Through the alluring eyes of her subject, Sarah Stob’s mysterious portraits of women or animals invite curiosity from the viewer. Her work is an introspective result of her tumultuous childhood and a form of personal therapy. As a painter, she, incorporates the allure of mystery, struggle, sadness, and often vulnerability. Her creative talents include making jewelry, playing violin, sketching illustrations, and painting with encaustic, acrylic, and oils.
Sarah’s painting style often mutes a character into the background by combining vibrant colors with abstract brush strokes. Her rich colorful portraits are completed using encaustic painting techniques. Beeswax and colored pigment are melted together and applied on top of the surface allowing her to carve shapes within the heavy waxed texture.
Sarah grew up on a farm in the small town of Gowen, Michigan. Her mother, also a painter, inspired her and her brother’s love of art from an early age. As a kid, Sarah would hitchhike several hours into Chicago to go to the museums and look at art. She was never drawn to realism but recalls how deeply moved the brush strokes of abstract painters made her feel.
“I was so drawn to Monet and Van Gogh as a kid. I would spend hours in the museums just to sit and study the color and texture of their paintings.” -Sarah Stob
Sarah’s childhood was disheartening, her father had a stuttering impairment and often yelled because it was the only way he could communicate clearly. She explains, “as a kid, I thought that he was always angry and disappointed with me. As an adult, I realized that his yelling was due to his frustration with expressing his thoughts verbally.”
Sarah’s mother struggled with mental health issues, she explains “when mom was in a good place she was the nicest most healing person you could be around.” Her mom often kicked her out of the house during blackout moments requiring her to stay with neighbors and family members. At the age of 14, she moved out on her own supporting herself by selling her art in local coffee shops, at art fairs, and in boutiques. Forced to grow up fast, at 19 she bought her first home, married, and divorced soon after.
Later Sarah remarried and relocated to Tennessee when her husband accepted a new job in Nashville. She pursued phycology at Belmont University receiving her Master’s degree in social work with a desire to understand mental health concerns. She wanted to learn the cause of her mother’s issues and how she could help. Although she has never been able to gain personal clarity, today her mom is doing much better.
“My mom was and still is the driving force behind my art. Part of the reason I create is to gain some type of approval from her. Many of my collections were based on interactions with my mom. ” -Sarah Stob
Sarah’s battle with stability as a child helped mold her into the creative person she is today. She says that she survived by being completely open about who she was, what she needed, and never pretending that her life was ok.
“I have been a human without boundaries. I detest boundaries because they trap people with trauma. I was helped by family and strangers only because they were willing to ignore the limits and scope of their relationship with me. They made me a priority instead of viewing me and my issues as someone else’s problem. They didn’t pawn me off to the state. They made it so I could rest in a safe space without judgment.” -Sarah Stob
Sarah finds her own life balance through her creativity while getting lost in the process of making her art.
“I have a lot of self-doubts, sometimes I feel like I am just wasting all this paint and canvas., it’s hard sometimes being stuck in my head.” -Sarah Stob
Sarah admits not having any classical art training but out of curiosity has studied and experimented with different techniques on her own. While in college she did try taking her first art class but didn’t find the process to be fun.
Sarah’s early paintings started with acrylics and oils. After struggling with involuntary hand movements due to nerve damage, her husband got her an iPad. She soon discovered a new process of painting digitally and fell in love with the app Procreate. It allowed her to control hand coordination issues by working in layers. If her hands involuntarily moved, she had the capability of deleting the painted layer. The ability to do digital layered paintings without having to wait for the paint to dry was also a bonus.
Sarah takes her iPad everywhere allowing her to create her ideas without limitations. After completing a digital painting she uploads, prints, and mounts her work onto canvas using an online digital service. She brings her imagery to life by adding paint, glaze, and encaustic wax on top of the canvas to build texture. She explains her process in our interview on The Creative Push.
“I am constantly looking at how light affects the things around me and I am obsessed with shadows!” -Sarah Stob
With the isolation of COVID-19 Sarah has spent more time on Facebook than usual. Her current pandemic series is the result of online photos people have shared wearing masks.
Sarah paints regularly but has had a hiatus from trying to sell her. Wanting to be a good parent to her son she made it her priority to be available as a mom and wife first. She believes looking at the work of other artists and making mistakes is healthy for creative growth. In the future, she plans to take formal art classes on color theory and technique to improve her painting skills.
“I can’t believe how beautiful the world is but we are constantly running through it and missing all these different little things. I am constantly enthralled with nature and life.” -Sarah Stob
Sarah’s painterly style, choice of subject matter, and character emotion all emerge from hidden childhood fantasies, experiences, and feelings of brokenness. Her issues with her hands have been a tough hurdle but she feels she is making progress, she hopes to pick her violin up and start playing again soon.
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