Sharon Paster is a painter creating semi abstract images inspired by the beautiful landscapes and subjects around Marin County, California. With a passion for exploring the potential for change and movement, Paster captures the energy and fluid relationships of her surroundings using oil pigment sticks in her paintings. Through the layering of oils, Paster plays with space, color, and change, portraying a reality abstractly familiar to our own.
Paster’s works are a reflection of her surroundings, and her studio allows her to access incredible views of the ocean and natural movement just outside her window. As Co-President of the Art Association at the ICB Building in Sausalito, where her studio is located, Paster frequently holds events, open studios and more for other artists there.
We had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Paster about her works, studio space, process, and more! Read on to find out more in an exclusive interview with Sharon Paster
You have a stunning studio space at the ICB Building that overlooks the Bay and Marin coastline just north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Can you talk about how you ended up in this studio?
-I started exhibiting my work in 2002, and had a studio behind my home for many years, but when we were selling the house about nine years ago, I needed to find another place to paint. I knew about ICB ART in Sausalito, which contains space for around 180 artists, and I knew many of them from my years taking art classes at the local College of Marin. I took the opportunity to visit the building during an open studio event, asking everyone if they needed a subtenant, and lucked out. I started in a tiny, closet-sized space, then was able to knock down a wall and expand a bit. About three years ago, another artist in the building asked if I wanted to share this gorgeous large studio she was in line for, and I jumped at the chance. She backed out, but I found another person to share with, and then she backed out too! I decided to just try and make it work by myself.
Although it is a stunning spot, initially I had a hard time adjusting to the studio’s natural lighting. The large windows made light glare on my paintings a lot, making it harder to see while working. I found it difficult to focus and make judgments about how I felt about my art. I also had a challenging time adjusting to the amount of space I now had. From working in a very small studio for years prior to having this new large studio, I found it much easier to focus in a small space. Feeling comfortable in a large space is something that I adjusted to with time, as I learned to find my rhythm and flow. I do feel very lucky though to have this space. It is the corner office, the biggest space, and one of the best studios in the building (at least that's what people tell me when they join me for open studios).
Did sharing a studio space have any influence on your approach to/subjects in your work?
-Definitely! Like most artists, we are really susceptible to energy and things around us. When I was initially sharing the large space with my studio-mate Katy Kuhn, who is an abstract expressionist painter, I found myself feeding off the energy of her pieces and getting more abstract in mine. It felt like good compatibility because we were both influenced by each other. Sharing this large building with so many other great artists allows everyone to really feed off each other's energy. While this exchange of energy and ideas between creative minds is great, I also had to remain focused on developing something of my own that was not affected by outside influence. I am very social and I think there are pros to having a shared collaborative environment, but believe there are also pros to having your solitude.
Are there any artists in history who have influenced you?
-Historically, I would say Van Gogh has been very inspiring to me. I saw a portrait show of his in Boston, and I was blown away. The colors and expressiveness of his works are so stunning. Also, any time I go to New York I always go see the work of Egon Schiele who was an Austrian painter, what a draftsman. I think his works are unbelievable. In the present day, I think of amazing painters like Alex Kanevsky. There is such a fluidity but also a sort of mystery that he is able to convey. I also really admire South African artist William Kentridge.
You have mentioned that your works have been evolving, although the overall focus has remained the same. How do you think your approach to your art has changed throughout your artistic journey?
-Yes, my approach to my subjects is always evolving. From landscapes, to rocks, water, and people, the subjects vary but the underlying approach remains the same. I try to showcase the energy of connections being made and also simultaneously dissolving in space. I have chosen certain materials that let me delve into the contrast between fixed versus fluid. I love the contrast between what the eye can see and what our minds imagine to make the full picture. Visually tricking the viewer to see something that isn't really there is very fun. So I think the consistency lies in the approach to my work.
What initially inspired you to try your hand at abstract style art?
-I started trying more abstract works when I felt like I needed to look somewhere other than our physical realm for inspiration. I had grown up taking painting lessons where I learned to copy and paint things out of my dad’s camera magazines. From this, I started painting landscapes and subjects from photos I took. I have been doing landscapes for many years, and it came to a point where I wasn't interested in painting the same trees and mountains that I had been used to copying. I then started letting my imagination take over and fill in the blanks of all the details. I made forms less distinct and focused more on energy. Letting the mind of the viewer fill in the details of something that looks so familiar to our physical world, makes my work so fun and interesting for me.
You have expressed your interest in movement and exploring potential for movement in your works. What initially sparked this interest and curiosity in exploring movement?
-When I was younger, my grandparents had an apartment on 5th ave in New York. In the early morning I would look out the window and down at the street. There would be no cars really early in the morning, but then there would be one, then another. Suddenly someone's double parking and there's all this traffic building up. Watching one thing affect another, and witnessing this movement between people was and still is so fascinating to me. I have also been very interested in physics and vectors, the idea of impact and its effect on things around it. I think watching movement unfold as a child was the most telling moment for me.
Can you talk about your process of finding inspiration for a new piece?
-There are a couple different places I pull inspiration from. Sometimes I go into a pile of photos that I've printed and flip through them looking for inspiration. I have plenty of pictures of rocks, landscapes, bushes on the hillsides, and more. There are tons of photos that I have flipped through, but come back to and end up finding something new in. I have also found inspiration in some of my older works though too. There was a painting I have from20 years ago of a model sitting in a stool, and I recently painted another work where I framed and positioned the subject in the same way.
What is one of your favorite things in your studio?
-It would have to be my paints! I have every color I could ever need, all kept neatly in my bins for easy access. I'm kidding. (see photo above) I often can't tell what color I'm grabbing because they are so mixed and thrown together. But I love my paints. I'll grab it thinking it's one color, but I have to rub them against the canvas on my table to clean it up and see what color it really is.
Can you talk about any shows or things you have coming up?
-I recently just showed two of my works at Art Market SF in Alessandro Berni’s Gallery. The two pieces shown there were very large works, Let’s Do It and Seeker. For the future, I will be taking time to do some commissioned pieces, and I will be having open studios at ICB ART in Sausalito. I am co-president of the art association in our building where we have activities for speakers, other artist open studios, and more so that keeps me pretty busy.
What advice would you give to artists looking to develop and grow?
-I would say, the biggest jump for me in my development has been in surrounding myself with other artists. I have taken lots of classes at the Junior College in Marin, which I found was a magnet for professionals who were still eager to learn. Being around artists was such a great community, and it is still the case at my studio in the ICB building. It also helps to be around people who are kind and generous in sharing their knowledge. It's a big deal to have someone around who can give you serious critique on your work, or help you with other things like canvas recommendations. We share a lot of information, and putting yourself in an environment that helps you grow I think is really great.
You can learn more about Sharon Paster’s work, her journey, and her open studios via these links: