Many artists have drawn inspiration from the mountains and forests surrounding Western North Carolina. But for painter/illustrator Sarah Faulkner, that outdoor beauty has to find completion in a deeper human connection.
“I always seek to capture the important relationships humans share with the natural world,” she says. “I think it offers a sense of calm and grounding.”
From growing up on a farm in Virginia to moving to the Blue Ridge mountains of Asheville, Faulkner has fashioned the love of her surroundings into playful, serene works of art. Her canvases show distinct, contrasting color palettes and repetitive shapes and lines already present in regional flora and fauna.
“Nature has such an architectural beauty,” she notes. “I love the chaotic order in its repetition.” Faulkner got her start as a woodworker and admits to using a lot of the same processes and techniques with her paints as she did with wood — all of them highly influenced by certain periods in art history, including traditional Japanese art and the Arts and Crafts architectural and decorative movement of the early 20th century.
The result is a determined whimsy. As in nature, what appears wild and free is anchored by a certain predictability — even if it’s the predictable disorder of entropy.
While her illustrations appear to be simple, minimalist landscapes, certain thoughtful art techniques she studied as an art-history major come into play. Her favorite, and the one she uses most prominently, is chiaroscuro, an effect created by the focus on light and shadow.
“Each of my paintings has a constant emphasis on drawing light from the darkness — equal consideration is given to both positive and negative space, so each composition has breathing room,” she explains. To achieve this contrast, Faulkner uses beeswax with her acrylics to add depth. The translucent yet misty quality of the wax softens the paint, infusing an element of light not otherwise achieved in the palette.
“I like experimenting with different materials to capture the atmospheric qualities in [the outdoors],” says Faulkner. “It’s no coincidence that the elements that do that best are organic.”
Technique and style aside, Faulkner’s main drive is to create a feeling that might not be accessible in everyday life, apart from real-word immersion in the wilderness. She hopes viewers can take a step back from busy thoughts and access clarity in the simple balance of color and style.
“We are living in such challenging times — I paint to infuse joy and hope into my work. Staying connected to our natural environment will help us stay connected to our community.”
Sarah Faulkner, Asheville, Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St. woolworthwalk.com); NorthLight Studios (357 Depot St. in the River Arts District, northlightstudiosasheville.com); Miya Gallery (20 North Main St., Weaverville, miyagallery.com); and Seasons Gallery at the Omni Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Ave.). For more information, call 828-275-5068 or visit sarahfaulkner.com.