Sarah Rowan Dahl

Painter.  Photographer.  Freedom Fighter.


The rambles of an artist...join the dialogue.

view:  full / summary

Coming Out...Finally

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on April 10, 2018 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Been silent for months when it comes to blogging as it was difficult to write or think or be when living a life outside of who I am.  I was creating works of art to inspire others, but would often be in my studio crying and wanting to die.  But I'm free now...and the art is going to shift and change and be full of more inspiration and life than ever before!!  It's been a long and difficult journey.  Thank you to the multiple hundreds of friends, family and fans who have been supportive and encouraging the bravest few months I have ever had...

Feel free to check out my video on YouTube (that is refusing to link properly) and hear from my heart on the matter.  Just search something like "Sarah Rowan Dahl, Coming Out" and it will pop up...

Feel free to ask questions, as it looks like there are a lot of peeps out there with questions for me.  Happy to answer, might have to do another video.  No need to write if you have a problem with me being gay.  Enough haters in the world.  Save your breath and smile at your neighbour.  Life's too short to waste it trying to hurt someone.

Have a creative week!


Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on August 25, 2016 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (19)

"There are not many places in the world where I feel at home.  There are a few places in England that I swear if I stood still long enough, roots would grow out of my feet.  And that's how I feel when I'm near you."  My mother said this as we were walking through an uneven carpark the other day, and I chiselled the moment to memory.  It had been 11 years since we had true quality time together.  I cherished every minute...from being stuck in traffic or even foul weather days, where we dried wet laundry by the fire and she wondered how I have lived so long without a dryer.  I'm not sure either...though the smokey rustic smell of clean laundry is rather special.


During my last visit to the US three years ago, I spent more time performing and painting than with her and my family.  They knew it was necessary to cover the enormous costs of international travel, and we had our fun.  However, in hindsight, being present and resting with my loved ones wasn't my top it is.  Amazing how chronic pain and aging are sometimes one of the few things in life that force us to come up for air from all the chaos of a hectic paced life.


I contacted clients waiting on commissions and requested extensions on their paintings so I could focus on reconnecting with my mother.  They understood and now, as I sit here in the silence of her absence, I wonder how 5 weeks could come and go like the slices of pie she made us.  Blink.


Inhale.  Exhale.  Again.  Turn off your phone, and I don't' mean airplane or silent mode.  Where the screen goes black and you can't read this blog.  Look your loved ones in the eye and savour a meal together.  Be grateful.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Feel the roots grow out of your feet. 

Getting Paid to Paint Across Europe

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on April 24, 2016 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (2)

I initially titled this blog, "Painting Across Europe", however, I realised a lot of artists do that...but few ever financlly break even, much less receive payment for their work...prior to picking up a paintbrush.  Please don't hate me.  I am merely writing this to inspire artists, whom, like me, dream and work their butts off in hopes that one day their work will be globally desired, valued, and appreciated.

In November 2015, the organiser behind Destination NSW tourism training events for Europe sat on his sofa with a glass of wine one evening thinking of an entertaining element for his tourism events the following year.  He came across my YouTube channel.  Oh the power of YouTube! Months of meetings and negotations followed as my agent (Apples & Pears Entertainment) made sure that I did not walk away from a great trip/ work experience empty handed.  

As artists we are often asked to work for less than other fields of industry in the name of "exposure".  Thankfully this was not the case.  If you find yourself bending over backwards just to make a sale and being walked over, remind yourself that "exposure" does not feed you or your family.  Oh how we would like to think that it will.  Some of the most amazing doors have opened over the years and I gladly took the opportunities at a greatly reduced pay rate, ever-so-confident that the audience would lead to greener pastures, and still returning to graze in the same old field.  After 12 years of performance painting, I have realised that these opportunities are only worth it, only if the platform of that one event is enough, but to never assume it will lead to greater events.  

Time and time again, I have made this error and it has cost my family...but now the grey hairs are starting to come in and I know better.  Chasing money is never satisfying or enduring, so please don't misread this ramble and think I'm money hungry.  Nor is this a blog about how to make more money as an artist.  When you are approached by a potential client it is important to carry yourself as an artist who values their self worth and values their work.  I am preaching to the choir and know that this can be a continual journey throughout the life of an artist, especially as these values can continue to increase over the years.

Primadonnas are not attractive.  When your dreams become reality, it is important to walk in love and humility; remembering there is always another artist out there with more talent and character than yourself.  Bring excellence to your craft!  Present your clients varnished, strong works on quality materials.  Document your journey.  Take good photographs of your work, keep good records over the years so that you know who your clients are and can visually see your progress.  Be present.  It is a trending topic these days, but it will always be one of my top priorities.  One of the most irritating aspect of our high tech lives is that we are living in multpile platforms and dimensions simultaneously, yet never fully alive in one space.  There are too many tabs open in our hearts and minds.  It is costing us our very lives and fractering relationships and families.  We are all guilty of this...some more so than others.  But we can all improve, and I for one am daily making this effort. 

How did a blog about Europe take this interesting turn?  Go figure.  Europe was remarkable.  3 and 4 star hotels...type of wonderful.  Champagne in the steam room and fancy robes...type of wonderful.  London to Manchester, Glasgow, Berlin, Munich, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Paris...type of wonderful.  I checked off locations that had been on my bucket list for two decades...type of wonderful.  Perfoming each night with my hero and husband on guitar and didgeridoo...type of wonderful.  We brought as much to each event as we possibly could and made every effort to be an asset to the team and not a weight.  This goes for emotions, energy, punctuality, and fulfilling our contract in every area.  When our client is considering entertainment for his events in the US, China, etc., we want to be his first consideration.

Cheers to all the artists out there with unique goals and wild imaginations.  Write down your dreams and place them in front of's only a matter of time before it's your turn.

PS - videos of trip are on my YouTube Channel and they are refusing to link without making a mess of letters and numbers on my blog.  Ugh.  So just type my full name into the search box and you will find it!  ;-)

I Don't Like My Own Art

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on February 27, 2016 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (4)

Most of the time.  It's true.  I initially wrote "hate", however, I knew I would get an earful from my mother if she ever came across this blog.  LOL  Granted I'm in the middle of a mood swing and I shouldn't allow myself to Blog, though I think it's important to share what I'm working through, as I believe LOTS of creatives can relate, regardless of medium.  I once heard that if we, as artists, still love our work after six months, then we are not growing enough.


Now before you positive thinkers think I'm being melodramatic and flip to another website, please hear me out.  Am I alone in this or are there other creatives with more ideas racing through their head than paper and canvas on the planet?  My mind is imploding and I think that's an asset to future works.  This ramble is not a pity party or one seeking affirmation.  I look at my paintings (keep in mind I do about 100 per year) and I feel this caged animal clawing inside my ribs wanting to take my work further, pushing past everything I have ever seen or imagined.  

Maybe I am writing this for others who have felt the same way and have not yet expressed the same frustrations.  There are gaps in my thoughts, I am not articulating this very well... but for those of you who know me understand my swings and spaces.  Well dear ones, these hands are tired.  Three paintings today alone for a client, and my fingers aching from rheaumatoid arthritis are done typing for the night.

This year I will open the cage door and see what happens.  It may be breathtaking.  It may be hideous.  But at least the images won't be beating themselves around in my head leaving me exhausted and irritable.

PS - there are a handful of pieces I can appreciate each year, please don't chew me out.  I think I'm having a growth spurt.  

Incorporating and Rediscovering Your Own Creativity

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on February 24, 2016 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

In February 2016, I had the honour of chatting with entrepreneur David T. S. Wood, who hosts a podcast (among many other leadership roles) called the Crank it Up! Show.  This podcast will help unlock your creativity and inspire you regardless of your profession and position in life.


"Why do so many people opt out of creativity? Why is it dismissed in the corporate world or silenced in adults? Sarah says that there has been a recent embrace of the arts that was missing since the rise of the Industrial Revolution. There was not an artistic encouragement to most people’s lives and the fear of fitting in or gaining approval silenced so many. Sarah’s mission is to inspire people to get rid of those inner fears holding them back. If you just try, you might find that you actually can be creative. Sarah understands the mocking of a blank canvas and is her own worst critic. She wants to give people a paintbrush, especially those that would label themselves as “non-creative.” They feel they do not have it in them, they have boundaries and blocks, but there is an innate desire to create. Sarah has seen businessmen cry during her corporate event performances when she invites them into something creative. For many, it is the first time they have felt alive in years. Inside of everyone is a creative child. Go hang out with one if you have forgotten. Address your own reasons for steering clear of creativity on this episode of Amplified Network Marketing."  

- David T.S. Wood



5 Unique Tips for Family Photo Shoots

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on May 6, 2015 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (1)

Taking family photos is a lot of fun...and a challenge.  So many personalities and ages to work with, and and often families always ask me for advice prior to their shoot.  Now instead of rambling on the phone or Facebook for 10 minutes, I have this blog.  Brilliant.  Copy link.  Paste.  Done.  You're welcome.

1) The #1 Tip: DO NOT FIGHT or STRESS OUT before the photo shoot.

As a photographer I can see it in the interaction and expressions on couples faces when they have been stressed about directions, parking, clothes, hair, etc prior to the shoot.  It comes into the photos and not only does it show...couples can often remember the stress of the moment looking back at the images.

I would rather start 15-20 minutes late than have couples stressed and screaming down the road trying to make the session on time when the kids couldn't find their shoes or couldn't find the car keys, etc moment happens.  Family photo shoots should be memorable, fun, light-hearted and full of love.  So no nagging allowed!  Let everyone feel comfortable in their own skin, with their hair and clothes (for the most part) the way they like it...don't worry if the skirt has a few wrinkles.  Breathe.   

2)  EAT BEFORE the shoot!!

Let's face it.  Kids eat ALL the time.  The last thing a parent or a photographer needs is a cranky child (or husband) because they are hungry.  Eat before coming AND have a few little treats packed particularly if you have toddlers or young ones.  This also provides the photographer with the perfect opportunity for a few minutes of uninterrupted couple shots as the kiddos munch. 


3)  Wardrobe:  Limit PATTERNS and Say NO to big LOGOS & characters

Avoid loud patterns, or something that is super trendy this year as it will age the photo quickly.   Wear what you feel beautiful in!!  Most of my family shoots are at my local beach and wind is often a factor.  If women wear skirts and their hair down, they will find themselves too distracted by their own wardrobe to enjoy the shoot.  

BIG LOGOS ARE A PAIN IN THE ASS AND STAND OUT LIKE THESE ALL CAPS!!! THEY REMOVE FROM FACIAL EXPRESSIONS!!!  Nothing is more irritating than one rebellious teenager with an obscene t-shirt standing next to their grandmother with an empty stare.

Another important tip: wear colours that coordinate...not match.  White shirts and jeans on a family of five is rather old fashioned these days.  Layers and accessories are a great way to add texture to images too.  Look at your home decor.  Is it bright and quirky or neutral and subdued?  If you plan on printing a large family photo, have the wardrobe coordinate with your home decor.

 4)  Hey Kids, it's just ONE Hour

Let's be honest.  Kids can be the most incredible fun subject to photograph, or the biggest pain in the ass.  Their moods can change quickly and they have very few filters for "proper photo etiquette".  If you want the shoot to run smoothly, just have a fun family treat planned after the shoot.  Ice cream, movies, eating out together...something...anything, to BRIBE and motivate them for good behaviour.  As a child, my mother used to get studio shots of my brothers and I each year.  Apparently one year, all three of us were such horrors that by the time we finally arrived at the shoot our pictures were already ruined because of our attitudes.  She was exhuasted physically and emotionally trying to drag us around.  Suck it up kids, it's just one hour.  Be nice and smile.  


5)  Recreate a POSE!

A lot of laughter and great memories can be captured if family members think back to their favourite images from years ago.  For instance, I did a shoot of four adult siblings who, as children had picked up their youngest brother and held him with a goofy cute youthful look.  They recreated the pose from 15 years before and resulted in loads of laughter and love filling the shoot.


Me in a Nutshell (A Big Nut)

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on March 3, 2015 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

(Sneek peak of an article for a local mag)

Artist Sarah Rowan Dahl is not your stereotypical painter. She doesn’t burrow away in her studio concerned about the opinion of others or speak in deep metaphors that are difficult to grasp. She is a performance painter, taking the public platform of festivals, weddings, corporate events, fundraisers and more, to inspire and share creativity on a mass scale. Equipped with a spinning easel, trendy outfit (glow-tie even for some events), and a contagious smile, Sarah takes a blank canvas and turns it into a finished work of art in the amount of time the rest of us eat breakfast or watch a movie.

For the past decade, Sarah has been developing this unique profession and continues to push herself to stay current with the changing landscape of entertainment. Recently at a corporate golf tournament, Sarah engaged with the high flying golfers at the second hole and had them painting on her canvas with a brush that was attached to an old 8 iron.  Following that gig, she boarded a plane to Melbourne to paint LIVE during Australia’s Premier technology festival held at Federation Square. On stage during presentations with world-renowned geeks, Sarah transcoded their speeches into works of art.

“My goal is not to ‘wow’ my audience, as much as it is to inspire them,” Sarah frequently says. “There are plenty of entertainers out there bringing the ‘wow factor’ to their performance, but does the audience walk away feeling inspired to be creative or make a difference in their own lives? Obviously, ideally, it is great when I can do both, but if I had to choose one or the other, I would rather someone see my work...the process of its creation and leave inspired to draw, paint, view life differently, or want to use their gifts to make a difference.”

In 2009, Sarah first began hearing about human trafficking and has made it her life’s ambition to raise over a million dollars to help fight this injustice. Every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking. That means in the simple time it takes to skim this article, someone’s entire world has been destroyed. With over 27 million slaves on the planet, this horrific industry is 2nd only to drugs. As a mother of two young girls, the plight of other children around the world being robbed of their childhood and forced into sex labour is not something Sarah can turn a blind eye towards.

“Some people fight with injustice with music, weapons or protests. I fight injustice with my paintbrushes”, Sarah’s says in a recent YouTube video she made to send to The Ellen Degeneres show and other local TV shows in hopes of painting LIVE during a taping to raise funds and awareness on the issue. “I want to show others that they don’t have to be afraid of world issues, but that they can use whatever gifts and strengths they have to solve problems.”

Sarah isn’t the only creative in her family. Jared, her husband is a cellist and the pair are currently practicing a performance combining their creativity as Jared plays on his electric cello and guitar, looping and adding depth to the sound through numerous pedals. They hope to travel around the world in the future, performing a unique set full of spontaneity of colour and rhythm.

Dahl has painted LIVE in the Great Hall of Parliament and at the Opera House as well as with events for some of Australia’s largest corporations. Whether she is painting in front of an intimate crowd of 20 or at a concert with thousands, Sarah brings the same message and energy to her work. She is always quick to share her ambitious goals and inspire others, never hesitating to take on gigs that seem impossible. Last September, Sarah painted 10 original works in 30 minutes during a concert with Phillip Shovk, one of Australia’s most respected pianists and pedagogues. For every “Like” on Sarah’s Facebook fan page she donates $1 to The A21 Campaign, an organization effectively fighting injustice across the world.

Art & Motherhood - Part Two

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on October 9, 2014 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Like I said yesterday,

Artist + Mother = BEEEEEEEP

My husband fell asleep on the sofa whilst attempting to get my 7 year old down.  Classic.  You know you're a parent when staying awake long enough to get the kids down is a feat.  This time I was wise.  Prior to writing I spent the entire day wearing my 3 year old out, without a minute of down time, so she passed out (after I read 9 small books).  Is it just me, or do you find yourself in an entirely different world during storytime?  I make valiant efforts to remain "present", however, if the book has pathetic illustrations I am in a world of my own.  Reading aloud whilst simultaneously checking off my mental to-do list, planning for the following day, and of course giving myself a good dose of mental guilt for not being "present" and trying to cherish each moment of their young lives.

Last night, I was laughing through one of my favourite sitcoms, when the main character (in a psychologist office) said something to the effect of, "I love my mom.  She's great a great person...but maybe she shouldn't have been a mother."  I laughed out loud, though internally had to honestly wonder if my girls would one day sit in the office of a therapist saying the same thing.  Motherhood is brutal.  Forget the most intense exhibition experience, or high-pressure commission.  Forget public scrutiny and criticism of works.  Kids.  Now that is brutal.

Mentally.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Financially.  Spritually.  Is there an "ally" I'm forgetting???  LOL  I don't care what people say, there isn't a book or MP3 out there that can really prepare a creative soul for what it's like to have their space, time, and creativity so invaded...violated.  ROFL.   I have to laugh.  If you don't know me, you may think I am morose and dark, so please note that my tone is one of sarcasm with a hint of white wine and 7 years of sleep deprivation.  

On the flip side of the coin, I know my art would not have developed and matured over the past few years without the influence of motherhood.  My work shifted dramatically in palette, style, medium, application, EVERYTHING when I became a mother.  I no longer had the luxury of time to brew and agonize over brush strokes and colour.  I began to let the paint fly faster and faster, with less analysis and more desperation to create.  From that has blossomed a career in speed painting!  My main source of artistic income is created in short bursts of time in front of crowds who are inspired and amazed at the very thing my children unknowingly drew out of me!!!  Geez.  Wow.

So for all of you creative mothers out there feeling alone and afraid to say how hard it is to create and be yourself because all of your time and energy is being used up on some little creature/ are not alone.  ;-)  Step by step, day by day...learn, grow, love what you can do, but more importantly...BE.  

Enjoy the brief season of children at home (I'm preaching to myself)... ENJOY THE JOURNEY.


Art & Motherhood - Part One

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on October 8, 2014 at 6:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Artist + Mother = BEEEEEEEEP

I tried to think of a word to describe the combination of life as an artist and a mother without cussing and offending someone...I couldn't.  I even attempted waiting to write this blog when the words "artist" and "mother" would roll off my tongue with joy and ease...but realised it may require several glasses of wine before that happened.  

Ok nevermind.  This isn't happening tonight.  My 3 year old just decided she would interrupt my cathartic quiet hour of kid free time before bed and thrash around with a tantrum in her sleep at 10:30 PM...which I interpretted as, "I have to pee".  It was only a 15 minute drama, however, it sucked the last sliver of energy remaining in my body and if I were to resume this blog it would be exhuasted crap.  Will try again.  LOL

In the meantime, enjoy this video I made recently about the cost me my phone.  LOL

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Top 10 Tips for Speed Painting

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on March 1, 2013 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (6)

Artists have been approaching me via social media and events with questions regarding how in the world one paints LIVE so fast and are often interested in having a go themselves. After nine years of painting live, these are my (current) top 10 tips…as best as I can focus with my toddler watching Dora and eating Weetbix. LOL Performing in front of crowds is an art form in itself, often taking experience to develop confidence and an ease onstage. Be kind to yourself!! However the painting turns out in the early stages…be gracious to yourself!!


Keep in mind these are tips for artists (beginners to intermediate) that have never or rarely dabbled in experiential art. If you have been doing LIVE art for some time and I have missed a vital point, please don’t hesitate to write a comment. Also, if any of these tips prove useful to you…please write a comment!! Experiential art is creating art in public spaces for people to experience the methods of creativity and be enriched by them…


1) L – Loosen up. Relax. If you focus on what you think other people may be thinking…your work will reflect that stress and you won’t have any fun.


2) I – Invite friends. Sometimes it is easier to paint in front of strangers than friends because we care more about what our friends think and don’t want to embarrass ourselves. But true friends are great supporters who want to celebrate life with you, and are a fabulous help with set up or pack down….and if the gig is at a cafe or pub, who do you want to have a drink with afterwards? Right, your mates! Speaking of drinks…if you’re super duper nervous and not against drinking…a shot or two does wonders. Too much alcohol however, will slow your movements for LIVE work and cause you to think every stroke is genius…and from a professional level, reflects poorly on yourself and the venue host.


3) V – Videos! YouTube is full of LIVE artists from around the world!! Take advantage of this wealth of inspiration to learn and glean ideas from paint application to materials used, etc. Here’s one of mine! And my favourite speed painters of all time…check out David Garibaldi who has taken speed painter to heights never before imagined, and my friend Scott Erickson, who is an incredible advocate for justice through his work. Erik Black is a bit too neat and the elevator music is ugh, but wow…painting with glue & glitter!!


4) E – Experience. The only way to know if you enjoy LIVE art and have potential with another stream of income is to have a go!! Stop thinking about it and enjoy the experience! PS – Keep a journal after each event of things that went well, and things that didn’t. The more you do in a month or two the better, as there are heaps of kinks to work out in the process.


5) A – Arrive early. Artists are notorious for being late. LIVE art is not something you want to set up for super fast, especially in a location you’re familiar with…bathrooms and sink access are sometimes far from the stage. Take note that your water bucket is in a secure location. If it were to tip over are there any amps or electrical devises that would be destroyed (i.e. your mobile phone, laptop, wires, etc). PS – if you place any tubes of paint near your feet be prepared for the disastrous tube step that fires for several metres. Been there done that. Don’t want the t-shirt.


6) R – Respect the venue!! Some artists like to fling paint and be messy. If your venue is not conducive to this…DON’T DO IT and think you’ll be invited back or not have a bill for clean up. Have a large drop cloth (plastic ones are loud and easy to trip on…canvas ones work better). Don’t leave the sink messy or drip paint around. Check the bottom of your shoes or feet before stepping off the drop cloth at the end of the event!! You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget this step and spend more time cleaning up carpets than painting. Have gaff tape (duck tape) to secure the drop cloth at the corners.


7) T – Time. Time flies on stage. 15 min, 30 min, 45 min, etc. depending on the event or venue. Try painting at home with a CD set to the time limit you may have so you’re not shocked on stage and only halfway through the painting. Having a small tall table to place supplies is super helpful! In this video you can see where I placed mine…usually I put them on my right, but due to venue posters I had to go left. BE FLEXIBLE!


8) I - Investment. A good sturdy easel doesn’t wobble with the energetic movements required when painting fast. Higher series acrylic paints are VITAL when time is short…particularly white and yellow. Nothing more frustrating than needing to highlight a moment in white and having a cheap product that requires layer after layer to really stand out. I have a large tube of Matisse Titanium White at every gig. It is only a series 1, but for some wonderful reason is thicker than most whites.


9) S – Sell! Last year, I sold every painting I did in a LIVE setting…and maybe I gave away a few. But don’t be an art horder that can’t let go of your work. Most LIVE artists who work professionally sell their pieces for quadruple of what I charge, so I am not the greatest one to ask regarding how to price ones work. But each year I am steadily growing in confidence and pricing my work higher, to which I always hear, “Well, you’re worth it and it’s about time!”…which always surprises me. LOL I sell more through my Facebook fan page than my website.


10) T – Thank you. Forgetting this step will lead to a short life on stage. Look people in the eye, thank everyone that helped make the event possible. Write SNAIL MAIL notes of appreciation to venue hosts, clients, supportive friends, event coordinators, etc. To continue in any field of work, showing genuine appreciation for peoples’ time and effort is a non-negotiable. I honestly think it should be unnecessary to even have this step written down, but in this day and age manners seem few and far between. If anyone reading this has not been properly thanked or appreciated for your time and investment into my work, my deepest apologies and greatest thanks. You are the reason I am able to pursue my passion. God bless you!