We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Landreau and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sarah, what principle do you value most?
I would have to say rationality. It’s not very sexy, and maybe not the romantic answer we want to hear from an artist who trades in the imagination, but I think a grounding in reality is absolutely fundamental. It’s necessary even if (maybe especially if,) your focus is on the fantastical as mine often is.

Perhaps for me, it’s exactly the damaging possibilities of my own openness -because who hasn’t heard stories of artists going off the deep end?- that necessitates being purposefully realistic and harshly honest with myself.

As a child, if you’ve been lucky enough to have the kind of childhood that allows it, it is healthy to indulge every silly thought and imaginary friend. That’s how we learn about the world when we are too little to have access to it. But, at some point you have to let go of that inner world in favor of the real one.

I’m forever in pursuit of that real world, because if you see it for what it is, it’s just as beautiful -with the infinite range of human emotions and possibilities- as the imaginary one created by an immature mind. This is, in some ways, the goal of my art.

I do my best to take real, very relatable human experiences and express the accompanying feelings through a visual landscape of magic, fantasy, and symbolism. I hope to use this magic as a tool, not to take away from the truth but to add to it. Essentially, I am trying to show that reality can be more beautiful and more wild and uplifting than the nonsense we tell ourselves. I have experienced this shift in my own thinking and the profound sense of freedom that comes with the realization that by being skeptical and honest, I am the creator of my own world and the captain of my own ship. No one can control you when you are rational and the usual insecurities and fears melt away leaving space for the true beauty of life.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think I’ve had a pretty common journey to get where I am today, both personally and professionally. I spent most of my life being the good girl- the good daughter, good wife, good mother- like so many other women I know. But, I got to a point where things pretty much fell apart and I realized that all that obedience hadn’t gotten me anywhere. So, I consciously decided to just be myself instead.

This decision pushed me to evaluate what mattered to me regardless of the opinions of others. In some ways it pushed me to recreate myself, which is such an artistic endeavor. I recognized at that point that the one constant in my life had been creativity. From drawing and painting as a child to making toys for my own kids to learning every craft I could get my hands on, I was always making things. I can best describe myself as having an artist’s brain… so, I decided to try and create a career which would reflect the authentic me.

It’s not obvious and it’s quite scary to want to be an artist when you have creativity and vision but no traditional training. It took a lot of hard work to learn to paint, to learn to market myself, to develop my style, to grow the confidence to own the label, “artist.” But with time I’ve found, very anticlimactically, that everything I’ve been told about hard work is in fact true. If you try and try again, if you persist, however slowly, if you just keep improving little by little, you will eventually get there.

Of course, I’m still growing artistically, as well as in my business and as an individual, and I hope that will always be true. But my work- the themes and meanings I choose for my paintings, especially- very much reflects the journey of of self-realization I’ve described. I paint women, for one thing, because I think many women have had similar experiences and because I am passionate about vocalizing those. I try to continuously dissect the many roles women find ourselves in- whether consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly. I hope that by making visible (through painting) my own mental work in these areas, I can invite viewers to do the same kind of reflecting in their own minds. And I would love more than anything to inspire younger women to find themselves and feel free to be themselves more quickly and easily than I did.

As far as my art itself, I am a painter working mainly with oil paint on canvas and wood. My art would most closely be described as magical realism or surrealism. I paint figuratively in that I paint things that represent real things, if that makes sense- people and animals and natural elements. But, I almost always combine or skew those elements in ways that they do not or cannot appear in nature. This is the kind of art I like to look at- where the longer you look at it, the more things you discover- and it reflects the wild ride that is my crazy brain working through feelings and experiences.

My paintings tend to be dramatic, bright, wild, and full of little surprises. I use a lot of color, detail, and carefully chosen symbols that are either taken from art history, which is a fascination of mine, or have some personal meaning to me. I like to include pretty or “feminine” things in my work, too- from flowers to decorative elements. For one, I obviously want my art to be pretty. But I also love to play with the traditional idea that only “important” objects be included in paintings and I humbly try to show that femininity itself is important. Along with those elements, I sometimes include slightly grotesque or macabre, even offensive elements. I have always been fascinated with contrast like this- the pretty and the dark, the decorative and the meaningful.

In the end, what I paint is really my feelings, thoughts, and experiences made visual in the only way that makes sense to me in the hope that it will resonate with others and make them reflect on their beliefs about the world and themselves.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, after this last year we’ve had, I’m afraid I’m a bit out of practice at having the best time ever! But, I’ll try.

My favorite kinds of activities are usually artistic, educational, or outdoorsy, so I would probably incorporate a lot of those elements in showing off my version of Dallas.

I love museums and I would certainly structure my week around a few visits. Thursday nights are especially nice at the Dallas Museum of Art, as they stay open late and have live music- I love the atmosphere. (I’m not sure about their current, pandemic-era schedule, though!) The Perot is always a good time, for me, and I can (and have) visited over and over. They have adults-only programs on Friday nights sometimes, and those are really fun. And, the Meadows Museum is a favorite for me because it a collection of exclusively Spanish art, which I absolutely love. Plus, the building and the SMU campus where it’s located is really pretty in the evenings when it’s empty. I might venture over to Fort Worth to visit the Kimball Museum or to see the opera (their opera house is much prettier than ours in Dallas, in my opinion!) Downtown Ft. Worth is really lovely to walk around and eat and just enjoy the atmosphere.

Like I said, I also love to be outside and I think DFW has a lot of hidden gems for nature lovers. I always take visitors to White Rock Lake, hopefully on a nice sunny day when it’s not too hot. It’s lovely to see the skyline of the city beyond the lake and just watch people or have a picnic. The arboretum is another spot, especially on a weekday when it’s relatively calm. I love to hike, too, and have really enjoyed Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano and Oak Cliff Nature Preserve in Dallas, among others. And, especially with the family, Klyde Warren Park is a can’t miss spot for me. We usually combine it with our museum visits to get some energy out and try something from the variety of food-trucks!

I personally really enjoy walking around Deep Ellum, the Design District, and Bishop Arts District and finding my way into little art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and antique stores. If there’s an art festival or outdoor market happening, as there often is, even better! I love the Dallas Farmer’s market, too, on a Saturday morning.

As far as eating and drinking, DFW has so much to offer! My absolute number one favorite restaurant, which I take every visitor to, is Zaguan Latin Cafe on Oak Lawn. It’s all Latin American food and drink and it’s fantastic and very unusual. I love to take visitors to Village Baking Co. on Greenville for the best French pastries and a lovely atmosphere. On my side of town, in East Dallas, there are a lot of good local choices. Goodfriends is a really nice neighborhood spot. I enjoy showing people Henk’s Deli and Black Forest Bakery either for the old -timey diner breakfast on a Saturday morning, or the cool selection of European products and the awesome baked goods and cakes. For authentic Mexican, we frequent the kinda out of the way El Atoron on Columbia in Old East Dallas. Their tortas are one of my favorite meals in Dallas. El Tizoncito, which has a few locations, has great tacos and I love Urban Taco for what I would call the fancy kind.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Like anyone, I have many people I could mention. People who have believed in me, supported me, or given me much-needed constructive criticism. But, when I think very specifically of my artistic career, I always come back to the immense influence my husband has had on me.

When we met, I was still learning and toying with the idea of art as a career and he had already spent time as a real, live working artist. This was such an inspiration because, like me, he did not have a fancy art degree or connections, yet he had found success and his art was truly incredible. Watching him paint is how I learned to paint . And I still ask him what’s missing from every piece I complete. Plus, having someone around who truly understands the ups and downs, the obsessiveness, and the insecurities of painting whether for profit or pleasure, is a true gift.

Without his example and support, I would absolutely never have pushed myself to advance or grow in my career the way that I have.

Website: sarahlandreau.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahlandreau.studio/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahlandreau.studio

Image Credits
Sarah Landreau

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