Sarah Dax Solano: Blurring the Boundaries of Painting

Pasture, oil, by Sarah Dax Solano. Winner of the Lorraine Oerth Award for Best in Show.

Would you believe this four-foot-by-five-foot painting started life as a miniature?

The artist, Sarah Dax Solano, is embarking on a new series that combines abstraction, realism, and a large format — and this painting is the first in the series. Pasture was chosen for the Lorraine Oerth Award for Best in Show in this month’s October Open Exhibit.

What are the origins of Pasture?
Sarah Dax Solano: Pasture was originally one of my miniature paintings, Shenandoah Valley Pasture, which was purchased as a mother’s day gift at the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. I was looking back at old photos and knew immediately I wanted to do more with that little painting. So I did! I was also brainstorming for a new series “Blur” at the time, which influenced the aesthetics of Pasture.

Shenandoah Valley Pasture by Sarah Dax Solano

Both Pasture and Night Owl, from “Mark,” have a strong textural element. What role does texture play in your artwork? How did you achieve the texture you wanted for Pasture?
I absolutely love texture in paintings because it is indigenous to this medium. Not all of my paintings have elaborate texture because sometimes it is unnecessary for the outcome I am trying to achieve. But boy, when I know I want texture, I go for it and have fun!

Night Owl and detail, oil and acrylic, by Sarah Dax Solano. From the September exhibit, “Mark.”

I always think of icing a cake when it comes to applying texture on canvas. Asking what I use to achieve texture is like asking for my secret ingredient. I will say the majority of the time it is 100% thick oil paint that takes almost a year to dry! I have been experimenting with faster solutions lately.

What inspired your “Blur” series? Where does this painting fit in to that series?
After not being entirely satisfied as an artist with only doing my beloved miniatures, I decided to go big! Pasture is a 48″ × 60″ painting.

After that decision came the conflicting struggle of: Do I want to be a realistic painter or an abstract painter? I was frustrated because on one hand, realistic painting can only get so far — to outstanding, technically mastered hyperrealism, as we are seeing plenty of these days. At that point I asked myself: Wouldn’t a photograph be easier? Then came the critical thoughts of how under-appreciated abstract paintings are. Would that affect sales?

Seravezza Studio by Sarah Dax Solano

As a painter, I love to create works in both of these categories, so I combined the two. For my new “Blur” series, I am oil painting realistic blurred landscapes as backgrounds topped with a foreground abstract element. These paintings are all to be viewed from across the room for a first impression. The further away it is viewed, the more realistic the background appears. The abstract topper has an important role for the eye to be immediately drawn to so the blurred background is pushed into the distance.

Without the abstractions, the paintings would look like an incomplete mess. The abstractions also symbolize vandalizing my own art. It expresses my internal conflict of being pressured to choose a beaten path for my paintings that I refuse to embark. I am extremely excited to be working on this new series.

Piece of S…an Marco, the second painting in the “Blur” series by Sarah Dax Solano, has been accepted into the November “Doubt” exhibit at The Art League.

Pasture is the first piece of this new series! You can see the blurred background on the top half and the thick green abstraction on the bottom. The thick texture forces itself to become the foreground and pushes the top half to the background.

What made you want to paint this on a large canvas? Do you usually work on this scale?
I wanted to unleash my creativity after feeling a little constrained with my miniature canvases for the past couple years. I usually have been working on canvases from a 1” to 3” scale. I have painted large a few times in the past but it has been at least five years since.

Pasture for scale

When did you first know you wanted to be a painter?
Oh boy, this question could lead to my life story. To keep it simple, I have always loved to paint.

I have one silly memory of being in kindergarten. We had colored strips of construction paper representing different learning stations, such as a painting, writing words serval times or solving math worksheets. Each kid had the same number of colored strips. The orange strip was the painting station. I used to trade to get more orange strips. I even stole the orange strips from the discard can. My teacher finally caught on weeks later but it was fun while it lasted.

What are you working on now?
Now I am working on my next 500 miniatures, my Blur series along with exhibit applications, and getting ready to launch a new website this November (sarahdax.com). Anything and everything I do, I keep my ultimate goal in mind of spreading joy in the world with my art.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZWJWDJHKpJ/

How did you capture the texture of the painting in a photograph?
Google Pixel. I have a fancy DSLR and I am blown away at how much better the photos are on the Google Pixel. It is comical in our house because I have to constantly bug my husband for his. I did order myself the Google Pixel 2 the day of the Google IO so I can stop bugging him, which also means my Instagram followers are going to be getting even better content soon!

I will say the only other thing I keep in mind while photographing my work is I like to do it early in the morning for the best lighting and lack of weird shadows. I am not a photographer, but social media has forced me to learn so I can share my art and joy with the world.

The October Open Exhibit is on view through Sunday, November 5.

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