Imagine waking up each morning, looking out your window and seeing a grove of aspen trees, with their orange, yellow and light green leaves creating a blanket around your world. Above the treeline, a massive mountain peaks its head out of the earth and through the clouds. After you wake up, you walk into the art studio in your house and you setup a blank canvas. Imagine that a large part of your career involves simply marveling at the majesty of mother nature. Imagine that it’s your job to capture the beauty that surrounds you on that blank canvas, so that others can take a piece of the beauty home with them, to hang on their walls forever.
This is the life that artist, Sarah Bott, is creating for herself.
Always an artist at heart, Sarah recently decided to throw caution to the wind and try to build a career as a full time fine artist. Sarah has faced her share of challenges along the way and while many of Sarah’s days do sound like the one I described above, making it as an artist involves perseverance, dedication, and ultimately a belief in yourself that you can do it. Even in a world that tells you that you can't.
Sarah Bott grew up in Johnstown, Colorado. A self-described “teeny, tiny hick-town on the Front Range.” She’s always considered herself a creative, but her creativity shows up in many different ways – one of which has been her longtime love of figure skating.
“I’ve always been super involved with the arts, but I was so involved with athletics for a while that I actually stopped creating with my hands until my junior year of high school.” Sarah says.
It was one of Sarah’s high school teachers who encouraged her to explore her artistic gifts further. This teacher looked at Sarah’s artwork and told her to take an AP art class. Which eventually led to her choice to study fine arts as a undergrad at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Throughout her life, Sarah has been told time and again that life as an artist isn’t something she can sustain. It’s a classic tale, really. The ‘starving artist’ trope is one that has been firmly ingrained into our societal mindset. So, picking a career path as a creative, especially in a world that has been carefully keeping its eye out for the next economic recession, meant that not everyone understood Sarah's choice to devote her studies to the arts.
“All through college you hear: What are you going to do with art? What are you going to do with art?” Sarah says. “People put ideas in your head at an early age, telling you that you can’t be a creative. I think that’s really sad. I just decided to go for it anyway.”
Sarah never regretted her choice to study art.
“I’m so glad I chose it. I’m one of the few people that never changed majors. It just seemed to fit. It felt right.”
Following college, Sarah moved to Breckenridge, Colorado, where she got a job at a small local candle shop working as a live artist, carving candles as the shop’s patrons looked on with curiosity and awe. It was the first step towards a career supporting herself in the arts, though she was still working three other jobs at the time to sustain herself. During this period, Sarah was living in a small apartment, with two other people, two dogs, and not much space for art supplies, let alone a place to set up an easel and canvas. The candle shop had a small space upstairs which they offered to Sarah to utilize as a studio. Eventually, Sarah’s desire for a studio space of her own prompted Sarah and her fiancé, Dallas, to buy a home together in South Park, Colorado. Sarah and Dallas have been living happily in their home for the last two years, with Sarah painting in her studio, and their two dogs, Teddy and Nugget, roaming the mountain hills by their sides.
“My studio windows are filled with views of the aspen grove our house sits in. It’s seriously amazing and so inspiring every day.” Sarah reflects.
For a while, life as an artist was seeming more and more plausible, until a sudden loss sent a shock wave through Sarah’s world.
“My dad passed away last year.” Sarah recounts. “It was really difficult. I was in this slump for several months, not really doing anything that I loved. I kind of lost all faith in myself. I was just in this dark place and dark state of mind.”
During this difficult time, a few people in Sarah’s life continued to worry about whether or not she could really support herself as an artist. They wanted her to find a job that was more stable. Something with benefits. Something with a solid paycheck. After the loss of her father, Sarah started to let those words trickle into her mind and bring doubt to her dreams of making it as an artist.
Eventually, she gave in and found a full time job.
“The voice in my head was saying: This is the logical thing to do. You need money. You need stability. You need consistent income. Life will be easier and better. Everyone else is right and that’s what they’re all doing, so I should at least give this a try. I should try to do what has been normalized in our society and what people consider to be the “best route” in a career.”
Sarah’s job was great. Great benefits, great pay – and she hated every second of it.
“There was another voice in my head saying: Life is way too frickin’ short to do this. There was literally a nagging feeling inside of me that said: This is not what you’re meant to do, this is not your calling. You’re doing this to please other people. You’re doing this for the wrong reasons.”
Sarah quit her new job four months later.
“I just thought to myself: Screw everyone! I’m tired of listening to other people’s advice and opinions of my own life.”
Sarah decided that if she was going to pursue a career as an artist, she just needed to go all-in. She buckled down.
“My art took off. The second I decided I wanted it to. The second I decided that I wasn’t going to listen to anyone else, and that I wasn’t even going to ask anyone else’s opinion of my path anymore...I think that’s the best advice I can give another artist: Don’t ask other people what they think you should do, because they will all tell you you’re going to fail.”
These days, followers of Sarah’s artwork have noticed a serious uptick in the amount of artwork Sarah's producing. Sarah aims to put about 20 hours a week into her artwork. Supplementing her income as a figure skating coach, which Sarah also considers a form of art.
“With my artwork, as long as I am consistent about it, my business grows. I do try to stay consistent. I try to do at least two things for my art business every day. Eventually, it accumulates.”
During the week, Sarah might go into her studio in the mornings and paint for a couple of hours. She may post her paintings to social media or list them on her website. Some days she’ll drive to restaurants where her paintings are hanging and ensure all is well. Increasingly, you can find Sarah painting as a live artist at concerts or music festivals around Colorado.
Sarah says that each evening she tries to think about her day ahead and asks herself: “What can I make possible? What can I make happen tomorrow.”
Growing an art career takes hard work and perseverance – and mostly, it takes patience. It’s not something that happens all at once, rather it’s something that grows slowly and steadily overtime, and Sarah knows this.
“When I think of my art career, and this is going to sound corny, I like to compare myself to an animal in the jungle on a hunt. Right? It might take time – but if you just keep trying and keep doing – eventually that animal is going to catch something.” Sarah explains.
“So eventually I am going to catch on. My art is going to catch on. People will start wanting it the more they see it. My art is going to get better the more I do it. It’s just perseverance. You can't quit. I think that’s the biggest thing. No matter what happens.”
“You’re going to have ups and downs. I have months where I make thousands of dollars off my art, and I have months where I don’t make anything off my art, and I can’t let the months where I don’t make anything bring me down, because the following month I might sell five paintings in one month, that happens. You just have to keep going. I kind of give myself tunnel-vision towards what I want my artist career to look like and what I want my life to look like, and everything else that happens...I don’t want to say I ignore it, but I learn from it...and then I keep moving through the tunnel.”
Sarah’s art is beautiful and bright. With streaks of color that run through her canvases and bring to life the natural elements that Sarah is inspired by – the crisp, blue Colorado air, the Aspen groves, the big, beautiful mountains. Sarah paints as much as possible on recycled wood panels, which she collects from friends, the ice rink, or from the city. By using recycled materials, Sarah hopes to decrease her environmental footprint and raise awareness about protecting the environment.
Ultimately, Sarah wants to spark happiness with her art.
“The whole purpose of art, to me, is to bring joy to other people. Creating it brings me joy, but then giving it or selling it to other people brings them so much joy, which then brings me more joy, so it’s just, like, this awesome circle.”
Sarah still has moments of doubt and fear about her chosen path each and every day. There are times when she allows the uncertainty of the path to create worry in her mind, but she’s learning to keep those voices at bay.
“I’ve gotten much better at not believing the negative comments people say about my ambitious career path working to become a full time artist. There are moments every day that I am afraid of something related to my work, but stepping out of my comfort zone every day is how I move forward with my art and continue to create and build a business.”
Ultimately, Sarah knows it in her soul – she was born an artist.
“I just feel it in me. I just can’t deny that it’s there and that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Sarah is an Artist living a creative lifestyle in the beautiful Colorado Rockies. Sarah and her fiancé currently own a beautiful little cabin home surrounded by aspen trees and trails in South Park, Colorado. Her work life consists of creating and running a business as artist from her in-home studio, in addition to coaching and running the figure skating programs in Breckenridge, Colorado. She primarily utilizes inspiration from the mountains and nature she lives among to create her paintings and drawings. Playing outside is a priority and motivates her artwork. In her free time, she’s snowboarding, climbing, paddle boarding, camping, trail running, or hiking with her dogs. She loves and respects the Earth, and hopes to spread awareness of protecting and appreciating nature through art and outdoor activities.