All through elementary school, I was designated the "class artist". I remember one kid asking me to draw naked ladies for him in exchange for candy. I was struck with the feeling that I was different. But that was all I was struck by.
I began drawing horses obsessively. They were not like regular horses, they were more like people, but they had horse heads and hooves instead of hands and feet. They wore people clothes and went through everyday activities just like people. The sketches began at about age 7, and Al Holter, a friend of my mom, published them in Horsey Tales. (Read more about Al 's press in FLIP #10)
I attended Pomona College as a sculpture major, and rediscovered my horses, this time in bronze, marble, and mixed media. This was to be my first gallery show.
Later I attended Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, where I majored in art direction and dabbled in illustration . It is also where I learned to discipline art. I had, so far, had a life of unconditional "You are so talented!"'s from my family, so this was quite a difficult time. I was really broken by it. I was taught by the most harsh critics who had worked with all the best people, and I was reduced to rubble. But it became a time of the most growth.
I like to draw with ink and dipping pens most, and I love Sculpey clay. I usually paint with acrylic or watercolors. I am way into over watering paper and watching the patterns that dry from drops of pigment. I love chalk pastels, and dark soft graphite, because I love to smear and blend. I love the look of bronze but it was so exhausting to work with that I don't think I'd make a habit of it. I really enjoy scanning drawings, and coloring them with Photoshop brushes in lowered opacities. It gives it a nice Warhol illustration style like 'Wild Raspberries'.
I usually make art for a person. I have a hard time making things if it's not for someone. If I am making a gift or something for a cause, I can work all night and have limitless energy.
My process it pretty immediate. I usually have the entire idea in my head and I know exactly how I want it to look. All I have to do is get it there. And as with most things, it will change in the process and that will make it better: a paint drip, the wrong color, an accidental layer. I definitely start over a lot, and I use the mess-ups for wrapping paper. (People think I make it specially to wrap their gifts in. Mwahahahah.) When it comes to a large project I will plan accordingly, make thumbnails, sketches of the composition, then write questions to myself about it. The hardest part is starting.
I'm really into blurred colors. I love faded opacities and melancholy blue grays. I usually have an idea of what color I want to mix, but of course it never comes out quite right. I envy those who use bold colors well. For me it's usually a layering process, but I appreciate a color that is "ironic". One that has the cache of an era; is symbolic and unique, and bold. Like a good thick tomato color, or a nice mint.
One of the most inspiring and moving things I ever saw was La Belle et le Bette by Jean Cocteau, orchestrated live by Philip Glass. The imagery was so overwhelming, it was the first time I was moved to tears. There is something so magical about the union of all creative elements. When you enter someone's brain, and inhabit their fantasy. That is what I feel is the most powerful thing about art, whether it be film, animation, a book, or a painting. When I leave myself and get lost like a child. I liken it to a drug.
One contemporary artist that I love and buy prints from occasionally, James Jean, has an elegant sense of darkness, and the most gorgeous delicate stroke. Others I love: William Steig, his sketch book of cats sleeping, Kaws, Neckface, a painter that makes "primitive" devils and demons in the most hilarious way, Tex Avery (of course), Luke Chueh and his sad ironic bears. A friend of mine from college, Brendan Monroe, paints amazing amoebic worlds, with little red creatures that erode sleeping, or dying? humans. My Nana (my Korean grandma) is forever on a pedestal; an amazing artist and seamstress, with the most flawless technical skills. Known for her Easter eggs and gorgeous bowls of ramen. My English grandfather, on my dad's side, paints beautiful watercolor paintings with no barrier of inhibition. I think his greatest skill is his ability to see so much beauty. He's the type of person to weep at a sunset. Now I know what he can see.
I have had two gallery shows and I have sold pieces in the past, but the only thing I sell now is tee shirts. I silk-screen them at home, and each one is unique. I have beetees.net and I make tees for all my friends and family, mostly for presents, but I really enjoy creating them.
See more at Sarah's SITE!
All artwork for this article is the property of Sarah May Bates.