SARA BIRNS: @sarabirns



Warts and all, morphed into changing and evolving sitters in a stationary manner, though depicted in old master oil painting techniques, the relativity, familiarity and polished rawness of Sara’s work is unmatched!


Sara takes advantage of little facial details such as veins in the skin, wrinkles and eyeball glistens to achieve believability. 


“I try to live in a world that exists just under the surface of what we see. By picking apart the visuals of our world and replaying the morphed version of it on the canvas, morphed to illustrate the ideas that I saw, showing that those ideas I had are real.”




    How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it.


    Depictions of changing and evolving people/ beings done in a stationary manner. I use old master oil painting techniques to achieve realism in order to strengthen the relatability and familiarity between the viewer and the subject. Then, by taking advantage of the familiarities that the viewer observes between the paintings and the natural world, I morph the subjects to ignite the viewer with new understandings and perceptions of this world and themselves. I like to take advantage of those little details, such as faint veins in the skin, and perfect eyeball glistens to enhance the believability… it also looks super cool :D


    What do you think your work might reveal about you?


    I’m probably blind to a million angles that other people have observed about me through my paintings. But to go with one that stands out to me, I think my work reveals that I try to live in a world that exists just under the surface of what we see. By picking apart the visuals of our world and replaying the morphed version of it on the canvas, morphed to illustrate the ideas that I saw, showing that those ideas I had are real.. because I made them real. Or my paintings may reveal that I am an intense perfectionist hah.  


    What was your path to becoming an artist?


    I’ve always been enthralled with anything juicy to feast my eyes on. And being the creator of that thing has been a big drive in what gets me excited in life. The idea of becoming an artist full time seemed unreachable when I was younger though. I listened to society telling us that one can’t afford to live if you are an artist. However, as I was trying (very hard) for many years to secure a nice safe career in the economy, I grew more and more miserable until one day I broke. I decided to quit that career path, and I didn’t care if I made little money working small jobs, as long as the priority in my life and the majority of my mind was dedicated to my journey in art. I had saved up to take at least a year off to focus on my art, moving out of the Bay Area and back to my hometown (Santa Cruz) where that path began 3 years ago.  

  • What does a day in the life of Sara look like?


    I wake up around noon, make coffee and read, or something else to help me get my bearings (not a morning person). Then I head to the studio around 3pm and work until 1am or 2am (my mind is a lot more sharp at night), sometimes later or earlier. I listen to a mix of paranormal podcasts, music, and the Harry Potter audio books. I take a break just before sunset to ride my bike. It’s nice to break the day (or evening) up, and the sunsets in Santa Cruz are insane. The studio is in an amazing location with the ocean being a 5 minute ride away, and a state park/ ranch 5 minutes the other direction. I find several secret paths or cool pockets when I adventure around. This is pretty much my day everyday. I don’t really take a day off, mostly because during covid there’s nothing else to do, I get restless, and honestly that is pretty much the perfect day for me: music, weird podcasts, painting, adventure. I do miss going out with friends and seeing my boyfriend (he’s stuck in Australia and can’t leave yet). Those things will come in time. 


    Why do you choose to work in oil paint?


    Oil paint achieves realism in the most beautiful way. I also immensely enjoy the strategy and the history that goes into painting with this technique. And the paint itself is just so rich and deep, I don’t know how I was satisfied using anything else before I learned this medium. 


    Are there any artists who have a particularly big impact on the way you work?


    Christian van Minnen happened to be in the studio right next to my mom when I had moved back to Santa Cruz to focus on my art. I was mainly drawing at the time, I showed him my drawings and he encouraged me to try oils. Then I became his apprentice. A lot of my methods and strategy have been impacted by how he works, I morphed my observations of his process into what works for me.  

  • What are you working on at the moment?


    Currently I am almost done completing the last few paintings for a solo show at PostmastersROMA. 14 new paintings and a few monotypes will be exhibited, and I am so excited to present the new body of work in Rome opening mid May. Expect some humanoid animals, a series of strange Mother Marys, and an optical illusion. 


    Professionally, what is a goal you would like to achieve?


    I would like to travel around Europe for a while. Soaking up more old master oil painting knowledge and new techniques as I adventure around where the process was born. I’d like to dive deeper into the mythology around it as well. Then see how this will affect my work. I would also like to do some residency programs once things open up more- meeting and becoming friends with more artists will be amazing, the town I am in is quite small. I would like to continue evolving my practice utilizing the new knowledge I gain from this plan. And of course have more exhibitions.


    What advice would you give to aspiring artists?


    Only listen to yourself, about what you enjoy and what gets you excited. And make that the priority in your life and you’ll start attracting things that will enhance that thing or things you love. If you’re on the wrong path, you’ll be enhancing the wrong things in your life, that won’t make you happy. It’s ok to try several different paths until you find the right one. Keep trying to find that thing you can’t wait to explore more of. The key to being successful at what you do is to work really hard at it, and the only sustainable way to do that is to be really excited about the thing you’re working so hard to evolve. Because if you’re not, what’s the point of working so hard at it. 

  • Who are your favourite contemporary artists and their insta handles?


    Here’s a list of some of my favourite artists who have pretty consistently blown my mind: 


    Van Minnen: @van_minnen 

    Jenny Morgan: @Jenny_Morgan_jm 

    Catherine Lentini: @cthrnlntn 

    Cathrin Hoffmann: @cathrin.hoffmann 

    Inka Essenhigh: @inkaessenhigh

    Geoff Chadsey: @chads67

    monica cook: @monicacookstudio

    Patricia Piccinini: @patricia.piccinini

    Aaron Johnson: @aaronjohnsonart

    David Altmejd: @daltmejd

    Nicola Verlato: @nicolaverlato

    Oli Epp: @oli.epp

    Ben Spiers: @benjaminspiers

    Anna Park: @annaparkart

    Genieve Figgis: @genievefiggis 

    Sandra Martagex: @sandramartagex

    Stuart Pearson Wright: @stuartpearsonwright

    Lui Liu: no instagram but you MUST know him if you don’t!

    DOMINIQUE FUNG: @dominiquefung

    nicola caredda: @nicolacaredda

    Erik Mark Sandberg: @erikmarksandberg


    What one song should be added to the She Curates playlist?


    “Lost in Music” by Sister Sledge. This song literally brings me to tears in a happy way.