Your love of art began when, as a child, you watched you grandfather draw a simple picture. When did you know that you wanted to be a professional artist?
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to do anything but art. However, I was also a very academic student, so when I won a scholarship to UBC Vancouver, I went, but decided to focus my university degree on Fine Arts. From there I took some time to pursue teaching as a career and got experience teaching both ESL and Art in Canada and overseas. I had regrets about not going to a focused art school, but find that many working artists are self-trained anyway. There are so many ways to get to your goals if you keep working towards them. Currently, I spend half of my week working in an alternative teaching position where I incorporate a lot of art into the learning experiences for the children. The other half of the week I spend working on my own art business and practice. Thankfully,
you don’t have to be young to be an artist, so I am hoping to move to a full time art career and anticipate making
art as long as I am alive.
How would you describe
yourself as an artist?
As a painter I would say that I am interested in shapes and forms, light, movement and colour. My pieces, whether oil or mixed media acrylic are always based in reality, usually photographs I’ve taken while outdoors. I find repetition and patterns fascinating and have reams of photographs of seemingly uninteresting things that I like to elaborate or embellish into beautiful visual meditations: photographs of rocks or rippling water or sunlight through leaves, for example. Sometimes there are animals like fish or even people in my pieces, but I’m searching for patterns, not trying to highlight a particular creature. For example I’ve done paintings of people focused on their brightly coloured clothing at the beach and paintings of masses of tadpoles in the water. As for style, my work is always abstracted and I have a hard time staying away from bold colours. I’m trying to do some neutral pieces right now but we’ll see!
I can already feel myself wanting to add some pink or orange.
My preferred medium is oil paint and I am primarily a painter at heart. But I’ve also always more broadly been a maker. I can sew; I can draw; I’m an amateur photographer; I’ve worked with clay; I’ve created plaster projects; I love knitting, felting, and fibre arts work as well. My plan when I’m older is to create contemporary art quilts and weavings, … but throughout it all I will paint.
Please tell us more about the nature in your art. Nature is a classic subject matter for an artist.
Part of the reason for my focus on nature as inspiration has been living in a beautiful part of the world. My province’s motto is “Beautiful British Columbia” for a reason. Whether I’ve lived in the city of Vancouver with millions of people or the city of Salmon Arm with thousands, the landscape is a prominent feature. Both places are framed by mountains and built around large bodies of water. A few minutes walk or drive and I can be in wilderness if I want to be. With the demands of modern life, retreating to nature is an absolute solace and balm for an anxious heart. I find myself repeatedly experiencing being drawn away from my crowded thoughts to the slow ancient heartbeat of creation. My work
is often born out of a meditative experience
I’ve had in nature.
What are some other things that spark your creativity?
Recently I’ve made work just about the simple enjoyment of wielding a pencil or paint brush. It’s become especially evident in these past two years that art is my healthy outlet for stress and I’ve really used creativity to my advantage during the pandemic. Because I also love reading and researching, I also get ideas for my work through these avenues. Transferring a concept into a visual work of art is an added challenge, but my work almost always has a deeper meaning and ideas behind it. For example, my most recent show is about the importance of pollinators and is inspired by scientific diagrams plotting the flight paths of honeybees.
What is your favorite way to share your art with the world?
I love art shows. Because my work is textured and I enjoy painting large, my art can make a bigger impression on someone in person. It’s rewarding to see how people react to the work. Also I love socializing at art openings, talking about the work, and just enjoying the energy of being together. Social media, workshops, and other sharing avenues are great as well, but in person is my preference.
You describe your mark making as stitches. When did you begin to add this element to your work and how does it enhance a piece for you?
My family moved houses in the middle of the pandemic and we were staying in different places while we waited to get into our new home, which we then spent a year renovating. So one practical reason I started using mark making and drawing in my work is that I had to get out my drawing materials and acrylic paint so that I could make art that would dry quickly while everything was in upheaval (oil paint takes too long to dry in transient circumstances). It’s just been fun to be free and creative with something different, not trying to make something specific with the marks, but to communicate with energy and feeling.
Do you have a favorite color palette?
Do you always create with a series in mind?
I do have favorite colours that I use. I love phthalo blue, cerulean blue, quinacridone magenta, naples yellow, lemon yellow, chrome oxide green,
and venetian red. Rust, mustard, turquoise and a kind of spring green in layman's terms. You can of course create an infinite variety of colours with these and white. I always create in a series. It seems each idea just needs more than one piece to work it out.
Have you always had a place to create?
What do you love most about your studio? I have always had a place to create in each house I’ve owned, but this current space is by far the best. We bought a home that was recognizably the ugliest house in my town in 2020, partly because it had a separate suite that was perfect for a large studio space with its own outside entrance. I have gotten more art work done this year because I can leave everything out and come back to it anytime I have a moment. Being interrupted is a reality for a mother, and even more so when you are homeschooling your children which is my situation. This designated studio space has allowed me to work on larger projects, more than one at a time, and to have a beautiful display space for twice yearly open houses. It’s an artist’s dream. (And my husband managed to transform the whole house into something beautiful as well!).
I have always included a lot of art making while teaching public school as children often enjoy making things with their hands and it is another way of learning besides words. When I started spending more time in my studio throughout the pandemic, I realized that adults would love to do many of the art lessons as well. (Certainly instagram was blowing up with creatives who were nurturing their creativity while they were stuck at home). So I’ve been offering some different creative workshops to adults. Some, like my abstract workshop, are based on my own practice and on comments I’ve often heard from people observing art (such as “What makes an abstract painting any good?”); others, like the botanical plaster casting workshop, are based on fun processes that produce surprisingly beautiful results for people who are just starting out or exploring creativity again for the first time as an adult. My goal for each workshop is to encourage adults to leave their perfectionist selves at the door, enjoy the process, and learn something new. Beginners to experienced artists alike have judgemental attitudes toward their own artistic abilities; it’s a real challenge for adults to allow themselves to be exploratory learners again. But with every workshop, participants have reported how much they’ve enjoyed themselves so I’m encouraged to keep offering them.
I’ve got a Plein Air workshop coming up June 18 and some other new ideas for the fall as well.
Please tell us about the community
In the summer of 2020, I was looking for something to do for my community that would bring the joy of art to others. It had been a tough few months of lockdown in my province and we were able to get out again throughout the summer, so I approached another local artist, Adam Meikle, to see if he was interested in working on a project together. He had been asked to paint a mural and wondered if I would like to do it with him. Neither of us had ever painted a mural before (unless you count the one I did with my grade 4 class at Fox School). Our town is situated on an important nature reserve for migrating birds and there are many many naturalists here. After some debate over the subject matter in consultation with the sponsor for the mural project, we settled on the flight of an osprey as it catches a trout in the water. Adam painted the birds and I did the waterline and fish. Each creature is captured with 4 snapshots in time as they move toward the moment when the osprey breaks the water and snatches the fish.
This was a really fun project that had us doing something totally new, out in the community, which made for lots of great conversations with others. I really noticed that public art like a mural impacts different people than might attend an art opening at a gallery. This reinforced my belief that art really is for everyone.
I really noticed that public art like a mural impacts different people than might attend an art opening at a gallery. This reinforced my belief that art really is for everyone.
Collaborations are indeed something I enjoy. Currently I’m exploring hosting art workshops at a retreat centre, I have some of my printed art journals and makeup bags in a friend’s gift box business, and I recently created a series of prints for a government conference. Art is a contribution I can make to my community, so each collaboration is a great way to realize that goal. I’m considering another community project for next Spring or Summer if my schedule allows, but you’ll have to follow me on instagram to see it as I can’t reveal the plan yet.
What is next for you?
I am looking forward to participating in several exhibitions including the summer show at Gallery Odin, my own show September at Gallery Vertigo, and an open show at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre this fall. I’ve applied to two art fairs that I’m waiting to hear back from, am creating a shop on my website, and offering 3 more workshops this year. What I am most looking forward to, however, is a trip to the UK and France this summer with my family. I’ve always wanted to go to the Tate Modern among other museums in London. We’re also spending time in less populated areas of the UK, so expect to see some different scenery and themes in my art next year.
Sara has created a Botanical Plaster Casting Kit Class just for us. Order yours now to be part of early pricing and July delivery. Create a gorgeous piece like the ones that you see here, using your own fresh flowers. Everything else is in the kit, including the video instructions.