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Contemporary Female Artist: Sadie Valeri

By Wendy Wagner

Sadie Valeri has been an inspiration for me ever since I found her blog about ten years ago. In one of her blog posts, she wrote about how, after graduating from a BFA program from the Rhode Island School of Design, she found herself essentially stuck for many years in the field of graphic design. Later she discovered atelier training, which lead to her fine art career.

Self Portrait at 41 in the Studio with Dog, 41x31”, oil

This was a parallel to my own odyssey, and it provided reassurance that success can come after a long break. Her evolution as a creative artist has been a source of encouragement for me, and I was fortunate to be able to ask about her work, studio practice and teaching.

Sadie describes herself as a “still life painter, working in the tradition of the Dutch Masters of the Golden Age.” She also says, “I love to draw and paint figures, portraits, and landscapes as well.” It was her still life paintings with wax paper that initially caught my attention- a genius idea of taking something lying around the studio and transforming it into an atmospheric element. I love the glimpse into her world that she shares in her Self Portrait at 41 in the Studio with Dog.

Despite working in a variety of ways, including all-prima and direct painting, it is the indirect method that aligns closest to her vision as an artist. “Painting slowly over many sessions is more conducive to the way my mind works. In art school I was encouraged to paint as fast (and as big, bold, and loose) as possible when working from life. In art school in the early 90’s, I was never taught how to create a multi-session painting from life, which was common in many late 20th-century art degree programs. When I first discovered classical realism in 2007, through workshops, it was a revelation to me that I could slow down and work for many days on one drawing or painting. Indirect painting came easily as it was closer to my nature.”

Undersea, 16x20”, oil on linen

I’ve seen illustrations about how the quarantine is just another day in the life of an artist. In this stressful time, there can be pressure to “do more.” I asked Sadie if she has any rituals to recharge or restore creative flow.

“I had a complete artist’s block from my early 20’s to my early 30’s. I didn’t paint or draw at all, and I was very depressed. My job was creative as a designer, but it was not my life dream to be a designer, and more often than not I was creatively frustrated. I worked my way out of that state by going inward. I worked through the book The Artist’s Way. I started with writing, then small collage projects, and when I was making collages every day the ideas started flowing. I started noticing every little thing that inspired me visually every day, and one day I found myself with a brush in hand and trying to paint a still life in my kitchen before I had time to talk myself out of it. At that time, I was 33.”

Pigeon, 22x17”, graphite and white chalk

Sadie continued, “I discovered the classical realism movement soon after that, which to me meant I found a community of people who encouraged me to work slowly, carefully, methodically, and to treat every work of art as simply an opportunity to learn a little bit. Those methods and philosophy work better for me than to do what I was taught in art school, which was to paint big, messy, ‘important’ paintings. At times when my studio practice has stalled out, which still happens occasionally, I go back to what worked for me before: writing, collage, and then when I’m ready, paint.”

As for what she has next on the horizon, she shared, “I’ve just spent a month on a large commission, the largest still life I’ve ever painted at 24 x 42 inches. I’m not sure what I’ll do next. I think I need some time to see what feels fun.”

As for me, I would say it felt fun getting a glimpse into the world of a contemporary female artist.


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