When you walk by Studio 10 at The Monarch, it’s almost impossible not to step closer to examine what’s happening on the beautiful slabs of wood surrounding Sara Austin’s art table.
Austin describes the way people often react to her artwork with awe and wonder aloud — "What medium is this?" they say.
“They get lost in the details, and you can see the happy little moments,” Austin said. “That’s one of my favorite things about the medium I have.”
Austin’s art, primarily colored pencil, is an undervalued medium in the art world, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking it seriously. That her chosen canvas is wood makes it also unconventional. In fact, it’s entirely original; there are no known artists currently doing it.
“As I started finding myself as an artist, I realized this is my jam,” Austin said. “I love colored pencils. It takes forever, but I love the minute little details you can get out of it.”
Austin paints and does watercolor as well, but the majority of her art is pencil work. “It’s not as prestigious as other stuff,” she said. “I’ve had a hard time getting into art shows and things like that ... but I don’t really care. The ones I want to be in, I’m in.”
Austin is a former high school art teacher who didn’t always consider herself a "real" artist. But an opportunity came that fit her outdoor adventure lifestyle and reignited her passion to create: She became employed at Gear:30, where she was encouraged to share her art in the shop by friend and coworker Brandon Long, who also swayed her to take up Studio 10 at The Monarch, which has become her new “art hole.”
At the time, Austin said she only had a couple of art pieces. “I didn’t even know if I was good enough,” she said. But Long convinced her that she was, and she went for it. Now, she says, it was a good thing and made her start creating more art.
Selling Austin’s art in the store was a "given," Long said. “Her outdoorsy theme and the way she implements natural elements vibes well with a specialty outdoor store.” Austin’s nature prints on paper, greeting cards and “art you can wear” on things like T-shirts and gaiters can be purchased in-store at Gear:30.
Austin is also at every Open Studio Night at The Monarch during First Friday Art Stroll and loves meeting people and showcasing her unique art form inside her studio.
The idea to draw on wood came to her in a half-awake state while laying in bed, and Austin acted on it swiftly. The next morning, she got pieces of wood and began. Now, she’s been having fun with it for two years and gets a lot of commission work. “Sometimes I get slivers,” she said, smiling. “But I really like it.”
One large piece stands out in Studio 10: a small wooden hut covered in tiny flowers and grass on a bed of rocks. Like all of her work, the outdoor scene is a moment captured and recreated of a place she experienced in real life.
This moment happened while driving on the Icelandic coast with a friend and spotting a little bird-watching hut. She took a photo and four years later found just the right “funky” piece of wood to bring the image to life. “It was a thousand years. ... It took me so long,” said Austin. “But every little rock has its own character, it’s own story.” Like the rocks, it’s these happy details, or “little moments” as Austin refers to them, that she loves most.
“I find a lot of joy in the process of it,” she said. “I love the moments — the waft of the hair, the lines, the little flowers, the cracking in the blue ... the experience I had.”
“I hope that through being exposed to my art others will want to explore the world, adventure and seek to feel that peace,” Austin states on her website.
Learn more about Sara Austin’s artwork and workshops at saraaustinart.com.