Following in the thick paint footsteps of her artist/musician father, Palm Beach Gardens native Sarah La Pierre grew up learning from and helping her father in his studio.
“I was always creating as a kid,” she says from her home studio she shares with her partner, an overly friendly pit bull and two cats. “I watched my father make these beautiful landscapes using a palette knife and it inspired me to learn that.”
Her father was a successful touring musician when he met her mother on a beach in New Jersey, she was a model studying to be a nurse. They married and eventually settled in Florida where Sarah was born and he saw the paintings made by The Highwaymen, a group of self-taught landscape artists.
“He became really prolific making these paintings, up to four a day, I still have several of them hanging in my house here,” she says, pointing to some vibrant landscapes.
Sadly he passed away in his early 60s in 2009, but Sarah continued her art education at Palm Beach State College.
“I love painting though initially I never had it in mind as a full time career. I liked designing spaces and curating, but there was an emerging artist program going on and my goal was to sell enough work to pay for a trip to Portugal. I did it and realized I could take painting seriously as a career. Now I have 13 shows lined up for 2019 and just completed murals for the CityPlace’s garages in West Palm Beach.”
She draws her inspiration from what is right outside her door – the bright sun splashed flora and fauna native to Florida. Seascapes, landscapes, the Everglades, pink flamingos, ripe oranges, swaying palm trees – they all find their way into her lush thick paint canvases.
“I’ve continued the palette knife work, it’s what I love best. I work from photos after I’ve taken trips to parks and the beach. I would be a gardener or landscaper if I wasn’t an artist. I’ve even taken helicopter rides to get a different perspective of the land. Using a palette knife is a whole different way to apply color. I start with a solid color background in fast drying acrylic then knife over it. I sometimes finish out details with a brush.”
La Pierre works from a large tray to hold generous amounts of paint and generally finishes a piece the same day she starts it.
“I do this all in one session. I have to finish it because the paint dries too fast. It can take me an hour to do a smaller piece, up to six or eight hours for a larger one. I work on just one piece at a time; I can’t have 10 or more lined up. This way I can finish the painting, then come to the next one with fresh eyes. Of course, it has taken over five years of practice to work this way. I don’t always make a series either, maybe I’ll do three of a kind like I did with the pineapples.”
Her work schedule is pretty strict – up by 8 AM and checking emails for commissions and upcoming fairs or pop-up shows, and posting on Instagram artwork from previous days. She sells lots of work just off her Instagram account. “I give my Instagram followers first access to the new work,” she says. “It’s a bonus!”
Then she’s into the sunny large studio off her kitchen to paint until about 6 p.m.
“I used to paint until 10 or 11 at night but had to cut back to have a more balanced life. I need to stop and refresh my creative energy. I take Sundays and Mondays off to go exploring, I have to see new nature all the time. I get the dog in the car and go to the beach or to the parks in the Everglades. I also really like the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter where they have lots of animals. The Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno is great too with all the rehabbing turtles in the tanks. There is just endless inspiration here – the mangroves in the Keys, the citrus trees, the incredible clouds everywhere. Sometimes the birds right outside my door in the canals are all I need.”
Some new murals in downtown West Palm Beach are in CityPlace’s garages. They include “Growing Good,” a three-part series by LaPierre, with a flower for each of the garages, Hibiscus, Gardenia, and Sapodilla. “Growing Good” was her first solo mural.
Sarah LaPierre exhibits at fine arts festivals throughout South Florida and most local events in Palm Beach County. For more information on obtaining prints or paintings, or upcoming exhibits, visit sarahlapierre.com.