Have you ever met that super creative person that is really good at almost everything and a nice person as well? Don’t you just
hate love that person? Well, today I’m happy to introduce you to someone just like that. Please meet the very talented illustrator, dancer, photographer, painter, video artist, and writer Sarah Hartman. Hartmann is the modern renaissance woman with a command over almost every modern art medium; her artwork is a s beautiful as her dance and I’m happy to share her thoughts on her process, her life, and advice for fellow artists.
Hi Sarah! We always like to get a little bit of a general background whenever we talk to artists. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you go to school and what do you do for a living?
Hi! I was born in San Francisco and currently live just outside. I’m actually still in school, working toward a dual MA in Jewish Studies and Arts Education from Hebrew College! Before that I did my undergrad in Liberal Arts through Saint Mary’s College’s LEAP program, which is wonderful. It makes it possible for working dancers to get their BA, and I was dancing professionally for a while through undergrad! I currently work as an arts education specialist at Temple Emanu El in San Francisco. It’s a dream job!
Your biography mentions that you’ve been drawing since you were a toddler. Aside from the obvious, how as your work progressed as you’ve grown older? Are there different themes in your work that line up with periods in your life?
I definitely went through a lot of phases! I read a lot of comic books as a kid; my brother and I would sit for hours reading collections passed down to us from our uncle. That influenced me for a long time, and still does. I fell into more classical art and portraiture for a while, as I got more serious, and recently have found a kind of happy medium between the two. I like the expressiveness of graphic novel style art, but the character and depth of more classical techniques. I really love a lot of engraving-style work, the old detailed plates, and I’ve gone back to that influence lately.
You’re a fantastic ballerina and I’m curious – how does dance influence your work? I noticed that a good portion of your drawings rely on shading that emphasizes human muscles, tendons, and bones – does this relate back to your physicality?
Awh, thank you! It absolutely does. Being a dancer gives you a kind of fluency in another language, in what parts of the body you emphasize, how they look, ways that they move. I tend to always incorporate hyperextended legs and arched feet in full body pictures, because it’s what I’m used to seeing in the studio. Being surrounded by that for so many years really shaped my view of bodies and proportions. Probably in a very unnatural way!
Keeping on topic with your ballerina-ness, I saw that your Instagram features mini vignettes of your ballet practice. Collectively, these paint an intimate picture of the life of a ballerina. Are these vignettes an exploration of film? A simple creative outlet?
They’re kind of a little bit of creative exploration, and also a way of tracking my own physicality. You spend so much time looking in the mirror, but film provides a different perspective, helps you critique yourself more as a viewer. Sometimes it’s scary to post! You never know what flaws people might catch. But that’s the good part, too. It’s all a part of that masochistic push as a dancer to get closer and closer to perfection.
You work in film, watercolors, pencils, inks, and words – do you have a favorite medium that you find yourself gravitating towards more than others? Are there any other mediums you are looking to expand into?
Yes! I love inks. Ever since I was a child, I loved using pens, shading with pens, inking things. I’m sure that was influenced by the amount of comics I read, but I still feel so comfortable in it. Of course, I don’t foresee giving any of them up, but ink and art and dance are just things that I feel at home in. Everything else is lovely, but is almost more of an exploration, than an introspection.
Do you have any plans to expand your artist collective? Have you ever participated in any sort of collaboration or shown your work in galleries?
I just spent the last while rebuilding my site and store, Terpsichorean Art, and am happy to finally start getting it going! I am actually in the process of applying for some shows locally, though it’s nerve wracking. As a dancer I’m used to auditions, but with art, it’s done blind. You don’t know how you did or the reactions, because it’s done at a distance. It’ll be an experience! In the meantime I’m working on finishing my first book, The Jewish Experience Project, which is a collection of portraits and letters from real Jews from all backgrounds all over the world. It’s been a huge catalyst for growth, illustrating so many different people, with so many different feelings. I’ve enjoyed it so much!
Do you currently do commission work? Based on what I’ve seen, I know that personally I’d love to commission a portrait. If so, what is the best way for a prospective buy to reach you?
I do! I can be reached through my site Terpsichorean Art, or by email at [email protected] or through Instagram (Zaychiki) or the Terpsichorean Art Facebook page. Any work! I love doing portraits and sifting through the unique requests I get. Some of my favorite pieces are commissions I’d never have thought to draw on my own!
Do you have any advice for aspiring multimedia artists out there? Especially advice for those whose main form of visual expression lies within the realm of dance?
I think it can be easy to fall into a Jack of All Trades stereotype, but you have to shed that idea. You can be passionate about many things! The key is to be passionate, to practice and work hard at all of them, regardless of time. I sketch every day on the train to and from work, at lunch…I dance in the evenings, so it’s definitely a lot of commitment. Some nights you just want to be a “normal” person who stops working at 5 PM. But being creative is a kind of 24 hour job. It’s incredibly rewarding though! I think more dancers should really explore visual arts, because one art form can cultivate incredible things in another. Exploration takes time and effort, but it pays off. You find fluency in forms that provide alternate means of expression. Dancing can be limiting, because you have to do it live, in one go. With film that’s starting to change, but I think visual art allows for a creation of longer term expression, if that makes sense. You take away something material, something tangible, to reflect on, and for dancers I think that can be such a powerful thing. And the reverse for artists! We get too stuck on our own signature media, so stepping outside and expressing the same things differently is like seeing a whole other dimension.