Chris Lambert spoke with Sarah Allred about singing without thinking, ego-based embarrassment, the pink she’d like to be someday, struggling to achieve optimism on a daily basis and understanding the sacrifices her loved ones have made.
If I had finished my degree, might not have written the things I’ve written or painted the things that I’ve painted, and I love those things.
Chris asked Sarah to meditate on each of these former Pantone Colors of the Year and mention a person in her life that each reminds her of.
This one reminds me of me! Because I love this color, and it’s one I use often in my paintings. For most of my life, I was very resistant to pinks because of their “girly” associations and the socialization of that meaning weakness, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve reprogrammed myself to think of it as softness and kindness. Now I try to be pinker.
This shade makes me think of my friend Tony. He’s cool and reserved but he can always calm me down when I’m upset.
Martena Wilson! Martena is my yoga teacher; she was my primary teacher as I went through my yoga teacher training program. She has yellow hair and she looks great in yellow (which is a hard color to look healthy in), and she has this cheerful, boundless, bubbly energy that she channels into serving the community.
Emily Wryn has been my best sister-friend for years and years. She’s aloof and warm at the same time, like this weird shade of purple-blue, and she somehow juggles a full time job and two children and a creative life as a musical artist.
This is Thich Nhat Hahn pink. His book Being Peace was one of my first forays into Buddhist thinking, and the cover has a flower this color on it. This is a pink I’d like to be someday.
I don’t think I’ve ever met this color.
Can you tell me about an experience in life that you found embarrassing or upsetting at the time, which you can now look back on somewhat positively?
I went to Cal Poly SLO for microbiology right after high school. At the end of my junior year, I dropped out. In all honesty, I still struggle with feeling embarrassed or ashamed of myself. I wish I had finished my degree, I wish I had a degree today, I wish I weren’t a waitress. I think a lot of my embarrassment is ego-based, but I also think some of my frustration is the way people treat serving staff. I’ve thought about it a lot though, you know the “If you could go back and change one thing” questions people like to ask… and I wouldn’t change anything. If I had finished my degree, I might be living somewhere else, I might not have written the things I’ve written or painted the things that I’ve painted, and I love those things. Those are my favorite things. If I had stayed, I would probably be a very different person from the person I am now.
Which two parts of the human body do you find the most and the least physically appealing, and why?
I’ve always found forearms very attractive; they’re graceful and solid. I feel like that’s one part of the body that is pretty on almost everyone. As far as the least appealing part of the body goes, I’ve had to think about this one a lot. I try really hard not to think of parts of the body in negative ways because they’re just bodies, and people don’t have a whole lot of control over the way they’re shaped. All that being said, large pores are not very appealing to me.
The large creative part of art for me is coming up with ideas, and while painting and drawing are relaxing for me, those are skills like any other.
One of my favorite parts of following you on Instagram is that you’ll post stories of works in progress and you almost always have music playing. How do you select the music you listen to while you work, and have you found certain styles or artists that either enhance or hinder your creativity?
For a while, I would try to use my art time to explore new artists or albums I hadn’t listened to, but I’ve noticed that that doesn’t work very well for me. I like listening to music that I know and love because it provides the perfect amount of engagement. I can sing along without thinking, and it quiets the part of my brain that constantly wants to review to-do lists and stress out about work, but it doesn’t distract me so much that I can’t get work done. The large creative part of art for me is coming up with ideas, and while painting and drawing are relaxing for me, those are skills like any other.
It’s just like chopping onions. You chop the onions because that’s how you make food, but creativity comes in when you come up with a recipe idea. For me, with visual art, the creative part is coming up with what I want to paint, or an idea to express, and that usually happens when I’m driving or spacing out some other way. I also like listening to storytelling podcasts while I work; right now I’ve been listening to LeVar Burton Reads. I also adore Ryan Adams, John Hiatt and Bruce Springsteen.
What kinds of dysfunctions have you inherited from your upbringing, and how do they inform the art you make?
I know my Mom will probably read this, so, hi Mom, I love you. When I was young — maybe eight? — I was going through an old family photo album, and I found a sketch of a dragon, or a unicorn, or something. And it was so good. I asked my mom where it came from, because I just thought it was such a cool drawing, and she said my dad had drawn it forever ago. And this was the first time I’d ever heard of my dad drawing anything. He’s always played guitar, and I was very aware of that, and he was always amazing at coloring books and painting my fingernails in cool patterns, but I didn’t know that he could draw his own stuff, stuff that just came out of his head.
My parents both encouraged me to read and do creative things, but it was always clear that academic success was very important. Getting “A”s was important, going to college was important, getting a job that makes good money and has good benefits was important. They always told me I should be a doctor or a lawyer.
My dad was in the military for twenty years, “retired”, and still does the same job now, maintaining the radar equipment used to monitor weather and land planes. He worked to support my Mom and my sister and myself tirelessly. My mom has worked so many weird jobs to make extra money and still be able to raise my sister and me. Neither of them went to college. I remember when my Dad had to go to Korea for a year and my Mom was cleaning a dental office after hours, and we would have to go with her, and it was excruciatingly boring.
I feel that as an adult, I can see more of the whole picture. I can see the tiny sacrifices they made every single day. I can see the huge sacrifices they made over a lifetime. And I know that they wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer so that I might have a better life than they do, so that I could be safe and happy and healthy and make good money and not stress about getting by.
So all of this isn’t really a dysfunction, but it definitely informs my art. I don’t want to be somewhere down the road, saying “Oh yeah, I used to draw.” And I don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer who makes great money but has no time to spend with loved ones. I want to have a rich creative life, and have time to live a slow, meaningful, intent life, and I’m slowly working towards that goal. And I am so thankful for my parents; they are so supportive of my creative work. We have evolved so much as a family and I love them so much.
Tell me something that you consider “romantic” that isn’t traditionally thought of as such.
I’m not a very romantic person. Eating junk food and watching sci-fi in bed is my idea of romance. I’m much more concerned about being comfortable with someone, and being okay with them in the same room while my hair is crazy and I’m mowing down fried chicken and I spilled macaroni and cheese on myself than I am with things like jewelry and dates. I think the beautiful thing about love is really seeing someone as a person — a whole person — and accepting that.
I want someone to love me all the time, when I’m doing really awesome things and when I’m being rotten. I try really hard not to be rotten, but I’m human, and traditional “romance” requires an optimism that I just don’t have the energy for most days. I actually had to look up the word “romantic” to answer this question.
I want to be kinder and make more change for the good, but it’s hard to just nurture and care for myself. I want to be more positive and optimistic, but I struggle every day.
Please make a simple sketch that represents how you’re feeling about life at this exact moment.
I’m trying really hard but things are heavy. I want to be kinder and make more change for the good, but it’s hard to just nurture and care for myself. I want to be more positive and optimistic, but I struggle every day.
Can you recall the first thing you ever drew or painted that made you feel like you had accomplished something special, even if you didn’t think of it in those terms then?
Honestly, I cannot recall. I’ve always doodled and filled margins with little sketches, but for most of my life, they weren’t what I would call good. I started practicing drawing and painting a few years ago; by which I mean I took classes, I watched videos, I checked out books from the library, and I started to develop more of a skill set. It’s hard to express yourself without the right tools and skills, and to me, art is a form of communication. I think it was about two years ago now — I participated in a local “First Thursday” art night. I had a cohesive watercolor gallery of around 15 pieces that I had made around the theme of a poem I had written, and that felt really good. I think that was the first time I had been able to adequately, definitively and clearly express myself using visual art.
Tell me about the last thing you did, in as much detail as possible, that made you feel like you had made the world a slightly better place.
I taught my yoga class this morning. Only two people were there. One of them was having shoulder issues and one of them was having hamstring/calf issues, and I worked out a class that would help both of them ease their tension. I feel this way after every yoga class that I teach, though. Students come in sleepy and stressed and stiff, and I see their pain in their faces as we move through the first poses. At the end of the class, people are smiling, and there is less tension in their faces, and they are happier. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I wish I hadn’t gone to yoga this morning,” you know? There’s also this inexplicable thing, an almost communion, that happens when we practice as a group, and we become softer towards each other and ourselves. And this is how people leave class and go out into the world to interact with others, and I think that helps.
Curated by: Chris Lambert
Conducted by: Email
Edited by: Morgan Enos
Published: April 17, 2018
Total questions: 6 + 8
Word count: 1924
Reading time: Seven minutes
accomplishment, association, benefit, blue, Bruce Springsteen, Buddhism, calf, care, change, cheese, Chris Lambert, creativity, degree, doctor, dragon, drawing, dysfunction, embarrassment, Emily Wryn, equipment, fingernail, grace, hamstring, idea, information, jewelry, John Hiatt, lawyer, macaroni, margin, nurturing, optimism, painting, Pantone, pattern, positivity, purple, radar, reprogramming, resistance, Ryan Adams, sacrifice, science fiction, shame, sketch, solidity, stiffness, struggle, tension, Thich Nhat Hahn, Thursday, yoga
About the subject
Sarah Allred is a painter, illustrator and yoga teacher. She resides in Lompoc, California.
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