“I always try to make the most of my surroundings, and if I can’t immediately find beauty and inspiration, I’ll just look… not harder, but differently. There’s inspiration to be found anywhere.”
Sarah Chisholm is a Canadian fine artist, photographer and writer based in Kincardine, Ontario. She attended the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. Sarah is passionate about documenting her surroundings and photographing the natural world, especially landscapes. She also loves to photograph architecture. Her work is best known for its bold colors, many of which are produced with digital tools. Sarah’s art is exhibited all over the world, and she is a member of Victoria Park Gallery in Kincardine.
What was the starting point for your art?
Actually, both of my parents are artists, and many of the people who surrounded me growing up were artists and creative types as well, so I’ve always been submersed in the art world. I loved going to galleries and theaters when I was little, and I’ve always involved myself with arts of some kind, since I was old enough to use my hands, really! I liked to play with art supplies much more than toys. In elementary school I did some pretty amazing paintings for my age, and later I did a lot of jewelry making, sketching, sculpture, and later still, large intricate paper mosaics. I’ve owned a camera of some kind since I can remember and photography has always been a creative outlet for me.
You live in a gorgeous natural setting. Would it be difficult for you to work and be inspired in a big city?
I grew up beside the Great Lakes and I’m very glad to have ended up by the water again, but I did live in the city for more than a decade. I just found a different sort of inspiration there. I always try to make the most of my surroundings, and if I can’t immediately find beauty and inspiration, I’ll just look… not harder, but differently. There’s inspiration to be found anywhere.
Are you attracted by black and white as well?
Years ago I worked almost exclusively in black and white, and it has only been in my more recent work that I’ve gone to opposite extremes with colour. I appreciate black and white in particular circumstances, such as portraiture, or when you’re trying to capture a certain mood. I think of black and white as almost a separate medium from colour photography. It can make such a difference.
Do you sometimes do portraits or abstract?
I do abstract, yes, in particular when I see something strange in the everyday that catches my eye. I like photographing details or certain perspectives that alter the viewer’s understanding of what they are perceiving. I do not enjoy doing portraits, though I do have two beautiful children that I obviously take care to photograph! Many people have asked me to do portraits or weddings, but I politely decline… to me it’s a whole new world and not the same kind of photography at all… landscapes and objects don’t talk to you or get to look at the photos afterward! It’s much less pressure!
The use of colour in your work is remarkable. Would you still be satisfied with natural colouring?
I think part of what makes my work recognizable as Sarah Chisholm’s is my bold use of colour, but it isn’t just that I employ bright colour; I spend time making it the right colour. That being said, I do often stay with the “natural” colouring… I see some of the world’s most incredible sunsets almost every night, living where I do, no adjustments needed.
You depict your little corner of Paradise well. You almost make us feel like we’ve been there. Are you tempted to travel and shoot exotic lands too?
I have big dreams of shooting faraway locations, trekking the globe capturing incredible places and monuments, and making the images all my own. I’ve always had a heart for travel, and I daydream about places I’ve never been to all the time. Unfortunately, the last time I went anywhere worth telling about was more than a decade ago. I just can’t afford my big dreams… Maybe one day! It’s something to dream about, anyway.
Did you encounter any difficulties being a female artist? Reject? Discredit? Invalidation? If so, what was your remedy to the situation?
I still find the occasional person involved with the arts immediately dismissive or uninterested in me as an artist, without ever having seen my work. Perhaps on some level I do not “match” my artwork and photography; I look young and I have a unique style. But those same people will suddenly be approachable or treat me as a “real artist” after seeing what I am capable of… so you sort of have to see that you’re being judged (at first) more on who you are or what you look like than what you do. I’ve always been the sort of person who if you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going right out to do it. So if there are people out there that are trying to keep me down, they’re going to find their intentions have just the opposite effect! But honestly, for the most part, I find people very encouraging and supportive of me… especially other women.
Your family seems to be a big part of your life and support. Would you still do the same kind of work if you were living away from them?
No, I doubt I would be doing what I do now, not in the same way, or as happily or successfully. Also, without the support from my husband, parents, and in-laws, there’s no way I’d have gotten this whole thing off the ground!
In your recent work, there are new features, such as close-ups on bubbles and bottles. Is it interesting for you to take photographs of nature, or is it an experiment at this time?
I am most comfortable in nature but I am also attracted to pretty details such as glass and texture and feathers and so on, and my eye is often caught by beauty in everyday objects, so I do go on little creative streaks where I’ll experiment with things around the house, or create fantasy pieces from my imagination… I think it’s good to switch it up once in awhile to keep yourself challenged and fresh.
Your images in winter are serene and tranquil, despite the evident harshness of the cold. Have there been many shots before the final ones?
I try to make my first shots the final shots, especially in winter… the cold means I only have a few precious moments before my fingers don’t work anymore, so I’ve got to be quick. Light can change so quickly as well, and as lighting in winter is so important, it’s important to act quickly and get it right the first time. I’ve wasted many shots getting it wrong, so I learn from my own mistakes!
What are you working on now?
I’ve been experimenting with new digital painting techniques, and I’ve been doing more fantasy pieces; going back to my earlier influences, and enjoying some new ones. I’m looking forward to spring, when I can see the beach stones under all this snow… my beach stone images are what I’ve become known for, and I enjoy creating them!
Are there any exhibitions where we will be enjoying your images?
I am a member of Victoria Park Gallery in Kincardine, Ontario. I’m also chair of the Artful Hands Artisan Show and Sale, which happens in August, and we have a Christmastime show as well. I am hoping to expand further and have more guest appearances at galleries across Ontario and beyond, so keep me in mind! I enjoy keeping my Facebook fan page up-to-date and engaging with people there daily (see below), and there are now over three thousand images to browse on my webpage. I make beautiful signed and matted prints myself and you can order those and much more from my webpage. I always appreciate it when people follow my posts and leave me encouraging comments… it feels awesome to know others have been touched by something I’ve created. Wow. Isn’t that why we do art?