A few years ago, when I was very very pregnant with my 4th baby, I had the opportunity to assist at a writing and illustrating conference. I was helping in an intensive 5 day illustration workshop filled with 15 attendees. One of those talented participants was Sarah Jane Wright, of Sarah Jane Studios. She had been running an etsy shop filled with BEAUTIFUL cards, stationary, prints, calendars, fabrics (you name it) and was also in the middle of illustrating her first picture book. In addition, she had recently welcomed a third adorable baby into her little family. She was doing it all...and all very well.
I was inspired...by her art, her sense of style (which flowed through her in every aspect), and her tenacity. And even though her academic training wasn't in illustration, she brought her knowledge of the theatrical arts into each of her creations...sweet and beautiful storytelling.
|This was the book she was working on when we met, a sweet Christmas story.|
Everyone, ...here's Sarah.
(interviewed March 2012- I wanted to limit this to only a few questions...a mom's life is too busy for more)
Julie: Sarah...here are a few people you may not have met yet. Can you tell them what made you decide to start focusing on visual arts? What was the tipping/turning point?
|Photo from SarahJaneStudios.com|
Sarah: Well, the truth is, my interest in the visual arts began as far back as my earliest memories. I was a natural artist, always making and drawing on anything I could get my hands on. I was always writing stories, making books, and by 3rd grade, had no doubt that I was going to be a mom and an artist when I grew up. It was just such a part of me.
I also had a love for theater and music, and it was the perfect outlet for me to express myself in a way that pushed me...I was forced to overcome my natural shyness, interact with people and engage in storytelling. Art was always a part of me through my years in junior high and high school, but as I went into my teenage years, I can really say that my time was split 50/50 between both interests. It was a great training for me on all levels, but I really gained a lot of experience through pushing myself in an art where I was always "out there" and it really helped me to become self critical and get a strong backbone...two very important things I'd need later down the road.
After a summer at Interlochen, where I studied both fine art and vocal performance (two completely different schools!) I realized that in order to really grow, I'd need to choose one. I couldn't do both in college, and while it tore me apart, I spent my senior year in high school really digging deep as I decided which I wanted to pursue. My first love was art, but I also knew that I'd never do much performing once I became a parent, and I also knew that mastering the performing arts can't come through independent study, like most of my visual art training had been. I needed to be involved, and get training, and so I majored with a BFA in musical theater.
Once children came, the performing naturally slowed and I lost the bug to be on stage. I was able to pull my paints out and really create art in the late nights after children were sleeping, and I finally was able to start what I knew would be a lifelong engagement with illustration.
Julie: Do you ever imagine what your life would be like if you couldn't do what you do...create?
Sarah: I have. A lot. Being an artist, and always having your hand in a project isn't easy with the needs of a growing family. I say that because artists and creatives are crazy people...and we get a little wonky if we aren't balanced out by creating. When i was married and not yet working as an artist, I spent a good 2-3 years in agony not being able to quit my job and start working as an artist. I wasn't in a position to do so, and it was literally depressing and heart breaking for me. It's such a part of me, that now I don't even think about the separation. It's such a part of daily life now and I've been able to structure my days to that it enhances our family, as well as myself.
Julie: What are your dreams, goals, aspirations in regards to your art now that you've come this far?
Sarah: Oh gosh. I dream big, and hope to really keep learning and growing! I have so much I want to learn, and be able to say in my art...but it takes time and years and maturity. I really just hope to keep illustrating the way I see the world of childhood, and hope to be able to keep telling that story, in various forms, for a very long time!
Julie: What advice would you give to the illustrators reading this post (being the wise YOUNG artist you are)?
Sarah: Well, I know it sounds cliche, but it's really true: Be yourself. Know yourself. Know what makes you YOU and your art unique. Know what you want to say, and learn how to say it the best you can. With so much visual information out there now, it's very easy to catch on to what is admired, interesting or getting the attention. Or, it's easy to fall back on what has already been done. Know what has worked in the past, and add on to it with your own voice. As an artist, you have to tell your story, and do it the best way only you can.
I'd also like to say that as much as you work on your art, you'll need to work out a plan on how to get your art out there. I had a simple, very naive plan, and it worked enough to give me the education I needed to make more plans. There is no ONE right way to get your art out there....know what your options are, but then don't be afraid to think outside of the box. You never know what doors will open!
Julie: Thank you for being willing to answer these questions. And thank you for creating such beautiful, lovely art.