for her bold and daring watercolours works which are mostly executed en plein air.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I am usually woken up by “mama wake up sun is out” – so I walk to the kids’ room and get them out of the room which has a safety gate.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

To live life doing what gives you most satisfaction, by doing what you are naturally good at.

What do you never leave the house without?

Phone (although I have forgotten it on rare occasions).

Pick three words that describe yourself

Determined, calm, creative.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Seven years ago, when my daughter was born, I took the decision to dedicate more time to art – I felt it was either something I could take on seriously or leave for retirement age. I have since dedicated every Saturday and more towards learning and practising this passion painting both outdoors, in the studio in solitude, or with other artists. I currently have my second solo exhibition, HARBOURED, at il-Kamra ta’ Fuq and seeing the works hanging together, my journey in the past three years, is a very proud moment for me. All this together with working as a freelance as an architect and juggling being a mother of two, makes every week feel like an achievement.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Dark chocolate.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Keep working towards your goal patiently.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

I think that would have been my wedding dress, followed then by a painting.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?


Who’s your inspiration?

My constant need to create. I also feel very inspired seeing works of other contemporary artists locally and oversees, especially when visiting large collection of works.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My second-born child came after three miscarriages, which was a very difficult time for me. He is our little miracle.

If you weren’t an architect what would you be doing?      

If I wasn’t an architect, I wish to think I would then be a full-time artist.

Do you believe in God?


If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

I think I would love to sit at a table with Frida Kahlo and just watch her raw energy.

What’s your worst habit?

Pushing aside the things that I don’t like doing till the last minute.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

More talkative I guess, but I get drunk easy, so I try to stop before I go too far.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Jessica Alba.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?


What music would you have played at your funeral?

Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah.

What is your most treasured material possession?

My brushes.

What is your earliest memory?

My grandmother’s living room and her set of Playmobil toys.

When did you last cry, and why?

April 2021 when we could not celebrate my daughter’s birthday for the second time due to COVID. A restriction was issued, and we could only meet in gathering of two people, and she just lay on the floor weeping, and we cried together.

Who would you most like to meet?

I would be between meeting the Pope and Elon Musk.

What’s your favourite food?

Thai green curry.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

I am not really following a person in particular. My social media is a vast array of artists who I follow on their artistic journey.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

Right at the beginning of the 1900s in Vienna, to Gustav Klimt’s studio to see him create one of his masterpieces, and him tutoring Egon Schiele.

What book are you reading right now?

Sadly none. I do listen to podcasts while I am working but in summer with the daily routine stretching longer, I have not found time to read.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Fly. I was almost convinced I could fly when I was younger.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Travel to Indonesia.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Tracey Chapman, and Imagine Dragons.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

I enjoy my silence in both moments, silence is the me the most precious gift. I find the shower is the best time to think.