Vancouver Artist Sarah Clement’s work balances a delicate sensibility with something more bold and iconic. Retaining a mysterious quality, her works tend to feel strongly symbolic and emotive. The materials she chooses blend together with collage appeal that considers both careful composition and a subtle palette.
How would you describe your practice?
I am an illustrator. After being in both Design and Fine Arts, I discovered the happy place of illustration that sits somewhere in between the two. Throughout this time I have started to develop a ‘style’. Overall, I find that my process is very intuitive, I’ll start with a general theme and go from there, sometimes I feel that the piece of paper tells me what to do. I am just beginning to do illustrations for clients, and so I am learning to work with more restrictions and external directions. This is good because it means I have to keep my drawing from flying off the page into the realm of ultimate intuitive freedom and ground it with more focused parameters. That being said, creativity still needs to flow through the pen and waltz across the page, and I must allow it to move to its own beat.
What inspires you to make the work that you make?
My work is informed by the poetics of everyday. The transformative qualities of light, the space between tree branches and the flow of energy in the natural world. Organic, flowing lines referencing natural forms: tree branches, roots, leaves, and birds are all reoccurring motifs. Recently I have begun to incorporate the human body into my work, letting the organic lines and shapes flow in and around the figure.
I often listen to music while drawing, and although I don’t directly reference it, I’m sure it seeps into the work subconsciously. Recently Kings of Convenience, First Aid Kit and Philip Glass have been making their way into my eardrums. My favourite poetry anthology is The Spice Box of Earth by Leonard Cohen.
I am drawn to making work that is ‘beautiful’. There were times in art school that this word seemed to have a dirty residue to it, that I would cringe as someone would dismiss my work as merely ‘pretty’. I’ve come to embrace this magnetic desire towards creating the beautiful. I gain a lot of inspiration from the beauty of the natural world and I think that perhaps, those moments when we notice the beautiful we see what is in front of us, we start to see that there is hope in between twisting roots or the patterns of shadows that move across the ground.
How would you describe the physical nature of your artwork?
I would describe my work as mixed media illustration. I generally start off with a pencil sketch and then move to pen and ink with my favourite two nibs or my favourite two micron pens. I do delicate, often detailed work with the pens and then go at the paper with an x-acto knife! I discovered this one day while being frustrated with a drawing…cutting shapes out of the paper opened up a whole new world, allowing for the manipulation of space (making drawings more 3D). It also allows me to experiment with different pieces of collage material that I put into the cut-out space. Most of the collage material I use is made by myself…old block prints, serigraphs or intaglio prints make for wonderful textures. Recently, photographs and photocopies are making there way into the work, and sometimes I employ a tiny paintbrush loaded with watercolour or gouache.
Do you have any friends in Vancouver who are artists that you talk to about your ideas/work on a regular basis? or : Describe your artist community.
As I have recently graduated from Emily Carr this Spring, I am lucky to have an arts community outside of school. I rent a studio space at 221a Artist Run Centre in Chinatown. It’s a vibrant community of designers, sculptors, painters, animators and illustrators. We have a gallery in the front, and the rest of the space is divided into studio spaces. One part of the studio that I love is the ‘Pacts’ that happen every couple months. It is a one night, non-juried exhibition. A theme is announced in advance and an open call is put out for artists to respond to the theme. The work is put up, followed by an opening that includes a potluck. How can you go wrong? An unpretentious art show with tasty food!
I also work at an art supply store, and its great to be around creative people who are excited about making art.
What recent work are you the most happy with?
After all the agony and worry, I have to say that I am quite happy with the pieces that I put in the Emily Carr grad show. I did a triptych of drawings that consisted of paper mounted onto a 2 inch deep plexi glass frame I made. On the first layer I cut a shape out, so that you could look through to another drawing underneath. One of the drawings consisted of a figure’s head in profile, the viewer could peer through her head to see flowing organic shapes that lead you to the swirls and tangles of the next two pieces. My favourite thing was watching people get really close to the pieces and peer inside. I love that it evoked curiosity in the viewer and forced them to get up close and appreciate the intimate details.
I want to further explore this avenue; it is exciting to push the two dimensionality of the drawings into the 3D.
Any upcoming shows?
This coming July I am going to part of a show called On Collections at the Emily Carr Concourse Gallery. It is a book art show with work from the Dr. Yosef Wosk collection, Emily Carr Library’s Ian Wallace Collection, and the Regional Assembly of Text’s lowercase reading room, with current bookworks by Emily Carr alumni and students. It is curated by Celia King, who is an talented, inspiring artist and person. I have two small books in the show. It opens on Saturday July, 17th from 5-7pm but runs from July 14th to 24th.
In August the Bicycle Film Festival is coming to Vancouver, and I’m going to be part of the Festival’s art show. The show has not yet been confirmed, but it will most likely be at the Grace Gallery on August 7th. It’s a group show, with bicycle-inspired work. I’m excited to be involved, besides it includes two things I love: art and riding my bike.
Any advice for your peers?
Surround yourself by creative people. Believe in what you do, even if it’s not what you think you ‘should do’. Make your own projects. Get outside. Eat good food.