One of the things we love most about our artists is that no two are exactly the same. Whether in style, technique, or medium, Agora artists all have their own unique characteristics that make their art their own. One such artist is Sarah Elyse Granetz, whose show at Agora Gallery just closed in early July. Sarah received her B.A. in Fine Arts from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. During this time, she spent a semester in Paris, France. What began as a “self-portrait” assignment has transformed into a meditative series on the female form through literal impressions of the artist’s actual body.

Sarah Elyse Granetz in her studio

Sarah Elyse Granetz applies paint to her body like a paintbrush, using her limbs to create unique pieces of art.

“Through this series, I have been able to explore the controversial and complicated theme of one’s body and one’s gaze upon it while respecting the ‘truth’ of my own. Through these works, I have found peace.”

We talked more with Sarah about her unique painting style. Read on to learn more about her techniques, artistic choices, and how she works through her process!

Is there a lot of movement involved in your painting process? 

The amount of movement depends on the piece. Sometimes there is a lot of pre-meditated movement, while other times there is one specific motion.

Is the process slow or fast? Is each movement planned out or more spontaneous?

When I first began this series, each movement was spontaneous, almost experimental even. Now, after selecting my canvas, I study the space and what I want to communicate in it. After deciding on a pose, I ensure I will “fit” by laying on it without paint. After confirming I can execute what I have in mind, I decide on colors, textures, etc and then begin. The prints themselves are made quickly; immediacy is vital to the images I create.  

Sarah Elyse Granetz's Studio Space

Sarah’s Studio Space

What plays a bigger role in the creation of a new piece, mind or body?

My mind decides how and what my body will portray, so I think they are both equally important to my process. My body is my vehicle, my brush.  

Sarah Elyse Granetz "Embrace," acrylic on canvas, 48" x 24"

“Embrace,” acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 24″

What role does color play in your process?

Color is still an aspect of my work that I am working to perfect. Personally, I am not drawn to many colors, but I recognize that I cannot only produce black and white paintings. Also, colors carry important significance that I want to communicate, so it is essential that I open my mind and process to them. I tend to stick with more emotionally-driven color such as blood red, navy blue, and sepia in addition to shades that resemble skin tones. In some pieces, the color is just as important as the pose, while in others, I do not want it to overshadow the overall composition. Therefore, they are very carefully chosen.  

Sarah Elyse Granetz uses her limbs as a brush

Sarah uses her body as a brush, pouring paint on her limbs to create unique pieces of art.

Broken Open by Sarah Elyse Granetz

“Broken Open,” acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 24″

What’s more important in your process, the way you paint your skin, or the way you use your skin to paint the canvas?

The way I paint my skin is very important in my process. It determines how my “impressions” are communicated and executed. Personally, I tend to apply my skin to the canvas in the same way for all my pieces (I like this uniformity), so the differences come from the application of paint. Just as I premeditate my composition, I consider which application will most successfully compliment the piece. When I am experimenting with new materials, it is impossible to plan as much, but I do play with my applications to ensure I am using the medium to the best of its ability. 

Do you rinse your skin in between colors or let the colors blend?

I used to let the colors blend, but now I much prefer to let each layer dry before I add a new one. So after each color/registration, I rinse and dry off, and often then blow dry the canvas so I can keep working in a relatively timely manner. When I am inspired, I do not like to have to wait around for paint to dry.

Sarah Elyse Granetz Studio Shot

Sarah uses her body as a brush, pouring paint on her limbs to create unique pieces of art.

Do you ever layer paint on your body or is that a process only done on canvas? 

I’ve only layered paint on my skin a handful of times – I personally think the colors run together too much and distract the viewer from the overall composition, placing focus on these moments of interference. Sometimes it can be beautiful, but currently I am more interested in clean layers. 

What is the canvas placement? Do you lay it on the ground or lean against a wall? Does this change for different pieces?

Until recently, I laid on the ground for each piece. It is very difficult to imprint all of one’s front/back/side while pressing yourself against a wall. I have one piece that I am very happy with I leaned against a wall to make (i.e. “Surrender”), but it was very difficult to accomplish.

"Surrender" by Sarah Elyse Granetz

“Surrender” by Sarah Elyse Granetz

What is the environment like in your studio? Do you listen to music? Is it hot or cold? How large is the space? What else is in your studio?

My studio is quite open with two large windows. They only open a few inches, but it is enough to let fresh air in. The floor is entirely covered in black plastic; I use a lot of paint when I work, and when I apply it via my “drip” method (i.e. “X-Ray”), it often sprays everywhere. The erratic and accidental effects of flying paint are important to my compositions; I like to document and have evidence of my process in my work. 

X-Ray Vision by Sarah Elyse Granetz

“X-Ray Vision,” acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 18″

My new pieces (i.e. “Show Me Yours”) require me to apply watery-paint directly to the canvas so I can then remove it with my skin (thus creating “negative” impressions as opposed to “positive” ones), which requires an obscene amount of paint and water. When I create these paintings, I lay down additional layers of plastic so I do not damage the floor and so I can keep the mess somewhat contained. Cleaning up after I create multiple paintings can be just as laborious as the paintings themselves!

I always listen to music when I work. The playlist depends entirely on my mood. Recently, I’ve been retreating back to my favorite emo-rock from high school (Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat World, etc); other times I like to dance around to upbeat female singers. It really depends.  

Show Me Yours Sarah Elyse Granetz

“Show Me Yours” by Sarah Elyse Granetz

What do you do with your hair during all this?

My hair has to be removed from the equation, otherwise it would interfere with my skin’s imprints. I pin it up as securely as possible when I work. Every once and a while, I manage to get paint in the hair around my face if it falls out, but I am usually able to keep it out of the way.

Granetz’s compositions are incredibly enigmatic and emotionally charged. See more of Sarah’s work on her ArtMine page, and stop by Agora Gallery, Tuesday through Saturday from 11-6!