Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the symbol you use in your signature?
A: When I was in 7th grade, I discovered that I could make a symmetrical symbol for the initials of my maiden name, Sarah Elizabeth Russell. I've used it to sign my art pieces ever since! But for the convenience of folks who have no idea what the symbol says or means, I started signing my married surname, Morphew, underneath with nice, legible letters. You're welcome. ;)
Q: Gray flowers??? WHY?! Color is the best part!
A: My feelings about color have always been something akin to gluttony. I can stand in front of the wall of paint swatches at the hardware store and it feels like there are explosions of pleasure in my brain. I LOVE COLOR! I paint with it often. But I have really found that flowers have so many other kinds of beauty that are overshadowed or even completely overlooked when color is there, dazzling the eyes. If you strip away that distraction, your eye is drawn more to the other beauties of a flower. Plus, as much as I love the colors of the prism, I do also really love the color gray!
Q: Why do you use so many different mediums? Can't you just pick one?
A: Can you just pick one of your children? Sure, you might secretly have a favorite, but you still want to keep all of them. ;)
But in all seriousness, the reason I work in so many different mediums on so many different surfaces is because they all look and act wildly different, and I have to choose the one that will look the way I see something in my head and accentuate the quality or the detail of the subject I want to represent. And sometimes it is also a matter of feel. I love acrylics for a lot of reasons, but brushing acrylic paint on a canvas can never feel like brushing oil paint on it. And using wet media can never feel like the glide of a graphite pencil in your hand, or the scratchy friction of a charcoal pencil. I love Tex-Mex, and I love Thai food, but they taste completely different.
Also, I just love the challenge of trying to master new skills!
Q: Who are your artistic inspirations?
A: I don't know where to begin answering this question. I love SO MANY different styles of art and subject matter. I've never really done any serious formal study of art history or traditional techniques. I just know what I like when I see it, I know what I personally feel inspired to paint, and I generally like to develop my own techniques instead of worrying about how everyone else does it. I rely on my intuition instead of looking at everything through the eyes of an art critic who has a checklist of what is and isn't "correct." I find beauty I want others to notice, and I share it.
It might be obvious from my love of liney texture that I love Van Gogh. One thing that seems to surprise people, however, is the fact that I don't really like most of Georgia O'Keeffe's work!
Q: Where did you learn to paint?
A: It all started with watching Bob Ross when I was little. My dad noticed my interest and bought me a Liquitex acrylic painting set for my 10th birthday, and I produced three atrociously bad paintings on canvas panels. Even Bob Ross himself couldn't have called them "happy accidents." I've spent 29 years working on my techniques and trying to make up for the ugliness I created all those years ago. ;) Slowly but surely I became able to make a painting look how I intended it to. I also feel I learned a lot from watching Jerry Yarnell on Oklahoma's PBS station, but I can honestly say the ONE thing that really started improving my own skills was to stare at other artists' work up close... standing there with my nose about 8 inches from a painting, analyzing the individual colors used (you gotta get to know your pigment colors!), figuring out what brush the artist used to create the brushstrokes, and seeing which layers were on top of others. Then I went home and played with my own paints trying to recreate different effects I saw. There's a lot of free education to be had if you're willing to just observe something for a good long time! Maybe someday I'll get the courage to post all the ugly stuff that had to come before I ever started being happy with my work. I could call it "A Hideous History."
Q: How long does it take you to finish a painting?
A: It is so hard to answer this question! There is so much time involved besides just sitting in front of a canvas and covering the white with paint. There's a LOT of prep time before you can ever even get to the painting part. Buying materials, getting your workspace set up, gessoing your canvas, mixing colors to figure out which ones you're going to use for a particular piece, deciding how your composition is going to be, sketching it out on your surface, yelling "NO! NO! NO!" and erasing it and doing it again, choosing which brushes or palette knives are going to work best for your subject, etc etc etc. Then you paint for what feels like 1 hour but turns out to actually have been 5 hours, so you get up, have a snack, stretch your legs for a few minutes, and paint for another "hour" and then realize it's past your bedtime. So you start the process of cleaning up your now very-cluttered workspace, cleaning all your brushes (about as bad as doing dishes after cooking a multi-course meal), getting your paint palette covered for the night, changing into clothes without wet paint, and then looking at the clock and seeing that it's now two hours later than the last time you looked. You might possibly repeat this same pattern for 2, 3, 4, or more days all on one painting. Or you might leave a painting unfinished for a few weeks while you're waiting for part of it to fully cure, and come back to it later. Then you're done, right? WRONG! Now you have to apply several layers of varnish (very time-consuming) and frame it, which includes things like attaching hanging hardware and corner bumpers, cutting mats and backing board and glass (if framing dry media), and then securing everything into a frame (unless it is a gallery-wrapped canvas). So you can see why it is nearly impossible to pin down a number of hours for any one painting, let alone an "average," because it can also vary greatly from painting to painting.
Q: How do I buy one of your pieces?
A: I currently accept cash, Square, or Paypal. I can ship prints and originals up to 12x12, but I'm not crazy about the idea of trusting my larger paintings in shipping; however I am open to discussing it if need be. I can also meet with buyers in the central Oklahoma region.
Q: Would you do a commission?
A: Sometimes! Email me a description and reference photos of what you have in mind. If it inspires me, we can work out details. I do work from reference photos though, so if you can't provide any, I doubt I will be able to envision or execute what you're looking for. If you are simply looking for a particular type of flower and size, I do have an extensive personal photography collection built up and I can send you pictures to see if there is something that strikes your fancy.
On graphite/charcoal portraits, I only accept a limited number of commissions each year due to the time and perfection commitment involved. I need to have enough time to paint things that spontaneously inspire me or my artistic passion will wither away into drudgery. :)
Q: What is something about you that most people don't know?
A: I have a weird obsession with traffic patterns and driving-related laws. It started before I became a driver myself and it's only gotten worse over time. How many cars can there be on a two-lane highway if they are all driving the speed limit of 70 and all maintaining the minimum legal distance between cars? What about when you throw a single regular-length semi into the mix? Should it be illegal to create laws saying the left lane is for passing only, based on the fact that some roads have more traffic than others and therefore the left lane must be used in order to provide enough capacity for motorists to drive the full speed limit?! Should traffic fines be based on a percentage of a person's income, or a flat fee as it is now? These burning questions are among the things I think about when I'm not painting in my brain, LOL!
Got a question you'd like to see answered?
Feel free to contact me!