Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Focus On: Artist Sarah Ronald

        Today's featured artist is the very talented illustrator Sarah Ronald. What attracted me to Sarah's work is her obvious deep and abiding love of the natural world- her love of animals and the multi dimensional beauty that streams from each of her subjects- each animal popping off the paper and coming to life with it's own story right before the viewer's eyes. Be sure to pop on over to her web site and get lost in a pair of raccoon eyes- her shop is a treat to check out- I'm always interested in what makes artists tick and particularly one with such reverence for the environment- Sarah was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me and let us all have a peek into the how and the why of what she does.

·         Obviously you have a very strong connection to the environment- when did your interest in the natural world begin?

Both of my parents have a deep appreciation for the natural world, and I definitely learnt it from them. However I think that I first felt a real conscious connection to animals when my parents separated when I was 8 years old. For any kid that kind of change is hard to understand, and during that time I grew closer than ever to the family pets, they became my stability and no doubt my connection to the familiar. I am sure there are many studies to be read about this phenomenon.

I remember being 9 years old and planning with my best friend that when we were old enough we would buy a forest, would cut down a patch of trees (by hand), build a log house and animal hospital (also by hand, of course!) and help all of the injured animals that came to us. Naturally from the mind of a 9 year old all the animals would live with us after that and we’d all be best of friends, the end.

When I was 12 years old I made my first set of drawings that were concerned with animal welfare: I drew posters of injured lions and elephants, protesting the circus that was coming to town. I put the posters up on the doors of businesses where tickets were being sold. The posters didn’t stay up for too long and I got a few kind scolds about my gorilla approach, but I felt like I did something good for the animals through my drawings.

·         Can you describe your path to becoming an illustrator and artist?

My dad is a painter, so making art was just a regular part of growing up.  As for how I got to the current place in my art practice, it’s actually not at all what I had originally envisioned. Despite going through 4 years of art school and always maintaining a creative practice to some extent over the years, I finally came into my own ten years after achieving my BFA.

It happened as a result of working by contract as a Visual Arts Examiner for the International Baccalaureate program, and it was through the process of interviewing and examining over one hundred lower mainland grade 12 students on their final bodies of work, that for kicks I decided to turn the process onto my own work. With that level of guided self-reflection, I realized what is now incredibly obvious: that in order to be truly satisfied with my art practice I needed to create work based on something that I am passionate about: nature and animals, and the fact that we as a species are very irresponsible to the planet.

The challenge then became about creating work that encompasses my concerns while ensuring that the images aren’t so blatantly ‘activist’ that it repulses viewers; I’d rather have people fall in love with the animals in my drawings than react to their personal feelings around activism. My goal is for viewers to have a positive experience of the subject, to fully consider the concept of animals trying to comprehend the world, and then hopefully to take the next step of self-reflection in real life. I know it is a big ask, but judging by the increased stacks of notes and scratch pads and midnightbrainstorms I’ve had over the last few years, I’d say that I have finally gotten to a spot of being constantly inspired to create, and given the underlying purpose of my work I don’t feel like I am doing it for vanity sake (self-indulgence is a topic that I’ve really struggled with, particularly when it comes to creating more stuff in the world).

·         What is your favourite medium and why are you inclined to use it? 

I have explored almost every medium, however drawing has always been my touchstone. I enjoy the simplicity and immediacy of it, I love the primal connection that one feels making a mark directly on a surface.  I actually enjoy working in extremely large scale– achieving a point where a drawing can encompass your entire field of vision and pull you in emotionally. When working large scale I prefer to use charcoal, however, given that I am currently studio-challenged, I go with mediums that are more manageable.  I have been hooked on using texture free papers (drafting film and Yupo are my favorites), and with those I use pencil, coloured pencil, conte, graphite, and sometimes water soluble media.

        Although I have a day job (which I actually quite enjoy), I do want to get to the place where drawing is the main focus of my day. I have some awesome ideas for opening up a small business that would allow me to get to that spot, so I have been slowly plodding along that path and keeping open to new experiences and opportunities along the way. For now, my work can be seen and purchased online and through my social media posts, through my local artist’s cooperative , and of course at upcoming exhibitions.

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