Behind the Scenes with Sarah Sedwick

Local artist Sarah Sedwick has been contributing for the past five years to Art Gives Hope. This year, in addition to donating an original painting for the evening’s silent auction, Sarah will set up an impromptu “studio” and paint live during the event. Attendees will have the opportunity talk to Sarah while she paints, and enter to win the finished painting.

We sat down with Sarah to learn more about her background, her artistic process, and what she enjoys most about this event.

How long have you lived in Eugene?

In 2001, I graduated from Maryland Institute, College of Art, with a BFA in illustration and painting, and a minor in art history. I moved to Eugene from Ohio 10 years ago. I have been working as an artist the whole time. In addition to painting, I also teach private lessons and workshops at Oregon Art Supply and Whiteaker Printmakers. Eugene has been incredibly good to me. I have felt welcomed and accepted by the local artist community; I have developed meaningful friendships and received honest encouragement.

Why do you enjoy participating in Expressions: An Art Benefit for ShelterCare?

For me, this event is an opportunity to give back to the community. When I am teaching a class or workshop, I feel like I am giving something of value to my students, and this event gives me the chance to give back in a different way. It feels good to use my art to benefit the community. I started contributing to Art Gives Hope in 2015. I had such a great time at the event, and I was treated with such courtesy and gratitude that I have continued to participate each year. ShelterCare as an organization seems to have a respectful way of treating people—the people they serve as well as their community partners.

Many of our clients use art in a therapeutic way. Can you talk about the power of art as therapy?

Art has served different functions throughout my life. During my teenage years, I absolutely used creative outlets such as writing and drawing to help express my emotions. It was a way to work through the difficulties we all face growing up. In adulthood, art plays more of a meditative role. Often when I am painting, I can access a sort of flow state, where my intuition takes over and I go on autopilot. Once I have gotten outside of myself for that period of time, when I come back I’m more calm and centered.

Explain your live-painting process.

My technical process doesn’t change much when I’m doing a painting demonstration, as opposed to working alone in my studio. I paint alla prima, which is an Italian phrase meaning “at the first,” often called “wet-on-wet” in English. So, my paintings are usually completed in one sitting, with layers of paint applied on top of one another, while everything is still wet. Once the paint hits the canvas I want to finish that painting.

I really enjoy doing public demonstrations. I teach a lot of workshops and I conduct demonstrations for my students. It takes a different part of my brain to not only paint, but to explain what I am doing as it is happening. Sometimes people are a little shy to talk to me while I am painting, but I encourage it. Please, feel free to talk to me!

I also love getting outside my studio to paint at figure model sessions or do plein air landscape painting with other artists. It is a fun way to mix up my normal painting routine. I find that I can focus in a different way during a painting demonstration because part of my brain is occupied with my surroundings. I find a unique flow that I don’t have when I am painting alone.

When I am painting in public my end result might be a little different, since I don’t have an infinite amount of time or an infinite well of concentration. If I pause to chat or explain something to a student, when I return to the canvas I might not remember what color was last on my brush or the next move I had planned to make, but that’s exciting because it adds an element of chance.

Sometimes my work isn’t improved by having infinite time; overworking a piece is the surest way to kill it. If I have a model scheduled for three hours, or if I am plein air painting and the light is changing quickly, I get in a different mindset; it breaks me of any perfectionism that I might have.

I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s Art Gives Hope benefit. Thank you for including me in the event!

Thank you, Sarah! 

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