Sunday, June 1, 2014

Artist on Artist Interview with Sarah Park

For this month's Artist on Artist interview, it gives great pleasure in welcoming fine art photographer (who is also my sister), Sarah Park, to my studio blog! 

I am very familiar with much of Sarah's work given the fact I am her younger sister and have taken part in a number of her photography projects over the years, and we even had a 'sister' show together a few years ago. Since, Sarah is my sister, it may seem only natural that I may know a fair amount about her work, but actually that's not the case. Believe it or not, Sarah's work has always been a bit of a mystery to me, I say this because our styles, choices of subject matter and mediums, are so very different from each when, we as sisters, share many similar things and traits. 

And now without any further adieu here is Sarah's interview along with selected works ...


Polly: Hello Sarah, and welcome to my studio blog, it's a pleasure to have you here! Would you mind telling us why you chose photography as your medium? 

Sarah: I'm not sure to quote Bob Ross on this one or not but it was more of a "happy accident". Along time ago, the Pittsburgh Public School system was courted by the Manchester Craftsman Guild to recruit inner city high school kids to learn about ceramics and/or photography. It was there we met the 2 departments and the instructors. We stepped into the ceramics department, it was dusty, smelled like wet earth and the instructors were very hipped out. To my young 14 year old mind....NEXT please!
Then we went to the photography department, there was this wonderfully animated man, Lonnie Graham. He collected all of us into a 10 x 10 room with no apparent windows, turned off the lights and removed a tiny piece of paper that had been covering a hole. We were in a giant camera obscura. It was magical, wild and Lonnie made photography intriguing. However I did not choose photography as my medium until my sophomore year in college. The final deciding factor was a windy day, a 6' x 6' wet painting and veridian green.

August 20, 1831.
Solar Plate Etching. Arches Watercolor Paper.

Polly: Would you please describe your earliest memories when you realized you knew you were an artist?

Sarah: The earliest memory I realized I was an artist or wanted to be an artist was when I was 4 years old. I had created a painting with a BIG brush and the most amazing colors. I can instantly recall the memory and the feeling of complete satisfaction, I had been given my answer, it has always felt right, then and now.

Rebirth #1
Solar Plate Etching. Arches Watercolor Paper.

Polly: Could you tell us about your education and training?

Sarah: I would have to say I received my formal nuts and bolts training at Schenley High School. It was the best Performing and Visual Arts High School in Pittsburgh. At Maryland Institute College of Art, I fell in love with the magic of B&W photography and Alternative Processes. After college, the journey still continues, especially in the Digital age. I take workshops and classes at Rhode Island School of Design, the Photographers Formulary and local workshops.

Rebirth #2
Solar Plate Etching. Arches Watercolor Paper. 

Polly: In your own words, would you please describe your style?

Sarah: Neo-Antiqurian, Victorian Macabre with a splash of childhood wonder and playfulness.

Rebirth #3
Solar Plate Etching. Arches Watercolor Paper.

Polly: Tell us about your influences and studio routine; when do you like to photograph, how do you find inspiration to create, how often do you use a ‘darkroom’, what goes into creating a Sarah Park photograph?  

Sarah:  As photographer, Robert Adams poignantly said, "I hear the leaves I love the light". There is no truer statement. I like to photograph using natural sunlight most but I do have a great set of Tota lights. 
- As a creator there is never enough time, money and everything in between. Artists are junkies that way. Since the dawn of my existence, my studio has been everywhere however I declared the bedroom off limits as a studio space. That is a different kind of studio, great for anatomy but I digress.
- My darkrooms, after college have been in closets and bathrooms. I do have a proper darkroom now. I go through periods of dormancy, where I visually collect ideas and photo props. Then one day I'll pick up my camera and start to photograph whether it is on the dining room table, on the floor, outside, on a flower or a cocktail napkin. That is my studio space and how I create.
- Inspiration and Influences (I am constantly adding to) from many places: the light, a memory, a feeling. Dutch and Flemish paintings. The Victorian house I grew up in and its wavy glass in the windows. Dappled sunlight. Textures of fabric, paper, wood, etc. My frame shop is a huge influence. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Scientific Illustrations. Beatrix Potter. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
The Red Balloon, the 1956 film by Albert Lamorisse. My husband, H. Gray Park. My late dog Lucy and our walks in the park. And the list goes on!!!! So many wonderful people, places and things to be inspired by!!

Rebirth #4.
Solar Plate Etching. Arches Watercolor Paper.

Polly: You own a fine art conservation frame shop, Sarah Park Fine Art Conservation Framing LLC, located in the Velvet Mill of Stonington, CT - tell us a little about that? 

Sarah: 10 years ago My Father-in-law and I opened a frame shop/gallery specifically geared towards artists and beginning collectors. Last year he went into "soft" retirement and handed the business over to me. I have updated the name and appearance to the shop yet we still offer ... in my opinion, one of the BEST selections of frames (over 4,000) in Southeastern Connecticut. We offer COMPLETE museum quality framing, no matter what the piece is, from a child's drawing to an Alexander Calder. There are some framers that throw the words "Conservation and Museum quality" around like a tennis ball in a dog park. We have 100% cotton rag mats, custom made fabric wrap mats, and our fancy in house custom made Italian mat. We use 99% UV glazing and completely acid free rag backing board with an inert substrate. Stop on by!!! ha ha
The shop's influence: I love what I do for my "day job", it provides a huge amount of inspiration for me. I have some amazing customers with amazing artwork that entrust us with it. Designing, fitting, installing artwork, restoring a piece, you develop a brief but influential relationship with the artwork. The range of my influences include paper ephemera that we have framed, such as local colonial registers and letters; the Penmanship alone is inspiring! A Josef Albers silk screen, a Shoson Ohara wood block or a Nan Goldin photograph, all add to the mix of visual ingredients. Like I said, I love my "job", it really feels like an extension of Art School.

Wood Thrush.
Solar Plate Etching. Arches Watercolor Paper.

Polly: Tell us about your choice of cameras?

Sarah: I have used and enjoyed many types of cameras, from homemade oatmeal containers (no there was no oatmeal left in there) to 5 x 7 field camera. But the real answer to the question is what lens do I like to use. Depending on the idea and the subject I choose accordingly. I am currently using my Canon 7D, alternating between my Lensbaby and Macro lens. For my B&W film camera I use my Dad's old Canon AE-1. My dream camera would be anything Leica.

Mrs. Havershaw's Flowers 
Solar Plate Etching. Arches Watercolor Paper.

Polly: Today, Photography is widely available to everyone because of smart phone cameras, photo apps, and social platforms such as Instagram; what are your thoughts on this and what does a fine art photographer have to do differently in order to stand out? 

Sarah: The Brownie, one of Kodak's first mass produced camera, made photography accessible to everyone!!! Think of how many yard sales one has been to and inevitably there is an old box camera sweltering in the hot sun looking very sad. The iPhone, Instagram, photo apps are the Modern day equivalents. The difference is within the individual and what you do with the 10,000 images you have stored on your computer, cloud or external hard drive. An artist has inherent drive to communicate and share their idea. Whatever the medium, they take the steps to show up, get set up, paint, print, sculpt, reprint, break down, alter if necessary. Present it to a gallery or institution to establish a venue, share and sell their work. Making art requires thought, feeling and A LOT of effort.
-As far as social media, blogs, etc. The jury is still out on that one. I feel bottle necked in a hypocritical dialogue in my head. I love seeing what the world is doing but in the same breath, I feel that ideas are precious especially when given the chance to really develop. I guess I'd like to see some balance.

Male Swimmer #1

Polly: Tell us about your new series and how it came to be?

Sarah:  My new series. I have been enjoying the playful side of my creative being. It's been a little like stepping through my own personal looking glass. The HO scale figures are my "Alice in Wonderland". How it came to be is another "happy accident". At our frame shop we were restoring a ship diorama. The ship was missing some of it's crew. So it was off to the hobby shop to replace the missing crew. After we were done restoring the ship there were some left over HO scale figures, we ended up placing them around the shop on electrical switches, the fire extinguisher, etc. 6 months later in a quiet prepared moment I photographed one. Again the answer presented itself to me and it felt right. Now I'm a HO scale collecting fool.


Polly: Are there some artistic ideas you’d like to explore with your photography, but haven’t yet and what are they?

Sarah: Yes of course. Like the 6th Book of Harry Potter or Season 7 of Doc Martin, good things come to those who wait.

I told you, Bunny. 

Polly: If you could try your hand at another medium or genre what would it be and why?

Sarah: Printmaking, silk screens in particular. For their boldness. And Bookmaking, because I love book making.

In the Garden.

Polly: If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Sarah: Jim Henson, he was so creative!!!! His sense of humor I just love. His sense of whimsy and fantasy was infinite. It would just be cool to brainstorm!!!!

Star of Bethelem

Polly: Who has been the greatest support to you as an artist and how?

Sarah: Being married to a fellow artist is a support in of itself. There is an inherent understanding.

Running through the Crocuses.

Polly: What has been most challenging for you as an artist?

Sarah: Time. Time. Time. Carving out time in this busy world we live in. However having said that, It CAN be done!!!

Red Bathing Suit.

Polly: Tell us what your thoughts are on being an artist?

Sarah: It's like the Peace Corp motto, "It's the toughest job you'll ever love".

Black Bathing Suit #2.

Polly: If you were conducting this interview what one question would you ask yourself and what would the answer be?

Sarah: I would ask about what kind of papers do you like to print on?
- My answer would be many including B&W fiber base, AGFA warm tone fiber base paper. For my cyanotypes, Linen, vintage cocktail napkins. For my solar plate etchings, Rives BFK paper and lastly I am investigating printing on vellum.

Chartreuse Pulpit #2 

Polly: What words of wisdom would you offer to young, aspiring artists?

Sarah: Thinking back on question 18. My original answer was "Follow your passion and be true to it". There is no truer statement. It is how, what and when you decide your passion is that matters. It might be in finance, science, medicine or the arts. If you rest upon the arts, please remember the above quote because the dailiness of the arts can challenge you in ways that make you wish you dealt in commodities instead. Being a working artist means you wear all sorts of different hats. Your hats include the art cap, the salesman hat, the negotiator hat, the bankers hat, the computer tech hat with a host of other hats to vast to mention. It can be exhausting to be an artist. You might have to have a "day job". I do but it was a choice. You ALWAYS have a choice. As an artist your pockets might not be deep but the soulful wealth of being an artist satisfies to the heart and marrow.

Thank You for asking me all of these really great questions and having me on your blog. I feel honored. :-)

Polly: Thank you so much, Sarah, for taking the time to give us some wonderful insights into your art and life! Wishing you the very best with your artistic journey!!


To learn more about Sarah Park and her fine art photography, please visit her Facebook page.

Website: (under construction)

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