Legato :: Sarah Ahearn Bellemare
Legato :: In a manner that is smooth and connected
SARAH AHEARN BELLEMARE
by Jenny Doh
The first memory that Sarah has of working with paint, is of one summer afternoon years ago, when she was on her grandmother's patio in Cape Cod. "I was using my little plastic watercolor tray and paintbrushes and it actually wasn’t paint to paper, but paint to seashells, scallop shells to be exact," she says. "I especially loved watching the water turn to pastel shades of pinks and greens when the brush was dipped or rinsed."
Since that afternoon, Sarah has continued painting and has recently authored her first book titled Painted Pages.
JD :: There's something so soothing about your work. Are you yourself like your art? Peaceful, calm, and non-flappable?
SA :: Ha! Oh yes, all the time! Wink wink. People used to say that my art was happy and therefore I must be happy all the time. Yup, true on that too. Ha! Well, I will say, more seriously, that lately I have to say I’ve been feeling a bit unflappable! After having my daughter, those “little life things” that used to upset me such as things not going as planned, not getting enough sleep, having a messy house, well they don’t seem to matter as much as they used to, I just was focused on my happy baby and as long as she was fine, I was fine. Now don’t get wrong, I definitely have “those days”, usually when there’s little sleep in our house! But, I will say that as I was writing my book in those first few months of ada’s life, I was so very focused and calm (post-pregnancy hormones?) amidst the chaos. I feel very lucky that things went so smoothly. JD :: From that point when you first discovered painting on your grandmother's patio up to now ... did you always paint or were there breaks?
SA :: Well, I was always drawing or painting on things as a child, I then took a break in high school and early college when I didn’t think that I was “good enough” to be an artist. Once I got over that (!) there really hasn’t been a break since! JD :: So you have written a book titled Painted Pages. And oh ... you became a new mom in the process. What was that like?
SA :: It was tricky, but as the book offer was too good to pass up, so I just knew I had to try. I felt like it was a crazy idea at the time, but I love a challenge! My first big deadline for my manuscript was the day before I went into the hospital. I look back now in awe of myself, I think that I must have acquired some post-partum superpowers as the majority of the book was written in the first few months of my daughter’s life. As I write this now, she’s almost a year and there is NO WAY that I could do such a thing now that she’s almost walking and talking and needing lots of attention with a lot less sleep! but I do look back on all of it now, and I’m pretty proud of myself for getting it all done. JD :: I love your integration of familiar elements that gain new life in your works ... cut up envelopes, maps, handwriting paper, it was that you put paint to paper, photographs ... tell me about the process of scouting and then integrating such items into your work.
SA :: I talk about this process a lot in my book, but finding the ephemera to use in my artwork is really part of my creative process. I love anything that becomes “one with the board and paint”. thin, old papers are my favorite to work with. the photographs are mostly old family photographs, while some are “adopted” from flea markets and antique shops. I enjoy giving these these discarded items new life.
JD :: In life and in art ... what is the key to achieving balance?
SA :: For now, balance means getting some studio and “me” time. I have just now been able to set up a new schedule so that I am able to have more studio time. I currently have 2 full work days when ada goes to grammys, it’s a huge step, but I just love how I am able to focus knowing that they are having fun and I have the peace and quiet I need to make art. As you can imagine, this past year has mostly been book and baby, not so much painting and creative time. I look forward to balancing this out a bit more now that my daughter is getting bigger. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to have her own little art table in my studio too.
JD :: Being a new mom is tough work. Did you have any idea how tough it would be?
SA :: In a word, no.
JD :: Tell me about your day. Do you get to go into your studio every day? What time of day?
SA :: I am most creative in the morning, then I take a break for lunch, work on emails and online after lunch. Then I’ll take a quick walk or have an iced coffee which gives me another push to work well until about 5 or so. Morning is always best for sure, but coffee makes the afternoon workable, especially on little sleep! JD :: You are an instructor for Squam Art Workshops. Tell me about what that experience has been like ... what you've been able to teach and what you've been able to learn.
SA :: Teaching at Squam has been an absolutely amazing experience. I had done a lot of teaching prior to Squam, but I had not had the chance to teach what I do with my own work. Teaching my own mixed media techniques and style has been wonderful and extremely rewarding. the students who come to squam are really special, I’ve made some lovely friends that I have felt very honored to teach and learn from. I love supporting their creative process, I’m amazed by all of the talented people who come to squam open to a new experience and to try new things. those woods in new Hampshire feel like home to me, I’m thrilled to get to teach so close to where I live. I feel very lucky.
JD :: I do know that you like to drink coffee. How do you take it? And in the morning, what do you eat with it?
SA :: before we had a baby, my husband used to bring me my coffee in bed every morning! (French roast, honey, ghiradelli chocolate powder and skim milk.) oh how I miss those days… but now, I really can’t complain as instead of coffee, he gets up with ada and gives her breakfast. I get my own coffee after I sleep in a bit! I usually have a whole wheat English muffin with a scrambled or poached egg, OR trader joes organic crunchy peanut butter with homemade raspberry jam. the topping depends on the day and how much time I have!
JD :: Most likely, in order for you to be able to juggle everything, you need support. Who are the ones in your closest circle of supporters?
SA :: My mom has been extremely helpful this past year. I have no idea how we could have gotten though this year without her support and help with ada. in addition, both of our families are all within an ½ hour drive. we are so lucky! good friends near and far who are also moms have been wonderful, it’s always great to talk to friends who know just what you are going though in those first hard days as a new mom.
JD :: What's your all-time favorite dinner?
SA :: A brick oven fired margarita pizza, a giant salad with feta, chickpeas, kalamata olives and a creamy garlicy dressing, red wine and chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. (Skip the whip cream)
JD :: What's the latest dinner you've had?
SA :: Last night my husband made trout with ramps that he had picked in the woods earlier that day. ramps are delicious wild leeks that when sautéed with a little olive oil lose their garlicy flavor and become sweet. They taste just like spring in New England!
JD :: You've just won a trip for you and your family. Where do you hope the trip will be to?
SA :: To France for a few months. We’d visit friends in the countryside for half of the trip and spend the rest of the time wandering around Paris eating pain au chocolate and riding the carousels.
JD :: You've just won a trip for you and your best girlfriends. Where do you hope the trip will be to?
SA :: To a yoga retreat/spa. We’d be relaxed, beautified and fed well.
JD :: Tell me the top 3 things in your bucket list.
SA :: See the two above. #3 would be to have a lovely little home in the country with a giant barn studio.
JD :: Think fast and say a word (or two) when I say:
All images shown here are courtesy of Sarah Ahearn Bellemare. Learn more about Sarah's serene, beautiful, and unflappable world at www.sarahearn.blogspot.com. Learn more about her book, Painted Pages here.