Let’s Get Personal – My Art Story

For those of you who are becoming regular readers here, I thought it was only fair that I tell you a little about myself. Specifically, my art story.

So, a little history about me, and how I got to this point.

I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, just for fun. It’s my favorite “hobby,” not a chore! I even remember as a kid, I didn’t care if something looked wrong, I would finish it, see how I could improve, and try again. It was like a sport to me. It’s thrilling.

In Highschool, I was obsessed with realism, and I practiced every day, trying to get my drawings as realistic as possible.

Hyper realism drawing with prisma markers.
One of my old prisma marker drawings.

I went to art school from 2003-2007 and got a general art education (Bachelors of Fine Arts). I took a huge variety of classes, but the underlying structure of each class covered drawing, theory, and history. The courses were heavily focused on concept, critique, experimentation and repetition. By that I mean, regardless of our skill, we had to have a strong concept to back up our projects. We’d have a group critique after every assignment where we’d have to explain our project and the whole class would talk about the successes and failures. We’d have to “try again” if it didn’t work out, with feedback from the teacher and class, and keep going. Rinse, repeat.

Sarah at 2004 Ceramics class
2006, Ceramics wheel throwing class.

This very thing is something I still do today to improve my art.

At first I was minoring in art education so I could become a teacher, but I strayed away from that when I realized I didn’t like kids enough to make that my life. Sounds mean right? Well…I’ve never been a kid person. My best friends are well over 40 years old. Moving on!

We weren’t allowed to choose a major – we could minor, or emphasize in certain areas, so I chose drawing and ceramics, but I took a huge variety of classes. By the end of my four years, I had taken multiple sculpture classes, mixed media, graphic design, even glass blowing! I got a taste of everything.

2005 glass blowing project.
2005, Glass Blowing assignment.

But in the end, I realized what I had always known – drawing is my true love. All the while, I felt the very real pressure to “get a real job.” Combined with the well-timed US Recession of 2007/2008…

So it was either get a job at Walmart (I lived in the middle of nowhere) and start paying my student loans…or take out more loans and pursue a career. You have to remember, back then, the internet was just barely becoming a part of our daily lives. There were barely ANY online learning resources.

So after I graduated, I immediately enrolled at another school to pursue sustainable interior design, because I thought at least it’s a well paying job that uses art? Sustainability was (and still is) hugely important to me and I wanted to make a difference with my art. It was the perfect fit at the time.

I moved from upstate NY to Colorado, and my whole life changed.

Interior rendering with prisma pencils.
2009 Kitchen design project.

I really loved design. It was all about problem solving, but had the added bonus of being artistic.

Office design project prisma pencils
2009 Office design project.

Around this time I was also getting into photography. Again through repetition and experimentation, I taught myself a new craft, and it blossomed into a side-job shooting weddings, portraits, events, families, etc for many years. For a while I thought photography would become my full time career. It was endlessly tiring, but paid extremely well. I was able to save up quite a bit through years of wedding photography. Unfortunately, my chronic back pain and relentless anxiety got the best of me, and I realized I would not be able to pursue it forever.

But I’m so grateful for those years of hard work – pursuing photography while going to school AND working two other jobs taught me the meaning of HUSTLE and this is something that keeps my business alive today.

2014, me shooting a Denver wedding.

So anyways, after my design degree and a few years in the design industry, I once again realized I was delaying the inevitable…Over the years I had still been drawing in my free time, and I even started to dabble with painting. Nothing serious, just splashing some paint around the canvas to express my emotions. I have always loved abstract art, so it felt natural to take that path. And in a way, losing myself in abstraction was a form of therapy.

Abstract art diptych
2013, abstract diptych.

In 2015 I started to seriously get into painting. I loved how similar it was to drawing, but with a twist. Color itself is a fascinating subject, and even after 5 years of heavy study, I still feel like I’ve barely cracked the surface.

Over the years, I’ve learned to love the journey. I am not as concerned with realism. I have gone back to my roots of starting with a strong concept, and allowing that to guide the result. Sometimes my paintings will be more realistic, and other times they will be nearly abstract. It’s all about the emotion and mood, and I love that challenge!

In 2015, I quit my design job to pursue art 100%.

Forest Light realism oil painting
2018, “Forest Light 31” oil on board.
Beauly Firth abstract landscape oil painting
2018, “Beauly Firth” oil on canvas.

So, here I am!

I draw.

I paint.

It is my whole world.

2018, my first time selling art in public (Poolewe Tuesday Market, Scotland)
2018, my first time selling art in public (Poolewe Tuesday Market, Scotland).
Selling my art at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens for the Teagreen Events Holiday Market
2019, selling my art at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens for the Teagreen Events Holiday Market.

Since 2015, I’ve kept up my nearly daily habit of drawing/painting because I want to succeed in this career more than anything.

The dedication to this craft is bittersweet…I know that I will barely be able to achieve the level of mastery that I strive for with the time I have left – and yes I know I’m 35, but there are no guarantees. 100 years wouldn’t be enough time. So, I approach each day like it might be the last time I pick up a pencil. I love every second of my drawing sessions – even when I suck!

Budapest architecture ink drawing
2017, Budapest architecture ink sketch.

My hope is to eventually find a way to use my skills to help create a better world. For now, I do that through teaching others online.

I still get frustrated sometimes when I realize how far I need to go before my skills match my vision.

But you can’t rush results. Even if you improve your technical skills every day, your mind and heart will need to catch up!

So if there’s one thing I can leave you with, it’s to enjoy the journey. It’s a long one.

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I'm an independent artist living in Scotland. Always chasing the light, and painting the beautiful highlands.

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