Artist Spotlight: Sarah Sedwick
Pacific Northwest oil painter Sarah Sedwick @sedwickstudio discusses her love for oils, mentoring artists online, and advice for first-time oil painters in her interview for the latest M. Graham blog.
By M. Graham & Co.
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve been making art since I could hold a pencil! I think I was born an artist. I was fairly into academics as a young person, and considered college for a different career path. Making the decision to go to art school when I was 17 was the get-serious moment for me. I knew I had to be all-in; I had to really try, or else I would never know whether or not I could “be” an artist.
You paint still life, landscapes, nudes and portraits. Which subject is your favorite to paint and why?
Still life has been my primary focus for the past few years, because it’s such a great tool for teaching (and learning) fundamental art concepts that apply to every genre of painting. I love color, color theory, color mixing, color that tells a story! My still life paintings are about color. Portrait, however, is my first love. I truly couldn’t choose between the two.
Do you have any artists who have inspired your artistic style?
I was really inspired by the Daily Painting movement when I started painting full-time, eleven years ago. Artists like Duane Keiser and Carol Marine inspire me to this day! Carole Rabe and Susan Jane Walp are two of my favorite contemporary American painters. And I love a lot of British painters, like Euan Euglow, and Diarmuid Kelley. Overall, my two greatest influences have been Sargent and Manet.
What draws you to oil over other mediums?
I fell in love with oil paint from the first sniff, at age 10, and it was a smellier business back then! I haven’t done much painting in other media; I did a bit of sketching in watercolor and gouache and some acrylic work for a design class in art school. Oil has just always felt right to me.
I will say that I love to draw, and believe that drawing from life is the best thing you can do to improve your painting, without a brush in your hand.
As an Oregon resident for over a decade, how has the Pacific Northwest landscape shaped your artistic style/color palette?
Oregon is a wonderful place to be an artist! And there are a ton of us here. The artist community in the Pacific Northwest is packed with opportunities: live model sessions, plein air paint-outs, workshops, art walks, and residencies, to name just a few. The regional landscape seems to inspire a painterly, energetic approach, which I try to bring to my own work, even though I am primarily an “indoorsy” painter!
Which four M. Graham oil colors will we always find on your palette?
My core palette is fairly small; my palette consists of six or eight colors, plus white. The four M. Graham oil colors that I always use are: Cadmium Yellow, Hansa Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, and Ultramarine Blue.
What is the greatest challenge you have experienced while making your art and how did you overcome it?
I went to art school at Maryland Institute, College of Art (MICA), straight out of high school. It was a fantastic education, but I graduated with the sense of fear and intimidation that I believe most young people feel, combined with a belief that it was difficult to “make it” as an artist.
I drifted through my twenties, unsure of how to embark on an art career. In 2008, I discovered Daily Painting, and things began to change. The concept that every painting didn’t have to be huge and “important”, and that each day could be a new beginning, set me free, and I haven’t looked back since!
Over the years, my work has gotten larger and teaching has opened my eyes to the fact that the business of being an artist is a learning process for a lifetime. That “long game” mentality, combined with the boldness and daring qualities that daily painting engenders, pretty much summarize my art practice.
In addition to teaching workshops, you also host an online mentorship program for artists. Can you tell us more about it?
Teaching, for me, is a way to give back what I’ve learned, and to learn even more myself! I tell my students all the time, “I get just as much from you as you do from me,” and it’s the truth!
I love teaching workshops: the face-to-face interaction, the focused, consecutive days in the studio, the ability to literally get my hands on my students. But mentorship has been extremely rewarding for me as well. Getting to work with artists all over the world, over a period of months, or even years, I help them grow toward their personal goals, and overcome resistance, in whatever unique form it shows up for them. Motivation and inspiration are just two of the benefits I hope to offer!
My mentorship program is truly individualized. I first teach my students a set of lessons meant to target the fundamentals, but as soon as they move in their own direction, I’m there to support that. It’s been fascinating!
You have been teaching still life, portrait, and figure painting workshops around the country, as well as an online art mentorship program, for many years. What is the best piece of advice you can give to first-time oil artists?
There’s nothing to be afraid of! Oil paint intimidates a lot of artists who’ve been working in water-based media because of the non-water aspect of it, the solvents and mediums involved. It can be complicated, but it does not have to be.
My teaching philosophy is simply this: Make painting fun. Feel free to take risks, to fail. To improve, we need to paint a lot! But love and enjoyment are the key. Don’t apologize for your inspiration. No matter how small the piece is, go back to basics regularly, and always be on the lookout for beauty.