Sarah Rowan

Painter.  Photographer.  Freedom Fighter.


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

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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!

The doc said it was incurable. It almost killed my art. Almost.

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on September 20, 2012 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (5)

I've been silent for almost a year in the land of blogging.  In August 2011, my hands and joints felt disabled from a sudden and extreme inflammation that made holding my children difficult, much less a paintbrush.  It was depressing to be honest.  I had to take painkillers just to function, and numbness made my entire arms tingle for hours.  

In March 2012, I was diagnosed basically with rheumatiod arthritis and placed on 3 medications so toxic that alcohol and conceiving a child were off limits.  The swelling reduced and I was able to open and close my fingers for the first time in months, but the drugs were taxing.

By early September, I had to increase my medication because I was still in pain...but my body decided it had had enough and found myself almost in the hopsital from stomach pain.  That moment, I decided I had had enough of the medication too.

SIDE NOTE: Cortisone shots in your wrist 8 hours prior to a LIVE painting gig isn't enough time.  hahaha.  Turns out my body didn't like the stuff and my hand was not my own.  I painted over the canvas the following morning.  LOL 

I felt a grace to shift my diet to remove all inflammation triggering foods, and stopped my meds.  More importantly, I felt God's healing presence stronger than ever and here I am, over a week without medication, almost all the soreness from my hands is gone and I feel myself again.  

I'm back.  I'm grateful.  Go Jesus.

UPDATE March 3, 2015:  I still believe in healing and still believe it can be a process and a journey.  For whatever reason the journey didn't end there and I am back on medication, this time Enbrel, a weekly injection as well as natural supplements, healthier diet and swimming.  It's humbling to ask for help opening tight jars and fatiguing quickly, but I'm still optimistic.  My ankles and knees and fingers may feel like crap some days, but you can't take my joy.  (ok...I'm writing this when I'm in a good mood, let's be real...sometimes I'm frustrated and running low on joy...but not tonight.)

Hi Lovely Customers! Suggestion Box here

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on June 12, 2011 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (7)

Hey, I have too many pages on my website until I figure out how to condense the space, please leave your comments and testimonies concerning my work in your home...whether painting or photography!  Thanks heaps!

35,000 Doors

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on April 15, 2011 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Big doors swing on little hinges.  You never know what a seemingly small encounter, conversation, email, etc. will impact your life on a scale larger than your imagination.  

This week a postcard advertising company called Avant Card launched an image of mine called "Not Forgotten".  I was selected as an emerging humbled and honoured...and thrilled to pieces.  Roughly 35K of these postcards are currently being distributed to 400 venues throughout Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.  I see them as 35K doors of opportunity, a chance to make someone smile, desire to paint, remind them that they are loved, and maybe even attract a few clients.  Who knows?  Anything can happen.

Use What You Have

Posted by Sarah Rowan Dahl on March 29, 2011 at 7:06 AM Comments comments (2)

Just about everyone I meet either wants to be an artist, or has a creative soul so deeply buried they don't know where to start.  So I just wanted to take a moment to say to anyone reading this...create something.  Stop allowing blank paper or canvas to intimidate you...grab a pencil, a brush...heck, a stick on a dirt path.  Take 5 minutes and analyze your artwork with as much precision as a 3 year old.  Drink a glass of wine or blindfold yourself if that what it takes, but if you incorporate a few minutes of creative exploration into your life each day, I personally believe you will find it both enriching and invigorating.  I'd keep rambling but the baby just woke up...LOL.