How she began, her success and the Grand Opening of her new studio - Friday May 29th
"Passion", a vibrant abstract painting was an instant mood changer for me when I first saw it at the "A Colour Theory" event at the Arta Gallery in the Distillery District last spring – I couldn’t take my eyes off of it; I loved it. It had such a powerful usage of vibrant colours and the way they interacted with one another, the layers and textures, was what I was the most fascinated by.
Abstract Artist, Sarah Phelps is the artist behind "Passion" and what actually led her and I to sit down and discuss her journey into her artist career. It's an incredible story, one based on the universe, the hints in life she received from the things around her and listening to her gut. There were many "aha" moments in her personal journey that she felt compelled to share with me. I'm so glad to have heard her story.
Sarah actually began a career as a wildlife biologist for 10 years before her career as an artist - how cool is that?! She always did have a love for art while in high school but more so for sketching and drawing. She definitely thought she'd go into Fine Arts in University but ultimately she changed her mind at the last minute due to a fear of being a "starving artist" and pursued Biology.
"I went to University for biology and I ended up working for the government and I've been doing some consulting after that in wildlife biology. So I used to go out to the fields, do animal surveys, wildlife surveys and capture snakes and turtles. I went to Australia and studied koalas and wallabies. I've done some pretty interesting things. I definitely miss it and a lot of people say that they can see the nature in my paintings. There's an organic feel about my work. It definitely comes from my love of nature but I don't intend it to, it just happens".
There is definitely an authenticity of an organic/natural-feel to Sarah's paintings and now it makes sense as it does stem from her first career as a wildlife biologist, her love for nature and animals. Her paintings have created such a buzz that they have been showcased at the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, France, also featured in 2 shows in Italy, in Houzz, in Canadian Home Trends Magazine, The Globe & Mail and numerous segments on CityLine.
So if Sarah began in wildlife biology, how did she end up with such a successful career as an abstract painter?
Sarah: At the end of my biology career, I was also into health and fitness so I decided to become a trainer and train people in their homes. I was training a client and we were talking about my artist side and she suggested that I start painting. I thought it was kind of silly at that time because I never really embraced painting growing up. I was drawing portraits actually when I was growing up but it was around the same time my mom had given me some paint and some canvases that she had lying around. The universe was directing me in that route so I decided to just mess around and I created a few pieces then it started to evolve a bit more. That same client saw my work and bought 7 of my paintings! So right away, it fueled me and gave me a lot of confidence. Also, right at that time when I was creating and that client was buying, the people that were looking at my work, everyone was loving my work and I was approached and referred to someone who worked at an art gallery and they had spaces in the back that you could rent and connected to someone I could talk to about doing an art show. I ended up calling him, next thing you know, I booked an art show and I'm renting a space in the back to paint. I was painting out of my condo but it was just getting messy and there was no space to do it. Then, I sold more than half of my art at the show which is really good for an artist and things from there have been crazy. I've completely embraced the artist life, I've done so many shows in the last 2-3 years and I've sold over 125 paintings, closer to 150.
So when you have a canvas in front of you, how do you actually start?
Sarah: I have to be in the mood for it. The last thing you want to do is force yourself to start painting. I start with the canvas, I use wood panel and I just let my emotions do the painting and often I don't know what I'm going to paint or how it's going to look. The only thing I usually plan out is the colours, so I'll know my colour palette. When my pieces are finished, I just have this gut feeling that it's done. When people usually look at my work, they see something, they feel something and often I get asked to interpret my work. In a lot of cases, it really is up to the viewer to interpret what the piece means to them. I feel like I create for people and it doesn't really matter what I see or what I feel and sometimes I don't really know until I'm asked to do it but I want the person to see and feel something - that's something that always happens, when they see the piece they just know it's for them. I get testimonials and it so overwhelming to hear people say:
"When I wake up and walk into that room, where your painting is hanging, it sets a tone for the day and it makes me appreciate life better".
I feel there is some sort of energy with my work that people really connect with, there is something there. Part of it is that my pieces have a lot of depth to them because I use a lot of texture and my technique is that there are a lot of layers and I really try to create paintings that have positive energy.
Do you ever feel really connected to a piece that you cannot part with? How do you part from some of these paintings?
Sarah: Because I know that it will make someone else as happy as it makes me and that's more important. I would never want to hold back my paintings and inspiring someone else. And I do believe that each piece is created for somebody so I may not sell it for 2 years but I know that eventually the person that owns it, it's meant to be for them and always has been. I have some pieces that almost sell for a year - so, so close. I just sold one actually to friends of mine and it had almost sold many times and when she saw it, she said "I didn't even see this piece before, can you bring it over" and I hung it up in their living room it was obviously meant for them - it was perfect for their space.
What do you want people to know about Art in general?
Sarah: Art can really inspire you if it is in your space. Art is an investment, it can set the tone for your space, it can inspire you, motivate you and you can have a deep connection with art. Art can help influence and change your life in a way; it is deeper than one might think.
Sarah will be celebrating the Grand Opening of her new studio location alongside artist, Vanessa McKernan this Friday May 29th and Saturday May 30th where she will be exhibiting her latest pieces.
This Friday, Guests will have a chance to WIN one of the works featured on the left in a raffle!
Date/Time: Friday, May 29th, 6:00-9:30pm (also open Saturday 12-4pm)
Location: 15 Case Goods Lane, STUDIO 312, Distillery District, Toronto
Testimonials from some of Sarah's art buyers/collectors:
"Sarah, I just want to let you know that your painting inspires me every day - it is truly beautiful and unique. The painting has great energy and I feel a deep connection to it. It looks absolutely amazing in my space and makes me feel happy every time I look at it. This piece was definitely meant for me. Thanks again."
"Thanks so much Sarah! I've had six people over since Saturday because I love showing it. Everyone agrees that it has completely transformed the space."
"I love your paintings! My girls thought that the two downstairs were beautiful, but when they went up the stairs and caught a glimpse of the aqua painting, they knew it was right for us."