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The What’s What of Sarah

I can’t tell you when this journey officially started for me but I can tell you how. One of my first defining moments of an “artist” was when I was about 9yrs old, flying back from Salt Lake City with my parents. I had just settled in my tiny little airplane seat – ready for the over stimulating runway take off. All of a sudden panic rushed over me, where was my sketchbook…?? Tears welled up in my eyes as I came to accept my reality, I left my book in the terminal. I begged my dad to let me run back to get it but he denied my heartbroken pleas. This may not seem like a big deal, I was only 9 after all, not exactly the stuff of masters but it was MINE, it was my heart and soul fed through the point of my pencil and it was gone. 

 Throughout my school years I was encouraged to take the safe route, to do well in school and learn the important things like accounting, Microsoft office, typing, etc. I’m thankful for those skills (it got me to where I am today; it’s how I’m writing this). Unfortunately I was also encouraged to stay out of art classes or art school, it wasn’t practical and it wouldn’t lead to anything financially abundant. I understood, I believed it, I obliged. However, artists are rarely practical, it’s what makes us good at what we do and this way of thinking eventually lead to a lot of inner conflict and confusion, it wasn’t enough. Question was, would it be enough as just a hobby? 

 Fast forward a couple years to my early twenties, I was driving home from my boyfriend’s house and frustrated with my lack of artistic creativity. Sure, I could replicate almost anything you give me but when it came to “originality” I froze up. I remember calling my brother, Cory, hoping he’d reassure me, tell me it would come to me eventually or it was just a phase, something like that. I don’t remember the entire conversation exactly but I do remember him telling me to include music in my art. What, like as inspiration? No, go further, what does the music mean? How do you see it? Huh, interesting. That is when I consider the start of my “painting music” to have been born. I remember telling my brother that one day when I was telling my story, I’d have to give him credit for that inspiration – well here ya go, Cory, thank you. 

 A whole lot had happened in the decade that followed that conversation and of course the most important being the birth of my daughter, Claire in 2014. Then, just 2 short years after that, my life took a drastic turn, betrayal, pain, fear, and the unknown - my marriage had ended. I had been going on a 4 year artistic hiatus and no idea how to fix it, everything was different and I coped with the change by picking up my brushes again. Ahh, the paint felt good, the colors and the smell of a fresh canvas, yep it was right where I needed to be. I don’t know that I’ll ever ‘thank’ my ex-husband for what he put me through, but I do think everything happens for a reason and I’m happy to say that I was met with the desire for change, independence, stability and I finally got my passion back. *Breathe* So here I am, my own life for the first time ever, I had my own place, and I was painting again almost immediately doing what I love. My first step back into the outside art world was the first Thursdays, Pioneer Square Art Walk and I was in heaven connecting with my favorite crowd – it felt right, like I was inching towards my path. Thank you, Universe. 

 The reality of anyone living in Seattle is that it’s expensive. Very, VERY expensive especially as a single mom. I was not going to fail, I was going to do whatever it took to make sure my daughter was safe and comfortable when she was with me, I never want her to worry where her next pair of light up butterfly rain boots will come from. I, like many Seattleites, had roughly 3 other jobs in addition to my full time “day job”. Oftentimes I’d put in 80, 90 or 100 hour work weeks in addition to having Claire half the time. “I can do this, I have no choice” became a daily mantra of mine. I worked hard, seriously hard, but it never quite seemed to be enough. It’s true that I am embarrassed to admit that without the emotional and sometimes financial support from my friends and family, I would not have made it through that first year. It really does take a village and I’ve got a phenomenal one. 

 2016 and 2017 were the 2 most challenging and transformative years of my life so far. Then BAM, my exhaustion caught up with me, I was hospitalized for Pneumonia for 3½ days, not even able to breathe on my own. Yay for hospital bills! Sigh, now what? I was compromising my health and my life for…work? What good was that? Surely I couldn’t stop my forward momentum of huge art projects I had going, even if I didn’t have the time or energy for it. People were throwing projects, ideas, and commissions at me, I was finally beginning to gain my reputation in a huge way and I couldn’t let anyone down. I did my best to keep up, to be good at everything, jack of all trades. The problem was, it didn’t allow me to really excel at any one thing – I was too all over the place. I’m a woman, a mom, an adult, why shouldn’t I be able to do it all – and then some? No because I’m human, I’m not perfect and I could certainly NOT do it all. 

 Failure is a funny word: “lack of success or adequacy…the omission of expected or required outcome”, and my personal favorite: “the action or state of not functioning”. Ha, tell that to my lungs. Well, I personally try to relish my failures because with failure comes growth and learning. The truth is, a lot of things were happening for me, a lot of very exciting things! It was as if the Universe was whispering something to me but I’d constantly just push it down, ignore it. Then it decided to scream so loudly that I could no longer ignore it; finally time to make a change, time to leap into everything I was taught to suppress. It was clear to me that I needed to do the unthinkable, walk the ‘uncertain’ path, try what I had never been brave enough to do before so I quit. That’s right, 10 years of having a ‘day job’ (one that I actually loved for quite a few reasons) and a consistent paycheck but nevertheless one that was still holding me back enough from breaking through on my art career. Maybe I needed to experience the total loss of security, fear and failure in order to see what I was really capable of, still hardly seems fair but it does seem completely necessary. 

 What’s the point of all this? Well, the truth is, I felt that I owed you an explanation and a promise. Show you where I came from, how I grew, and where my life is going now; transparency and vulnerability. As of January 26, 2018 I am officially retired from a day job to be a full time freelance Artist. I’m ecstatic and terrified, nervous but optimistic, confident and happy but most importantly – I am ALL IN as your artist. I know a lot of you have been seeing some new exciting things that I’ve been up to lately but the truth is it’s only a fraction of what I’ve been able to share – there is so much more to come! I’m also excited to now have some more flexibility to achieve some of the goals I’ve set for myself like climbing all 5 active volcanoes in Washington this year, traveling at least once a month to a new place, start a children’s book, a comic, artwork for a movie, teaching, mentoring, live painting, involvement in art related projects for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, a mural in Seattle, and most importantly – finally more time with my daughter before she starts kindergarten next year. 

 I want to thank everyone who has supported me so far, believed in me, given me things like advice, criticism, feedback, help, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to let me vent to, a bed for me to crash on and so much more. Of course, thank you to everyone I know who has trusted me with their art needs, ideas or visions. I want each and every one of you to know that I am your artist and I am here to be the best one I know how, I will never stop learning and growing to be a master at my craft, I am committed. 

 I was told to never make my passion my career, but what if people are my passion? Then what? Let’s build this community up, let’s go out together and show them what we’ve got. Let’s be advocates for one another and be relentless until people look at us like we’re crazy. Our government may try to take our art programs and our funding but they can’t take away our creativity and our passion. We’re alive but it’s up to us to live. 

 So let’s live. 


Sarah Elizabeth

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