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Sarah Whalen Talks about Her Art and Process

Sarah Whalen - Double the Fun

On Sunday, May 7th, we had “Mini Talks” session with 4 of our 5  MAAC on the Map Edition II artists:  Yikui Gu, Christina Massey, Alexis Duque, Alicia Degener Allan Gorman. (Sarah B. Whalen could not attend.)

Thank you to all who were there! If you you missed it, you can watch the videos below.

While Sarah B. Whalen was unable to attend, she did respond to our questions in writing:

Sarah B. Whalen at MAAC on the Map - Edition II - at The Manhattan Art & Antiques Center

Sarah, who are your main influencers?

Japanese Shunga woodblock prints, Egon Schiele, Mike Giant, Betty Tompkins, Erin M. Riley, tattoo artists all over the world, Kara Walker.

Who has been your mentor and how have they shaped the development of your artistry?

I don’t really have a mentor. In school, my admissions counselor Eric Swangstu, was incredibly helpful with texts I should be reading for inspiration and artists I should research. I now have conversations with Erin M. Riley about making erotic work as a woman and the trials that one works through being that type of artist

Whose work are you following closely at the moment?

Because of the internet, I am closely following about 600 peoples work closely. It’s a wonderful tool to use for inspiration and to find others who are making work similar to mine.

"Double the Fun" - by Sarah B. Whalen

“Double the Fun” – by Sarah B. Whalen



When did you know you were going to be an artist as a profession?

I was always going to be an artist. There is a photo of me in a high chair with watercolor all over my face. I’m not sure when I started making work at a toddler but I have always wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember.

How do you fill your creative well?

I like to exercise; run, do yoga. I like to cook. Watch movies. Go out in nature and walk around the trees. Sit in a spot of warm sunlight.

How has your style or medium changed since you first started out?

I think my style has changed quite a bit and I’m still trying to play with how that comes across. I didn’t start drawing consistently until after I graduated from my BFA so it’s still kind of a new practice for me but I am still finding new ways to push the materials and the subject matter.

I have a small studio space in my apartment that I create my work in. In the past, sharing apartments with roommates, I always made my work sitting on my bed. Now that I have this space, I share it with my boyfriend who’s a musician and we take turns using it.

What is your routine when you create? Do you need silence or music? Do you have a specific time of day that you prefer working? How many hours do you work at a stretch?

I typically draw when I get home from work or on the weekends. I like drawing to music versus listening to TV shows. I like something with a pretty quick beat to keep my momentum up. I listen to a lot of hip hop and pop music when I am making work.

If I could work first thing in the morning I would prefer that, when my mind is sharp but I try to meditate or drink some tea when I get home to get in the mood of working. On a weeknight I will draw sometimes 2-3 hours but on a weekend I try to get in 8 hours of solid work time each day.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I use a lot of scenarios from my own life in my work. I get a lot of inspiration from the internet. Also from day dreams I have or movies I watch; conversations I have with my friends about funny experiences that they have had.

I think sex and sexuality is all around us and it depends how you tap into your own as well as that of others to know what to make.

Where are the best places to sell your work? Online? Gallery?

Usually people see my work on Instagram and they either go to my website store and make a purchase or send me a message inquiring about a piece. I have sold many pieces at shows as well so there isn’t a clear path. I think it depends for each artist where and how their work sells best, I don’t think there is one clear answer.

Do you believe in the struggling artist meme?

I’m not sure what specific meme this is in reference to but I find memes about being an artist accurate and funny. I think that no matter where you are in your career as an artist, there is always a struggle to create work and work comes from an internal struggle that needs to be released through creation.

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