For many students here at MMoA, Sarah Stifler Lucas has filled the role of mentor in their artistic journey. Sarah has taught here for over 28 years, and holds a vast number of awards and accolades. One of her most popular classes we offer is Photo to Canvas.
“Photo to Canvas offers students the opportunity to paint from reference material. Whether it’s a post card, a photograph or a calendar page, the students are using the image to inspire their own work. They are not coping the image, but using its information to create something that is hopefully even more interesting and personal. The process is more of a translation or an interpretation.
Many of my students have been taking my class for years and have formed friendships with each other as well as with me. There is real camaraderie. The class has a relaxing, almost meditative component that students relish and appreciate. New class members are always made to feel welcome. I offer demonstrations and individualized guidance. Everyone’s work is unique, and I am conscious of spending an equal amount of time with each student.”
Sarah became an Elected Artist member at MMoA in 1974.
About the Artist
Sarah Stifler Lucas, grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri in 1970. She has maintained her studio in Connecticut since 1973, living currently in Stonington.
Primarily known for her figure paintings, cafe, and street scenes, her work in oil combines the representational with the abstract and offers a striking balance of light and dark nuances. Sarah exhibits nationally and is the recipient of many honors and awards in addition to being an elected artist member of many prestigious organizations including the Lyme Art Association and the Mystic Museum of Art.
Photo above: Recent work in oil entitled Spice of Life (14″ x 11″)
Our Education Manager, Mary Addison, sat down with Sarah in October 2019. The interview was for the upcoming Winter edition of MMoA’s News & Views.
An Interview with Sarah Stifler Lucas by Mary Addison
At some point in each and every life, there exists a mentor- someone who not only instilled us with academic knowledge, but where their presence in our lives have had a deep, theoretical, and meaningful impact. We are shaped and forever changed because of the impression they leave us with. For many students here at MMoA, Sarah Lucas has filled that role in their artistic journey. Sarah has taught here for over 28 years, and holds a vast number of awards and accolades. If you live in or around the Mystic community you likely know of Sarah’s art, or at the very least have passed it by. We see her paintings gracing the gallery walls of many local art spaces, restaurants and other local establishments. Her distinctive style, characterized by subjects in urban environments engaging in intimate and personal interactions inspires her visual narratives. Her use of a limited palette, soft tones, juxtaposition of light and angles are commonly seen throughout her pieces. Our community values her work and it is widely appreciated and devoutly loved. Many know of Sarah as an artist but fewer know of her as an art educator. I have been given the gift of having my office adjacent to MMoA’s studio space where Sarah teaches her weekly course entitled Photo to Canvas. Although I haven’t yet sat as a student in her class, I remain hopeful that through the process of osmosis I will soak in a bit of the skill and wisdom she imparts on her students. Sarah’s thoughtful, sensitive and attentive approach to each student is cherished and her calming nature is a welcomed deviation from the stress of the day. Simply being in Sarah’s presence can instill a higher awareness of oneself and the moment. Her teaching style is so much more than learning the process of paint application. It is more than conveying information or instilling her students with a deep understanding of art making. There’s a greater, more powerful lesson than that of academic instruction to be gained. To study under Sarah means you are signing up for an experience and a journey. It means you are willing to relinquish control and challenge your abilities and preconceived notions. Simply put, you are not only growing in your artistic development but are accepting new ways of looking at the world. It’s about finding your “voice”.
What is Photo to Canvas?
Photo to Canvas offers students the chance to paint from a reference. Whether it’s a post card, a favorite photograph or calendar page, the students are using the image to inspire their own work. They are not taught to copy the image, but are instead using the information given to create something that is hopefully even more interesting and personal. The process is more of a translation or an interpretation.
How would you describe the atmosphere of your class?
Many of my students have been taking my class for years and have formed friendships with each other as well as with me. There is a real camaraderie and connection we have to one another. There is a relaxing, almost meditative component to class that students relish and appreciate. We support and encourage one another. New class members are always made to feel welcome. We play music and converse. I offer demonstrations and individualized guidance. Because each student is working on something different, I am conscious of spending an equal amount of time with each student
How would you describe your teaching philosophy or your teaching motto?
Try to paint as if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Remove yourself from the subject and its complexities. Really think about what you want to say. Is there a focal point? Do you need to de-emphasize, eliminate or change certain elements? Don’t be distracted by color and detail. Reduce your subject to its most simple and abstract shapes. Identify value before color. Be willing to experiment and challenge your abilities as you move along the path of artistic development. Painting is our voice and you need to trust the process.
How do you envision the future of MMoA’s studio programs?
My hope is that the museum will continue to nurture and embrace our loyal, local arts community while we expand our vision; that our fine exhibitions and programs will continue to attract artists and art lovers from our community and beyond for years to come.