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Chatting with Sarah Otts

When I was hunting last Christmas in South Georgia, I met a very sweet lady that told me I just had to check out her niece, because she was a very talented artist.  She was indeed correct: her niece is a very talented painter and I have grown to love her beautiful, lyrical, work.  Thank you, Sarah, for taking time to answer my questions and to remind me to 'paint, paint, paint!' 


One of Sarah's 6 x 6 Paintings - leave a comment below about where you would place this beauty in your home to be entered to win it on my Instagram feed, @MarquinDesigns

(see rules at bottom**)

When did you start painting?

Always. I loved working on all kinds of art projects as a child, but I think I would say I started seriously painting around 14.This has truly been my job since then. In the summer and after school I would work on commissions and paintings to sell. I had home shows periodically until I was displaying and selling paintings in a gallery when I was around 19.

 Do you have other artists in your family? 

I am the only fine artist in my family. Both of my parents are pretty creative people. My sister also enjoys art, and my mother is an interior designer and studied art in college. My Dad likes working with his hands and finding creative solutions. I think the terminology for the elements of design have been in my ear all my life. An eye for design and a knack for creative thinking is what I got from my family.

Your work is loose - did you always paint that way? What did your earlier subject matter entail?

I started out like most; trying a little of every style of painting until I found my niche. It has taken me 10+ years to find that niche though! Only in the last few years have I been painting in this way. The way I am painting now makes me feel well rounded. I can enjoy the process as much as the result. Discovering the loosenessthat appears to distinguish my paintings was once a seemingly elusive goal that I could not grasp. So, no, my art has not always had that quality. For years, I knew I was trying to paint something in particular, but it was something I had never actually seen. I wasn't trying to paint like any other specific artist. My style of painting is something I had to discover on my own from years of trial and error. In the same way, it continue to evolve and change.

Tell us about your color palette choice.

I love heavy darks and bright whites. I like little kicks of color here and there, but whites and darks are in my house and what I wear and that translates into my painting palette. I do enjoy working with neutrals and the way they support the saturated colors, but I want them to be the secondary color on hand. For me, the way I view color and the way I paint, the whole color spectrum has to be involved. Otherwise, I see too much boldness and intensity in my paintings. There is a fine line I walk with color. I love the impact and power in contrast and rich color, but I don't want it to appear too powerful. An overdose of color is overwhelming, and that is not how I want my viewers to feel.

What tools do you use in your work?

Oil paint, oil sticks, spray bottles, large brushes, palette knives, rubber scraping thing, rags

What are your favorite supplies to use?

I love the initial drawing stage I do with oil sticks. The spray bottle is probably my other favorite part. I like washing away areas and revealing the previous layer. The looseness comes from allowing the soaked paint to react naturally, and I manipulate it as it happens.

Describe your process: How do you approach the canvas?

Using oil sticks, I go into it without any reservations knowing that whatever I put down first is not going to tie me down. I explore any possibilities and eliminate the dysfunctions later. From there I push and pull structures in the painting, removing and adding things throughout the process. Lastly, I build up the texture with palette knives.

What artists work do you most admire?

Throughout my journey as an artist I have looked closely and admired a wide range of artists.  My first favorite artistwas Kandinsky. I was drawn his whimsical abstracts. I later went through a figure obsession and Klimt and Schiele were everything. I have really found the artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement relatable; Pollock, Kline, Hoffman, DeKooning. In the past few months I have been studying Helen Frankenthaler and her large scale paintings which she painted on the floor, a technique I have been exploring.

 What is the best advice you would give to a young artist starting out?

Paint, paint and paint some more. The more I paint the more I understand about paint. Find time to go into your studio everyday. It helps me to keep my work on my mind as much as possible, even if I cannot paint that day. If I see unfinished work or the potential in a painting that I am working on, Im more likely to get up early the next morning to get work done. It is easy to let it become a job, but if you are always exploring ways to enjoy the process, it can remain as fun as the day you started.

What has been the best advice you have received for pursuing a career as an artist?

Tough.There has been a lot of great and needed advice. I very much welcome advice in this industry. It is a tough one to navigate. Whenever I can bend the ear of someone who knows it, especially the business side, I will. I once emailed a successful contemporary artist who I felt like I could relate to, and she told me what I said in the last question; paint, paint and paint some more. If you saw my ragged finger tips you could see that I have taken that advice.

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 Enter a comment about where you would place Sarah's 6 x 6 painting (shown in first image, above) to be entered to win it on my Instagram feed, @MarquinDesigns.
 Giveaway will end Midnight, Friday, September 25th, 2015.

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