Sarah Rowan

Painter.  Photographer.  Freedom Fighter.


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!  ;-)

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!