Thangool artist Sarah Larsen is a breath of fresh air. I have had the pleasure of knowing her for over 15 years and have watched her career continually progress. Her recent projects have been inspired by a personal connection to Autism and I am so keen for her to take her work to the next level through her idea to encourage a better understanding of ASD through games.
How did you get started in your art practice?
Well, I have always drawn, painted and made stuff. Growing up in Kenya and being mostly on my own as a child I created. My older siblings were mostly at boarding school and my parents were busy pursuing their own professions. However, I did spend a good deal of time on field trips with my father who was an ornithologist, naturalist and curator of the national museum, author and illustrator. My mother was a medical doctor. I learnt to be self-reliant resourceful and adaptive. I gain much joy and pleasure from hands on creating (still do) and created my own play mates and games. Animals were my constant companions.
I loved the colour and vibrancy of life at that time in Africa and spent much time in the bush enjoying the wildlife. This early isolation has served me well as I rarely find difficulty in imagining ideas and concepts and then creating what I have imagined.
The Artist, Rena Fennessey, was the illustrator for some of my father’s books at that time and I spent time after school visiting her to watch her work on the illustrations. I did not know it then, but this gave me great insight and I learnt a lot from her.
Schooling especially the secondary schooling which was at boarding school was less pleasant and generally just had to be got through. I loved Art and biology.
On leaving school I was sent to the UK to do my training in Vet nursing which I completed and got the required piece of paper then set off to see the world.
I had a vague plan of traveling around the world and eventually returning to Africa and working with wildlife there in animal conservation. I travelled overland to Australia for around a year and loved every moment of the adventure. Many of the places I visited are now closed or war torn, and I feel so fortunate to have seen them before their ruin. All my senses were absorbing these sights and sounds and would influence my art practice later on.
Marriage, children and making a home and helping on the farm were now new priorities. Making Art in some form was always there but it was not until my children were a little older that I decided to leave my job and pursue a full-time career in Art. I knew that if I did not give it a go that I would later regret it.
In 1989 I started “officially” as an Artist and had my first Solo exhibition which pretty much sold out 12 months later. I had exhibitions annually and within 5 years was exhibiting in Brisbane and interstate. I then started to extend my skill base further by attending workshops with Flying Arts and joining local art groups to learn, a practice that I still maintain. In 2003 & 2005, I was invited to represent Australia at the Florence Biennale. This was a huge honour for me and a wonderful experience. I could not go in 2005 as I was in South America at that time.
What are the key inspirations behind your work?
Wow, what a huge question! Well actually anything and everything. My art reflects what is happening to me in my life and whatever is interesting me at that time.
A recurrent theme I guess is life & landscape and my relationship to them, not just the mirror image but the essence and my Soul’s response to it.
I paint my feeling response which is a visual reflection of my Soul’s prayer. Colour, composition, vibrancy line and tone and always important as is my constant desire to try new things. I use whatever material the subject dictates. I want my art to make a difference, to help, to heal, to bring joy, to educate to inspire to grow. When I touch another’s Soul through my art (in whatever form that takes) then I feel it is successful. My art is my prayer.
What are the business model and product that you wish to develop through participating in the CQ shopfront project?
This for me is quite a lot tougher as I have to work really hard at using my left brain to contain things in this way. It is however very useful to refine an idea and deal with the business aspect of the art industry.
Business model I am not really sure about yet and will need to learn more here. What I want to do/develop:
Board game for inclusivity of people with varying abilities dealing with a wide range of issues/trauma.
Card game - -as above
Place mats, & matching coaster, mouse pads, clothing material and earrings using my artworks. (Cash flow for development of game)
Exploring and refining a new medium of cold wax.
Wining more art competitions – good for my self confidence and also cash flow.
What dreams do you have for the future of your practice?
I intend to:
Create my 2 games, develop prototype and get my board and card game manufactured and distributed world-wide.
Find manufactures and distributors and work collaboratively to do this
Find out about legal requirements
Find out about marketing and selling or my product.
Make & sell
Make mouse pads, earrings, placemats and coasters and sell through my existing sources.
Look into outsourcing /collaborating for material for clothing. (I have already contacted an Australia ethical manufacturer and registered my interest.)
Looking at collaborating with my daughter in selling items (placemats, coaster, and possibly other home products.
I would do the artwork and she do the online selling and distribution. We are currently discussing our idea and plans.
Continue working with my ASD student teaching and mentoring.
Continue mentoring new emerging artist in their creative practice.