Wholehearted Wednesdays with Sarah at The Mint Gardener
Hi Sarah! Please tell us a bit about you and The Mint Gardener. How did you first get into illustration and watercolors?
I have been painting for the past ten years, really focusing on illustration and watercolors for the past two to five. I have always, always loved to create. When I was working in other roles, and I would see people painting or drawing, I would always feel that tug at my heart, and I would think “gosh I WANT to be doing THAT.” I didn’t want to say it out loud, but inside I always wanted to pursue illustration and painting. I stay at home with my little ones, and since time doesn’t seem to slow down - only to speed up - it finally clicked that if I ached to paint, I needed to paint. My husband is such a big encourager of my calling, and I set up a space in our home that’s accessible at all times. And it’s all set up to just sit down and create!
Can you share with us a few of your favorite pieces of work?
Picking a favorite piece of work for me is like trying to pick my favorite flower. I enjoy so many of them, and love them for different reasons! I can tell you I have favorite colors that I love to work with though. Payne’s Gray, with its deep dark gray hues and its bright electric tones, which you can create all in one brushstroke is definitely in daily rotation here. I also love creating greens from Oxide of Chromium. I use it as my base line green, and then I accent it from there, depending on the leaf I need to paint.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out and trying to develop their own style?
For years, I struggled as an unproductive artist. I wanted to paint, but the sheer act of pulling out all of the materials and taking the time it felt like was required to create... just felt like a luxury I couldn't afford; in time and effort. Now, as a Mom, with even less time than I used to have, I've come to realize it is a necessity to create.
And as I create more, a certain pattern has come out, and that is my recognizable style. I think everyone has one; it is like their unique fingerprint. Every artist has their own style. And every person has an art - whether it's cooking, gardening, hospitality. We all have one; the key is pursuing that passion enough to discover your unique fingerprint or style.
So I guess my advice would be to keep pushing yourself. Don’t copy others work. Reference styles you like, but let your own personality come through in the lines and strokes. Make a few lists of things you love, outside of art. See if you can combine those interests with your art (for example, I love gardening, so I’ve combined that with my art). Try new colors, new combinations. Take local classes, ask questions, try new mediums. Just keep showing up, and try, try again.
As creatives, fear is no stranger to us. How you do deal with the voices of fear and self-doubt when they come up?
Fear is no stranger, you are right. Fear immobilizes you and tempts you to give up. But after years of recognizing that demoralizing voice of self-doubt, I’ve come to see that we create in cycles. If fear wins one day, try to paint again the next day. Do something to help break the slump in creativity; exercise, garden, speak to an encouraging friend that believes in you and your talent. I also read books to break up my self-doubt and fear. One of my favorites is “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. The author takes apart the creative cycle in small, often one-page chapters, and helps you identify what’s holding you back. And once you can see the cycle, and the obstacles, it doesn’t feel as intimidating.
The online world can be a noisy place sometimes. How do you stay authentic and true to who you are?
I turn off the noise and I go to the garden. Our yard was a blank canvas when we first moved in, save for an old and abundantly flowering tulip magnolia in the middle of the grass. It’s been four years, and my husband (who is our master gardener) has created a secret garden-like jungle out of our little patch of green. When he’s not at work, he’s always there, making a new wooden garden bed, or sprouting more seeds. He focuses on vegetables and anything edible; I focus on flowers.
The garden is a place for our entire family to meet and dream and savor. My daughters play in the trees, and in the dirt. They eat berries off our raspberry and strawberry bushes, and kale leaves from the vegetable rows. They make a leafy green fort behind the grape vines. My husband paces off new beds of earth he wants to create. He brings me leaves of his new sage or basil he wants me to smell and taste. I bring my sketchpad and draw the shapes of our olive tree leaves. I prune my roses, weed my edible-flower bed, and select herbs which I will use to make teas.
Every time I dig in the earth, I feel like the dirt recharges my energy, my inspiration, my mind, my fingers and sets my mind buzzing with new painting ideas. Both the physicality of using my body to do something, as well as being recharged by growing things are gifts. The garden helps me slow down, laugh, breathe deeply and enjoy little moments with my family. Gardening, and painting, help me to savor the days and moments.
Can you share your own nugget of wisdom with our readers?
I used to think I didn’t have enough time to paint, and that was before I was a wife and momma to two small little ones. Now, it feels that my days are even shorter and busier. Life goes faster and faster, and the days get fuller. You do not get more time; so if you want to create, seize the day!!! I paint during the afternoon hours only; all day long I care for my family, and paint in my mind. And when my daughters are down for their afternoon nap - I have such a concentrated burst of energy that I've been saving up and waiting for that I just fill all those moments very intentionally. I have my water, paint and paper all lined up...so as soon as those sleepy eyelids close, I am at my desk, dancing with my paintbrush.
What’s next for you in your journey? How can we support you, and where can we find you online?
Hopefully more of the same! I teach watercolor classes for adults, I paint for commissions from people I meet on Instagram, and for myself. I sell my prints. I'd like to set up my own website, and maybe one day have a gallery showing.
I just did two art walks in the Seattle area, which was wonderful. I’ve had my art pieces featured in a few quarterly publications and magazines. It was so humbling and exciting to see my work in print! I'd love to have my art made into pretty journals or card sets, or wallpapers. I would love, love love to make a book or two of my works. Maybe collaborate with an amazing author and make something beautiful together! That would be a dream come true. I would love to finish our back garden shed into an incredible greenhouse/artist studio where I could teach small classes.
Who knows? I've been so blessed! I'm enjoying the ride so much right now. It is such a pleasure to be able to paint and share what I have made - and have others enjoy it!
Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Sarah. One last question before we leave, what does being a wholehearted woman mean to you?
It’s my pleasure, thank you for the lovely questions! Women are incredible warrior-multi-tasking-creatures.
We raise babies, shift the mood of a room, run an empire and answer every request in our inbox; and that’s just one day in the life. I love your blog because it focuses on what women can do to recharge themselves as well as what they are doing for others; it’s the stories behind their everyday magic.
Rapid fire Q’s:
1. A woman who inspires me: Eleanor Roosevelt
Here are some of my favorite things she said:
- "You must do the things you think you cannot do."
- "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
- "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
- "Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't."
- "Women are like teabags. You don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water."
- "It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself."
- "Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life."
- "With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts."
- "Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product."
2. Favorite place to hang out online: Instagram
3. Best book I ever read: The Bible; and a favorite book of mine in the Bible is Job. And Colossians.
4. My core values: Love others they way you would like to be loved.