A Creative Explorer: Talking with Sarah Norsworthy

Promontory by Sarah Norsworhty

From a young age Introduction to Drawing instructor Sarah Norsworthy loved to draw, paint and sew--creative outlets that have only continued to flower throughout her life and revealed themselves of benefit to her own creative self-expression as well as those with whom she comes in contact. “My mom taught me how to sew on a machine when I was about five, and I started making clothing early on,” says Norsworthy. “My dad and I would go out on hikes in Alaska and take drawing and painting materials with us and paint the landscape.” With so many seeds of curiosity and creativity planted in her being, it’s of no surprise Norsworthy’s art would become a key means to investigating her world. Painting by Sarah Norsworthy

Through high school Norsworthy was more focused on photography and music, but after taking a drawing class at Dartmouth College as an undergrad she felt the inspirational spark and shifted her focus and her major. “After that first drawing class I switched my major from Physics to Studio Art and took printmaking and painting,” she recalls. “My first painting teacher at Dartmouth exposed me to a world of paintings previously unknown to me, and I knew around this time that becoming a painter would be my main pursuit. It just felt like I had found my place finally. I loved the materiality of the paint and the mystery of what it could do, and how hard it was to control. Experimentation with many materials was exciting and came natural to me. I had found a new way to explore the natural world more suited to me than working within one scientific field.”

It was not until she spent an entire summer immersed in the creative process that Norsworthy felt certain she’d set foot on her best possible path. “Going to Chautauqua School of Art for a summer solidified my feelings,” she says. "I hadn’t found my voice yet but being in the studio was the most important thing to me.” By her senior year Norsworthy’s creative vision had become expansive. “I was creating installations, sculpture and incorporated paintings into environments.”

Over the next ten years, between Dartmouth and attending grad school at University of Washington, Norsworthy continued to draw, paint, sew and explore. “I lived in Seattle where I painted and developed a line of clothing, and then Arkansas where I lived in a small cabin in the woods and worked as a seamstress.”

In 2010, Norsworthy returned to Arkansas where she discovered yet one more passion: teaching. “When I found myself working with adults with developmental disabilities I realized that I loved teaching,” she recalls. “I felt challenged and inspired and developed some deep bonds with that group of people. There were many exciting moments of seeing someone express themselves and find joy in making art individually as well as collaborating and learning something as a group.”

Norsworthy says she sees herself predominantly as a painter, but her exploratory process doesn’t stop there. “At the moment I am making large fabric pieces that are like paintings, based on drawings that I have made onsite and from memory,” she says. “When I was making clothing I would draw and collage on them with embroidery and appliqué, so there is usually a lot of overlap between mediums. I try to choose the material that will best express my idea. I often work in the landscape drawing and painting and the relationship between figure and landscape has been a recurring subject.”

Installation by Sarah NorsworthyFor Norsworthy, teaching is an opportunity to impart her creative insights, but not her creative identity. “I want the classroom to be a creative space where students of varying skill levels feel comfortable with constructive critique and encourage each other through group dialogue and collaboration,” she says. “I try share my own experiences and knowledge about painting and drawing without forcing my own aesthetic preferences upon students. I want to create a space where students engage and are not afraid to make mistakes.”

Ultimately, Norsworthy hopes her students access their own exploratory process through Introduction to Drawing: “I hope that students will learn something new about themselves and the way that they perceive the world through the act of drawing.”

Learn more about Introduction to Drawing.

All images courtesy of Sarah Norsworthy
Promontory, oil on canvas, 72" x 108", 2015
Interbay, oil on canvas, 80" x 106", 2015
Detail of Palace Pelagic, mixed media installation at Henry Art Gallery, 2015