Environmental Portraits, The Artists Way

The Artists Way: Sarah Thornton-Smith

Sarah Thornton-smith

the artists way

Sequenced cuts, beautiful folds, gradated colours, majestic light and deepening shadows. Welcome to the beautiful mind and amazing works of Sarah Thornton-Smith.

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Sarah (albeit digitally, it is the age we live in after all) through a mutual friend. Naturally as I do, I invited myself over for coffee under the premise of talking all things art and taking a photo or two (ok more like one or two hundred photos). Coffee was drunk, conversations were flowing and photos were being taken.

As conversations progressed (actually, I think it was the first thing we spoke about!) we landed on the topic of, yep you guessed it, music. It always fascinates me with what people listen to while in pursuit of their creative endeavors. For Sarah her current ‘soundtrack to art’ is Korean pop (you didn’t see that coming, did you?). Sarah admitted she listens to anything and everything from jazz to rock and pretty much anything that gets her going for a particular project. Pop seems to always pop back to the forefront (pardon the pun), not so much for the lyrics, but the layers of rhythmic beats built into the songs. This often influences her work, as she builds layers, finds colourways and gradates them leading from one point to another.  

Sarah has always been drawn to colour, filled with a curiosity in the way in which colour influences our lives. This notion intertwines with Sarah’s work as she adopts harmonious colour palettes that are found simply by observing the colours in nature. Gradating these colours, building layers and some sharp knife skills leads to something truly unique and ever changing, as the light fills the shadows and the shadows fill the light.  

With me launching a full-scale interrogation into the effort to learn as much as I can about this brilliant art form, we landed on the subject of labels (I’m not talking about pantry labels here!). I simply asked, “Is there a word that encapsulates all that you do here, in other words, when people ask you what you do, what’s your answer?” This led us down a long and windy path. Sarah’s always struggled with what to call herself. She paints but is she a painter? She uses paper but is she a paper artist? We could go on and on here, but ultimately her business card reads artist designer, which is fitting. However, regardless of title we can all agree her work is uniquely stunning.  


“When I look at sunsets I often think, how does it work like that? How does it become blue and then pink and then the bluey purple…”

Sarah Thornton-Smith