The Orris: A Cultural Journal

Artist Profile: Sarah Gay

The Orris asked  “animator x illustrator x educator” Sarah Gay to share her fantastic work and reflect on her artistic process.

We welcome you to her enchanting world:

How would you describe your style?

I’ve been told that my style is very whimsical. For a long time I didn’t really appreciate that word, because I related it to fantasy art (like dragons, wizards and fairies…which I really am not interested in). I would see my work as more naive, curious, eccentric and fragile…which of course, if you look in the thesaurus…are all words that whimsical relates to. So I have come to terms with it. I suppose my art is whimsical.

When did you realize you were an artist?

I think my mother recognized it before I did. She always encouraged me when I would draw and she would bring home coloring contests from the grocery store for me to enter. I won a few times. Once I won a contest for a free birthday pool-party when I was 6 from a local Holiday Inn. From then I grew up realizing that people noticed my artistic skills. I was always the kid in class who was selected to draw whatever poster, flyer, or creative thing that needed to be designed.

From there I’ve come to realize that being an artist isn’t just about having an ability to draw well…it’s a way of thinking and how you choose to express it. There is nothing worse than hearing someone say, “I can’t even draw a stick figure”, as a measure of their artistic abilities. It is the worst. First…people don’t even look like stick figures, so give that up. And second, we all have interesting ideas, why limit yourself to expressing it only one way…especially if that one way isn’t working for you.

What is your artistic process like? How do you work best?

My artistic process is constantly evolving. Generally though, I work best when I can go out and quietly observe. I love being outside. When it’s nice out, Boston is such a wonderful place to wander around and sit with your thoughts. Sitting on the ledges at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, is one of my all time favorite hangouts. I can sit there for hours on a nice day and draw in my sketchbook and people watch.

Research is also imperative to my process. Nothing can exist or progress in a vacuum. I spend a lot of time learning about other contemporary artists. I try to understand their aesthetic and learn what it is that draws me to their work and incorporate it in to my own.

As for medium, when I am illustrating I really enjoy working with a variety of materials. Stinky design markers like Tria, Copic and AD are a few of my favorites. I really enjoy using them along side waxy/oily colored and graphite pencils. I love the tension they all create together…mmmm…

As mentioned in a previous answer, a lot of my work, both 2D and 4D, stem from my interest in time and the way we experience it. In my animation and video work, I like to create pieces that not only explore the medium in time, but I like to create work that explores time it’s self. The visuals and sound are created to present moments and/or nostalgia that are meant to resemble the bits of human experience that we can all relate to. Such as memories, thoughts, etc.

What inspires you? What contemporary artists do you follow and what do you like about their work?

Many different things inspire me.

Time and the way we experience it

The decay of a moment and the little fragments that slip to the surface of our memory.

Forgotten, abandoned, discarded objects and places.

People and their quirks are very influential.

I love people watching and find their interactions, for better or worse, to be very inspiring. I think the image that we project of ourselves and our actions, especially when they don’t mirror this projected self- image, to be very interesting. For example, the idea that you can buy worn out looking clothes and goods from places like Anthropology and Urban Outiffters…to appear as though you are a broke, eclectic individual…but then spend an obscene amount of money on these things… fascinates me. I just find the juxtaposition of these relationships to be so amusing.

People are very interesting, very interesting and curious creatures for sure.

As for favorite contemporary artists, there are so many! Carson Ellis  has been a favorite illustrator of mine for years. I love how narrative and naive her drawings are. I also love her color palette. She is amazing! Mel Kadel is another illustrator who I love.  I feel that we both explore similar ideas with eccentric characters. Her color palette is killer as well! I recently just learned about another amazing illustrator named Stacey Rozich. The folklore that her work emotes is amazing. The colors, patterns, and stories that emerge from her drawings is super inspiring. There are so many amazing artists that I love. These are just a few. There are also artists who work in more conceptual ways that I really love.

Sophie Calle’s work is pretty weird. She explores documentation and interactions. She’s known for doing really bizarre stuff like following strangers and documenting what they do. She once randomly picked a total stranger and started sending him clothes. She had decided that she didn’t like the way he dressed…so she took it up herself to re-make him…from a distance. She would send him one article of clothing at a time from socks to a full suit. And then she paid attention from a distance to see if he started to wear them. He did. She did a ton of really interesting things like that. I just love this idea that art can exist outside these realms that we are more familiar with, like paintings, films, and music. The idea that we can create these interesting interactions and call it art, fascinates me. I hope to someday evolve a little more and move into an area that explores art in a less traditional way. I love illustrating and animating…but there can be so much more.

How do you feel about the state of the art world today? Where do you see your place within it? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

I am really excited for the direction the art world is going. For a long time art has only been accessible to privileged people. However recently there has been a cultural shift and a growing interest in street art. I think we are on the cusp of something really exciting. I look forward to where we will go from here. When art can be made available to everyone, everyone wins!

I believe my place in our contemporary art world starts here in Boston. New York City and Los Angeles are known to be mecca’s for young artists. Over the years we have lost a lot of our artists to these other cities. I think a lot of Boston artists feel that they can not stay here and pursue their creative needs, which is extremely sad because Boston excels in every other area, IE: top universities, hospitals, sports, etc…why not the arts? So I feel my role as a contemporary artist starts here in Boston. I want Boston artists to become the best too.

Within my collective, Rifrakt, we are starting to talk more about what it is we want to bring to our city. We want to bring the art community up to the ranks of everything else great in “The Hub”.


What is the value of art?

As for my own art, I hope to generate curiosity and conversations. Good art is fun to look art, but great art inspires thought.

Art is invaluable. It is the one language that can be spoken and understood cross culturally. It is as necessary to human life as oxygen is. Without it, our world would be such a dismal place. The arts generate curiosity and curiosity nurtures our mind, body, and soul.

Sarah currently has a show, with the Rifrakt collective, hanging at ERC near BU ( 736 Commonwealth Ave Boston, MA 02215 ). All work is for sale and will be hanging until May 12.  Her work is also scheduled to appear at Pavement on Gainsborough Street, Boston from late May through June.  The work of the Rifrakt collective was recently profiled on The Quad. You can follow more of her work on her website and Twitter.

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One comment on “Artist Profile: Sarah Gay

  1. Pingback: Artist Profile interview by The Orris | heysgay

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