Sarah Raessler, the current artist featured in the Up Front Gallery of the Harrington Building, and her pastel teacher Christine Rooney joined us this week to share insight on Sarah’s history with art, what inspires her, and her process towards creating new work.
Sarah began her journey with art in September of 2003 when she joined Christine Rooney’s pastel class. “She came up with her own color combinations and what she wanted to draw,” said Rooney. “She knew right away what colors went together, and it was extraordinary the way she would put them together.”
All of the colors were a part of a family, to Sarah. “Sometimes I would give her a pastel that I knew wouldn’t be a part of that combination, and she’d say ‘no, no, that’s not it’.”
“I think in abstract ways, and [putting colors in families] helps me understand that,” said Raessler.
When asked about how she felt after finding out she would be showing at the Academy’s galleries, Sarah told us that she “was scared.”
“I’ve never been shown in the Up Front Gallery before.” But now, after selling 17 of her 25 pieces, she says “it’s quite a relief.” Even more impressive, is that almost all of her pieces, 20 out of the 25, were created specifically for this show. “I’ve been working on the new pieces since October 2017,” said Raessler.
One of the new pieces that Sarah fell in love with while creating was ‘Swan Lake’.
“It’s an inspiration of the ‘Swan Lake’ suite by Tchaikovsky,” said Raessler. “I like to listen to music while I’m painting at home. It inspires me.”
When looking at ‘Swan Lake’, you can’t help but smile. “The freedom of expression and movement just puts a big grin on your face,” said Ted Batt, Director of Visual Arts. “It’s my favorite.”
Another one of her favorite pieces includes the ‘Pink Rosette’. This piece is special to Sarah because it is one of the first she created using a pallet knife technique in the background.
“I use a pallet knife with a pastel chalk on top of the background color and press it down.” After pressing it down, Sarah scrapes it off so that she had scattered pastel. “I do this mainly with my winter paintings,” said Sarah. But, a few pieces in her current show feature this technique as well.
Sarah likes to work with special pastels, including the Sennelier pastels and Unison soft pastels.
Unison Soft Pastels, developed by British artist John Hersey, began in the early ‘80s when he could not find the working qualities he was looking for in the factory made pastels that were on the market. Hersey was disappointed that the mass-produced pastels broke too easily, were not consistent in texture, and didn’t suit his color vision as a painter. For several years he worked on handmade methods of production, the texture of his pigments in mixtures, and creating sensible color sequences.
Rooney explained that “if you don’t know about pastels, they range in hardnesses and creamy softnesses, even though there’s no oil at all. It’s pure pigment, ground up and put into stick form.”
Sarah also utilizes Roche pastels for highlighting her work.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have Sarah’s work in the gallery this month, especially because this is her first gallery show,” said Ted Batt. “The whole show just puts a smile on your face.”
For those interested in viewing Sarah’s work, you can visit the Academy Center of the Arts’ Up Front Gallery, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm, until Saturday, May 26, 2018, or visit the Annual Art Show at E.C. Glass High School this September.