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Sara Schroeder

Sara Schroeder

Tell us about how you became the woman you are today. Where did you grow up? What moments in life have influenced your character most?

I grew up in the northern part of Idaho. As far as my art goes, I’m sure the cold winters and super short daylight hours in the fall/winter influenced my creativity – because it meant I was indoors and looking for something to do! That usually meant I was reading or drawing. I’ve always been a pretty quiet and introspective type, so sitting by myself for hours, mesmerized by some inner world was very comfortable for me. Drawing was almost a meditative practice, and I loved to watch what pictures would appear via the movement of my own hand. Sometimes I was thrilled, sometimes I was disappointed, but watching the lines and shapes take form was always a mystery I was eager to participate in uncovering.

Tell us a little bit about what drew you to your medium. Did you choose to work with this medium or did it choose you?

Currently, I work in acrylic, occasionally mixing in a few other mediums – pencil, watercolor, pastels, pens. My mediums have changed over the years as my life has changed. I used to paint with oil, but it takes SO LONG to dry in the Florida humidity, and honestly, as a busy mom of 4, I don’t have the patience or the time to wait on paint to dry. Acrylic allows me to work faster and build layers fairly quickly. I suppose I found it, not the other way around, because I was looking for a medium that would fit my particular needs. I also work in watercolor in my smaller pieces, and in that situation, I’d say the medium chose me. It started with Winsor and Newton watercolor markers during a 100 Day Project on Instagram. I absolutely loved the lively feeling and flow of it, and my work just grew from there.

A lot of women believe they need formal training in order to succeed as a Female Artist. What’s your take? Did you have formal education or are you self taught?

It’s actually not clearly one or the other for me. I studied as a Fine Art major during college but ultimately didn’t finish that route. Everything else I’ve learned since jumping back in I’ve either learned by trial and error, by taking online classes from some really amazing current artists, or by researching solutions when I come upon a problem specific to what I’m trying to accomplish. The online world is so ripe with instruction I think we could take lessons for several hours a week for years and still not exhaust our options.

What do you want the younger female artists coming up behind you to know about you, your journey, and the art industry in general?

You don’t have to know everything before you start. When I launched myself on this journey, I didn’t really know what would become of it. I just decided to dedicate myself to an active art practice, treat it like it’s my job, and let it take me where it takes me. I don’t think that’s a great business plan unless you have some solid goals you aim to hit on a specific timeline, but it allowed me to be very open to new opportunities and go with the flow of my already existing life. Because I didn’t have a specific financial goal in mind, it was easier for me to experiment with projects and say no when something didn’t feel right to me or fit into my lifestyle. I was able to weigh opportunities with my intuition - which meant if I was excited and felt great about it I would accept, but if the thought of a project filled me with dread or anxiety it was a clear no.

Heeding to those indicators has created a career that drives me forward in the best possible way. As far as skill goes, well, you don’t have to know everything either. In any job you learn the most when you’re actually doing it, so while you learn valuable material in art school, you learn even more valuable lessons and skills when you’re actually making the art. Following your curiosity is incredibly important because it leads you to new and innovative methods and outcomes – processes that possibly no one else has tried yet - and that’s fantastic.

One fear that hindered me most, in the beginning, was feeling like I didn’t know what practices/processes/skills/techniques were widely accepted as the “right” way to do certain things. The further along I get, the more I believe that just because something is the “standard practice”, it’s not necessarily the only way or the best way. Getting over the hurdle of “the right way to do things” and giving yourself permission to do things in a non-traditional way is basically writing yourself a massive permission slip to follow your creative intuition without obstacle. I’m still working on it myself, but it’s incredibly important to allow yourself that freedom.

Let's talk about vulnerability. What role has being vulnerable played in your work, success or failures?

I think I tend to stay pretty guarded as far as divulging the stories behind my work is concerned. One of the aspects of abstract art is that not everyone will know the meaning behind each piece unless I spill the beans. So much of the time my art is more about the physical experience of creating it - the thrill and joy of making it, feeling the colors, the textures, the smells, appreciating the sensations as I’m applying the materials, and then ultimately experiencing the feeling of everything as it all works together in the end. However, there are times that my art is therapy for me, and some of that work is my most treasured. When I share those thoughts and emotions – even without going into great detail – those pieces connect on a deeper level with those who follow my work. Story is a legitimate element that connects people to art.

How do you define your creative gig? Full-time career or side hustle? Explain why you’ve chosen one over the other.

I’d say my creative gig is a (substantial) side hustle. Even though my kids are getting older, my number one commitment is still stay-at-home-mom. However – I do squeeze out every possible second I can to contribute to building my art career. Having a home studio is key to being able to facilitate the mom/artist life. That means when they’re doing homework, I’m doing my art. When they’re watching TV, I’m doing art. When they’re playing a game, I’m doing art - not every single time, but often. As my kids get older, it’s much easier to set limits and make plans with them. So if they’re needing my attention or involvement, I can either put down what I’m doing if it’s an immediate concern, or I can say “I’ll be with you in 20 minutes”, or “I’ll play a game at 4:00”, or “I need 10 minutes, then we can look at your homework and you can finish while I wrap things up in the studio before dinner”, and they’re really good about accommodating that.

I choose to keep it this way – art as the side gig because I want to be available to them, and I know my time with them is limited. My husband and I are fortunate that his job keeps our family financially sound, and a second income is not a necessity for us. I know in a few short years I’ll have plenty of time available to me to make art my main gig, so, for now, I’m content with squeezing in what I can and allowing my creative career to take form in whatever time I have available to me.

What is the message you're sending into the universe with your work? Why do you feel so strongly about this message?

I’m trying to put a notion of awareness into the universe regarding strength and goodness in all of our stories. I try to get deep down into my own internally for whatever feels true in the moment in the form of color, shape, and marks, and I let that story come to existence on the canvas. In the end, even if there is darkness or tension in the beginning of a piece, I want there to be calm or resolution at the end. I feel like that is the basic narrative of life. Nothing is as it is forever, there will always be ebb and flow, and darkness will not stay dark forever (sometimes the darkness is even the beautiful part). Sometimes we struggle, sometimes we experience pure joy. I’m trying to capture a moment of beauty, a reminder, regardless of the current chapter of our story. Being able to recognize and appreciate a moment of joy or beauty as it sits in front of us is a gift, and I hope my art acts almost like a piece of stop-motion animation or the halting scratch of a vinyl record to bring those moments into focus.

How do you stay motivated?

Sometimes rather than not having motivation, I feel directionless. If I’m feeling stumped, I usually dive into journal work, which for me, is a free-for-all license to play. Curiosity is my best director, so free-journaling always leads me down a new rabbit hole, which will then inform new and intriguing things in my work – which does, in fact, motivate me. Either that, or I tidy up the studio and do mindless tasks like painting edges or sealing finished pieces. Just being in that room, feeling the cool floor on my feet and smelling the smells can slowly start to move me into a creative headspace, and before I even know it, I’m itching to paint again.

How do you define your creative gig? Full-time career or side hustle? Explain why you’ve chosen one over the other.

Mmmm. Money is always a tough one to talk about. I’ve already mentioned that I define my creative gig as a side-hustle. Therefore, I’m not looking to be able to support myself with what I earn at this point. This doesn’t mean I’m not pursuing a fulltime salary, it just means I’m comfortable with taking my time getting there. This is the best possible situation for me, because it truly lets me create freely and let my business grow organically without me having to force anything. I try to tune in to opportunities that feel right and manageable to me as an artist/mother and with the time I have available to me. Often the trick is being able to identify and be aware of which projects AREN’T a good fit because in the end they will feel overwhelming and cumbersome or take too much away from my family life.

Building a business this way might feel too loosey-goosey for some entrepreneurs, but I’ve found that following my intuition has actually led to a career that is steadily growing at a manageable pace and in just the way I need it to.

Big or small, what’s the single best money making tip or piece of advice you can share with up and coming artists?

Instagram has been an amazing tool for building my art business. I think maintaining a consistent presence on that type of platform lets people know they can count on you for your particular brand of entertainment or nugget of enjoyment. That tip goes hand in hand with an observation I’ve made that when I post something (after having established that pattern of regularity) and make it immediately available for purchase, it often sells very quickly. I think this goes against the more standard practice of releasing art in a series or in a large batch of work. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but if you’re an artist scrambling to make some ends meet or trying to scratch some money together for your next project, I say go for it. Post and sell, post and sell. There will be times for building up a series of work and creating a big launch, but here and now is here and now, and if you need the money to move your business along, go for it!

What do you know for sure?

Ha! I know for sure it’s hard to know anything for sure! But if we’re going for depth here and not just something simple like “chocolate makes me happy”, I’d say the older I’ve gotten the more I feel a deep knowing that the world is full of Love and it’s constantly in motion between all things, even if we can’t quite pin it down in ways we understand.

Give us three of your favorite/ most inspiring things right now. It could be a book, a food, a destination, a song, a person, etc.

This summer I read Atul Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal”. It gave me so much to mentally chew on, but one observation he makes is that as people near the end of their life, their priorities change substantially. It made me think that I’d really like to get into that mind set (without actually being on the verge of death) so I can evaluate how I spend my minutes and days and know I’m living life in accordance with what I truly find precious and valuable.

Hillary McBride. Go find her. @hillaryliannamcbride Her work is unbelievably valuable for everyone, but especially women. I’m obsessed with trying to learn as much as I possibly can from her. I’m going to fangirl for a second here and say that Hillary, if by some weird stroke of luck you read this and you want to co-op on a project, I’m in! I don’t know what we’d do, but I bet we could dream something up!

The Intuitive Eating movement – the real one, not the one that’s been hijacked by misinformation. It’s breathing new life into my soul and spirit and teaching me to trust myself and my body signals again instead of torturing myself with guilt and shame. In some ways, it resembles spiritual practice, and that’s life-giving. You can check out @evelyntribole for legitimate information.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Oh! This one is easy. After moving a zillion times (at least it felt like it) and having a zillion friends move away (again, it felt like it), I was convinced my social life was basically over as we approached another move. My husband reminded me that it’s really pretty easy, you just need to “be a friend to make a friend”, and it’s turned out time and time again to be so true. I’ve made so many new friends I treasure deeply, and I know I’ll make more as life moves forward, no matter where we are.

 Finish this sentence. I never leave home without my…

Fake Yeti full of ice water.

Finish this sentence. I find myself most inspired to create when…

I have a day free of errands and schedules and an empty house!

Name 3 of your guilty pleasures:

1. Getting into bed early and reading for hours

2. Skipping a workout so I can double my studio time.

3. Kid foods – like chicken fingers, pizza, mac-n-cheese, ridiculous candy – you get the idea.

Name 3 Artists you would like to see featured on Hola Gwapa next and what you love about them.

Devon Walz (@devonwalzart) I love the spiritual/emotional depth of her work and she’s such a cheerleader and guide for other artists.

Carly Buteux (@itsapublicholiday) I’m just purely a fan of her gorgeous mugs!

Zoe Tan (@swingfibers) her fiber art is so delicious looking to me! I know that’s a weird way to state it, but there is something about the depth of colors and textures that makes me wish I could reach through the screen and touch it all. It’s so rich with color, and a little out-of-the-box as far as what I’ve been exposed to in the macramé world.


kimberly standiford

what an excellent article——sara, you are so special!

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