Art Tag: Painting as self-expression

By Andrea Stokes – 

In my last session of Art Tag, Tomas Pajdlhauser  sent me to meet Hintonburg artist Sarah Barbary. Tomas described her as an artist who works from her emotions, and in a completely different style from her work.

I met up with Sarah in her cozy Hintonburg apartment, where every room is colourfully painted and overflowing with the art she creates. Over tea, Sarah and I talked about her compulsion to paint.

Sarah works as a paint supervisor and oversees the background images at JAM FILLED studios, a local animation company. She manages a team of digital painters who all work from home and are tasked with making sure the background imagery is consistent in style, composition, and colour. It’s a big job, but satisfies only a part of her desire to work with colour and paint.

Sometimes the hardest thing about painting is parting with your work, says Sarah Barbary. Photo by Andrea Stokes
Sometimes the hardest thing about painting is parting with your work, says Sarah Barbary. Photo by Andrea Stokes

Sarah studied Animation at Algonquin College and finished up just as the industry was in a hiring freeze. She moved to Sudbury to seize an opportunity to work as a layout artist. She spent most of 2009 practicing traditional painting and with the help of a mentor, learned to move from acrylics to oils. She says the time spent learning traditional skills was crucial to her as a form of self-expression.

“My own work is so different from any art work I do digitally,” says Sarah.

As I’ve now learned through interviews with digital artists, almost every artist thrives on the joy that comes from holding a brush or pencil in hand.

“I love painting intuitively,” says Sarah. “My paintings start from a flicker and I try to find meaning from these flashes of colour I receive. The paintings direct me, they tell me what story I need to tell. Sometimes I wait and wait before knowing the painting is complete, and I work on them as each one speaks to me.”

Sarah has a keen interest in quantum physics, science, and ideas of the metaphysical. She attended many aboriginal ceremonies centred around water, hence the presence of water imagery in much of her work.

“All of my pieces are a tapestry of my experiences in the outside world, and I have to wait for everything to converge; a movie, a song, a word, an image. It all has to come together for my eureka moments in painting.”

Sarah has an upcoming show at Bread By Us bakery in October, and is working on more exhibitions in the future. She says her paintings are vulnerable pieces; sometimes, she can’t part with them. Once you step inside her home, you know instantly that this is a person who derives much comfort by surrounding herself with her artwork.

Sarah has tagged local artist Dan Martelock as my next interview subject. She’s excited about his commitment and passion for community, and the completely different style of work he does.

Art Tag is a special series by local artist Andrea Stokes. Each artist she profiles for KT “tags” their favourite artist to be profiled in the next issue. Find the others in this series right here


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