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Sarah Posey

19″ x 13.5″

Sarah Posey Fine Art

Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu

Art Prof & Partner

Casey Roonan, Comics Artist & Cartoonist

Casey Roonan

Cartoonist & Comics Artist

Deepti Menon, Filmmaker & Animator

Deepti Menon

Filmmaker & Animator

Artist Statement
“In the broad sense, this painting is about feeling controlled by someone else, but being unable or unwilling to break away from that control.

The idea for this particular situation came from an experience I had last year with someone that I really hoped would love me too. I was stuck with the feelings that I had for her, but I was frustrated about it. I knew that I had to let it go but I couldn’t seem to. If I thought I had gotten rid of it, as soon as I saw her again they came back full force.

The veins and arteries attaching themselves to the bird figure are meant to signify this feeling of being controlled. The mask on the other figure symbolizes the hopes that I had had. The bird figure is trying to escape but is unable to. “

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Partial Video Transcript

Prof Lieu: “I think this is such a startling image. It’s a piece that really piques your curiosity right away. It’s got a lot of strange and unusual imagery and it’s the type of piece that you really want to spend time with. You really want to think about it, you want to know what’s going on. It seems like this is a very specific narrative and I like that about this piece, that I really want to figure out what it’s all about.”

Casey: “Yeah, I mean I like that there’s a few different elements that you can kind of focus on and they also really take advantage of the full breadth of the the paper. Everything sort of reaches to the edge. Every element is considered.”

Deepti: “For me, this curiosity really stems from the two figures in the image. I’m so curious as to what their relationship is because there’s so much tension I feel like and that really adds to the concept of the piece, of why’s there’s so much tension in this piece.”

Prof Lieu: “And not just tension but I also think mood. I think the mood of the piece is very stark. It’s very dramatic, I mean you really feel like there’s something wrong going on in the piece. There’s definitely a lot of conflict going on between these two figures, so I’m kind of wondering what you guys think the relationship is between the two figures as depicted in the image.”

Casey: “It’s interesting as I think there’s some ambiguity there that’s intentional, but I’m also a little bit confused by that actually.”

Deepti: “I find that the figure on the left seems to be a bit more vulnerable and the figure on the right perhaps has a little bit more power mostly because of the stances. I feel like the figure on the left has their arms crossed across the body which seems like a defensive move. The other figure is holding a heart in a very aggressive, forceful manner, which I think speaks to what kind of their their power dynamic is.”

Casey: “Yeah, I think the sort of body language and the acting, if you use that word in that regard, is really strong in terms of the figures and I think in that way that power dynamic reads but also a little confused about the way that the heart at the center of the canvas interacts with those figures and what that sort of symbolizes, because it does feel like there’s these sort of veins going into the one figures arm, they are going into both figures arms, but there’s more going into the sort of more antagonistic figures, so it seems like kind of a mixed message.”

Prof Lieu: “Well it’s interesting that the heart really is the one subject in the image that does physically connect the two figures because the two figures never touch each other. It’s the heart in the middle that then latches itself onto the two figures and I know what we were reading in the Artist’s Statement that this piece really was about this relationship, and this person feeling very controlled by another person.

I definitely can see that the figure on the left is definitely the one who is not in control but I guess I feel like the heart in the middle is attacking both of them and it seems like maybe the more controlling figure should be using the heart as the weapon against the other one, that maybe the heart should be much more aggressive. Because I look at the veins on the figure on the left and the veins, they’re so small and miniscule.

It seems like the veins should almost be strangling that figure like it should really feel trapped in a way. I’m not convinced that the figure on the left would have difficulty leaving. It seems like they can just rip the veins off and run away. And it sounds from the statement that it was a much more intense situation than that.”

Casey: “The body language of that figure doesn’t match the way that the heart is interacting with it. It feels like they’re being tangled up in those sort of defensive positions.”

Prof Lieu: “I think it’s a very complicated relationship that the artist is trying to portray and I really admire that they’re taking on first of all such a personal subject. I think it’s really difficult to take on something that’s so emotionally close to you, to put it out there for people to see, so I think that’s really brave of the artists to do that. On the other hand I do feel that this is a piece that needs that verbal explanation to compensate for some of the ambiguities in the piece.”

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3 responses on "Group Art Critique: Sarah Posey"

  1. I am so mesmerized by the body language here, I feel like it’s really carrying the emotional impact of the piece to the point where you could get rid of almost everything else, and I could still sense the narrative in this image. The angle of the head, the hunched shoulders, the direct, powerful view of that bicep read almost like sentences. That’s a super skill you have, and I do think it would be worth stripping compositions down to character poses and doing a bunch of sketches, just to see how much you can get away with!

    All of the imagery and symbolism you’ve included also have strong associations, but because of this, you have to be really careful you’re using the right quantity of symbolism for the right reasons. It’s like putting salt in a recipe. A little salt can bring out all the other flavors beautifully, but a lot of salt drowns everything out. Hearts representing love or infatuation, and animal heads, specifically bird heads are universal images at this point. They’re generalized associations. Can you think of ways to visibly personalize these images? Love can be your heart, but it can also be a splay of freckles, a touch on the shoulder, an old book. Control can be veins, but it can also be a locked gaze, a compulsion, a forced absence.

    Discovering your own language for depicting things is a long and difficult task, and I admire your willingness to step up and try some things out. I hope you continue making work about your personal experiences, because it seems like a fruitful area for you!

  2. As the other critiques have mentioned, it’s very clear that there’s some deep emotion and thought that went into the making of this piece. In terms of body language I personally always look for ways to expand on how to make it more readable and more believable. One thing that never fails to consider is the eyes. There’s the old cliche that says “eyes are the window to the soul” but in a lot of ways this actually does have some validity. If the left figure is supposed to be feeling vulnerable, how can you show this by the eyes. Disney animated films are really good examples to look at especially considering most of their films have animals as their main characters. I would also consider showing how the heart wrapping around the figure is actually forcing/controlling her to the point where she is visibly and obviously uncomfortable.

    In terms of color I’m actually really liking the blue/green combination that you’re starting to get in the right figure’s arm. It’s complimentary to the red and beyond that, it gives a sense of chill and mystery. I think if you put in a bit more of that (or maybe use this green as an underlay) the piece would immediately grasp the warmth of the heart.

    Thank you for being so vulnerable in your art. As a fellow artist I know how challenging that can sometimes be. Keep painting!

  3. This is a really emotionally charged piece! Another artist friend and I were talking about how personal pieces can be kind of emotional journals, recording your feelings rather than the day-to-day.

    One thing about this piece is the body language — since these characters have inhuman faces, a lot is dependent on how the body is telling the story. For example, the figure on the right seems to be tormenting and intentionally attacking the figure on the left – but your artist statement says that the true antagonist was your emotional response, not external actions. I’d really be curious about how you’d convey that sense of internal pain in this fantastical style of yours!

    To look up some body poses to help convey the story better, I would look up recordings of stage actors – freeze frame on the actors, and sketch their poses with the emotions. Stage actors do such a good job at conveying emotion emphatically without being over dramatic and that would give you some more exciting poses to convey your message!

    I would play around with this to build concept for future pieces as well: what would be amazing is to explore through sketches what this piece would look like told from the point of view of the other figure! Exercises like that are great tools I use all the time to flex my composition and concept muscles. Keep it up!

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