‘Artists can unveil the unseen.’
Sara Gallagher is an artist working from a studio in Northern California, exhibiting across USA. Her work is full of intrigue and hidden meaning, as she explores emotions and dialogues relating to mental health issues and breaking down barriers surrounding them. Sara skilfully employs a hyperrealistic technique to develop and realise her figurative pieces - sometimes developed into surrealist imagery, which she describes as revealing 'the inner landscape of the human experience.'
Where is your current studio? What would be your dream studio?
My current studio is in my home, a little 500 square foot cabin in a redwood grove nestled in the hills of Northern California. I share the space with my partner Jacob, a musician, luthier, and leather worker, and our husky lab Zephyr. My dream studio would be a customized building on our property - something close enough to wake up and roll into at 5 in the morning, while being kept separate from our living quarters. A porthole window is a must, big glass doors a perk, and a brick wall a dream.
Describe a moment you had an epiphany concerning your creative life.
I am an insatiable creator. An artist, musician, designer… the list would go on forever if I let it. The moment I realized that in order to actualize my dream to become a full-time artist I would have to let some of my other creative endeavours go was a turning point for me. This degree of ambition requires time, a lot of which I needed to free up by letting other commitments go. I’m not full-time yet, but I’ve made huge strides in my career ever since I simplified my life: studio, day job, family, mental/physical health, repeat. (Toss in some time with friends in nature or the occasional show and we’re good to go.)
What is your favourite/ least favourite part of the creative process?
To be honest, I love the whole process… From inception to completion, each part is incredibly valuable and seems to be satisfying in its own way. With graphite, some areas require a lot of layering. This part is tedious, and perhaps my least favorite to get through. Deadlines also fit into both of these categories - they serve to motivate me while also creating a certain pressure on the piece that otherwise doesn’t exist. A love-hate relationship!
Do you have a personal mantra or quote which serves to motivate you?
“If I’m dissatisfied with a piece, then it just isn’t finished yet.” This mantra in particular steers my course towards patience and diligence. In the past I created many works that were somehow disappointing to me; I grew to realize that I am capable of working out the parts that don’t sit well, I just need to keep at it. (Studies help a lot with challenging areas.)
How has your style evolved and what contributed to the change?
Utilizing myself as a model was something that I used to do often. I quickly tired of this, and came up with a way to engage individuals in a much more direct way while breaking away from self portraiture. The participants in my works become the models themselves - their story, their body. I love drawing others; to study people’s exquisite differences is incredibly satisfying to me.
A second evolution that is extremely new is the incorporation of PanPastel into my works. With a deep love for paint and color, this allows me to blend the styles of painting
and drawing, while bringing some color into my otherwise gray pieces. I’m excited to see where this takes me!
If you could time travel, what advice would you give the younger you, regarding pursuing your artmaking?
Keep educating yourself. Identify your strengths and find a mentor who can help you hone in on those directly. Exploration is fantastic, but allow it to happen over time - you don’t need to strive to experience everything right away. Trust in the process, be patient.
What do you hope to convey through your work?
Solidarity. We’re all walking around with our own wounds, traumas, epiphanies, etc. Transparency around daily mental health is not directly encouraged by our society, yet these are such core parts of us. I hope that individuals can see emotional states of being reflected back to them through my work and feel comforted in knowing they’re not in this alone.