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Alumni Studio Visit: Sarah King, MFA 2015

NYSS: Describe a typical day in studio.

Sarah King: My studio practice and painting are directly linked to my children. When I have a little help, I work for two hours every Monday morning. Then I work from 1-3pm during the kids’ naps (if I am lucky), and then again from 8-11:30pm when they are asleep. While my time is not always spent in the studio, I take a lot of notes for paintings I am looking at. I make a lot of preliminary drawings when I draw with my kids, using any material that I have on hand, like crayons and construction paper. I also take a lot of photographs, so that I can remember particular moments that I want to revisit in my paintings. 

Because I don’t have large blocks of time in the studio, I do not do a ton of drawing during studio time. I jump into my painting as quickly as possible and use my time like I did during a Drawing Marathon with Graham Nickson. Because I never know when the kids will wake up, or if I will have to switch into mom mode and abandon my work, I have become very intentional with my mark making. 

NYSS: Walk me through your process. What are some of the parameters or problems you set up for yourself within your work? 

SK: My problems are dictated through my limited time, space, and paint. Since becoming a mom, I have had to switch my materials, from oils to acrylics so that my work dries quickly. I do a lot of planning in my head and come up with a plan of action so that as soon as I get into the studio I am painting. I have limited my palette, but I try to work big and small in both sessions so that I can close paintings quickly and feel like I’ve been productive. I do some drawing on the canvas, and dive into the paint. Between sessions I will sneak back into my space and try to draw on my canvases with charcoal so that when it is time to make changes I can do them quickly depending on the painting’s need. I work based on photos mostly, but I am not limited to the photo-I use it as a base until I no longer need it. I also study the spaces I am painting and revisit them while I am working so that I can problem solve while I am not in the studio. 

NYSS: How has your practice changed during this time of social distance? Have you had to adapt to a new way of working?

SK: My practice has changed considerably since COVID, mostly due to the fact that I no longer have help during the workday. I used to have two mornings, 2-3 hours a week dedicated to studio time. Now I sometimes have one morning, thanks to a fellow mom who will take my kids for two hours. The last two years have been a constant adjustment because I had a newborn last year and therefore did not have much of a strict schedule for sleep so we were tired. Then COVID hit right as I was beginning to get back into the studio. Now however, I am able to get larger chunks of time throughout the day when the kids are asleep or working with me in the studio, so it is getting easier. I have encouraged the kids to draw or paint with me so that I can work and they can experiment with materials and feel confident in their own work. A lot of their drawings have helped loosen me up and experience play, which has only fed into my studio practice. 

I have been taking this time to draw on my iPad a lot to make sketches and workout some of the problems in my painting. I find it easy and there is no clean up so I am able to play with images of my work digitally, or make preliminary sketches without any cleanup. 

NYSS: What do you keep in the studio for inspiration? Reference material, artist monographs, music, fiction, found objects, foods etc…

SK: My biggest inspirations come from artists’ imagery that I have in the studio, like postcards, screen snapshots that I have printed, encouraging letters or sayings from friends who have inspired me. Some of the contemporary artists I have been drawing a lot from recently are Ruth Miller Forge, Andrew Forge, Eileen Hogan, Nicole Santiago, Ryan Miller, William Bailey and Catherine Kehoe. I have also been looking at Matisse and Vuillard lately. During the times I am too tired to work, I put on documentaries of artists. Recently I have been watching documentaries on Rothko, Eva Hesse, Basquiat and Wyeth. Podcasts like Artist/Mother podcasts, Longest Shortest Time, the Moth, and Fresh Air’s artist interviews help as well. Mostly my inspiration comes from my life and kids. I take a lot of photos of my kids that serve as the base of my paintings. 

NYSS: Do you listen to anything while you work?

SK: I listen to a lot of trashy TV in the background while I work and Audible books. My biggest issue is that I can get caught up in my own thoughts and then I am not reacting to what I am painting to. I get too self-conscious. If I have something playing that’s super junky it helps me to check out and just react and forget the rest of the world. 

NYSS:  How did studying at the New York Studio School influence your current studio practice? 

SK: My time management and problem solving is directly influenced by what Graham Nickson encouraged. I feel like there is never enough time so I have to use the time I barter wisely and not waste it. Whenever I get stuck I’ll paint a transcription, and I make big shifts in my work without worrying too much about how it will collapse. I trust that through the collapse, the painting will eventually become more honest in its resolve. I am also more confident whenever I get stuck that I can push through it because of the many strategies and experiments that Graham Nickson, Elisa Jensen, Ron Milewicz, and Judy Glantzman taught me. 

I think a lot about all of my professors these days. Elisa Jensen once told me to not worry about what type of painter I wanted to be but to just be honest and my work will speak its truth. This took a lot of time to process and trust and it’s some of the best advice I have ever received. 

NYSS: Are there any upcoming shows or projects on the horizon you would like to share?! And where can people see your work digitally?

My website is You can view my work on my website and below is a list of current and upcoming projects! 

When She Rises, We All Rise Gallery 118, Online Gallery and Platform dedicated to contemporary and Visual arts:

Focus on Portraiture Ridgefield Guild of Artists, Ridgefield CT (in person and online!)
on view: April 10th- May 8th 2021 

Artistic Celebration in Motherhood, Stamford Arts Association, Stamford CT (online) 
May 1-30th, Online reception May 1 at 4 pm. ** I will be speaking about my work via zoom and you can register for the opening
reception here : 

Observing Motherhood, ARC Gallery, Chicago IL
The exhibition will run from April 30 – June 19, 2021. Gallery hours are: Fridays, 3-7pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 12-4pm. Masks for all visitors are required and no more than 6 people will be allowed in the gallery at one time. (Hours subject to change.)


Outside/Outsider-TBA For Mid May-MID at Long Island City Artists in person and Online (Information to follow)

It Reminds Me of Someone, Gallery 118 Virtual Exhibition: TBA  AUG 2021 


Snapshots From NYSS

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