INTERVIEW WITH SADE DUBOISE
We had a chance to catch up with Sadé to learn more about her inspiration, process, and work.
Can you please tell me your name and where you are from…
My name is Sadé (Sha-Day) DuBoise and I’m based out of Portland, OR.
Can you tell us a bit about your work?
I’m a self taught visual artist making work using acrylics in heavy body, soft body, and gouache. I’ve found myself predominantly using Liquitex’s Acrylic Gouache products with Liquitex Soft Body and paint pens.
I’m Oregon born, having grown up in St. Johns/N. Portland, with a deep appreciation for the great outdoors and biodiversity of Oregon. I view my work as sociopolitical by exploring the experiences of multi-racial people - predominantly African-Americans and our experiences and connectedness to nature through visual storytelling. I dispel the notion that Black people fear the great outdoors or prefer urban settings to nature by painting portraits of African-Americans in the great outdoors of Oregon. A lot of the backgrounds I paint are places I’ve visited personally in Oregon while hiking and backpacking. I focus on portraiture with an affinity for capturing Black women in all their glory, beauty, and vulnerability.
I’ve recently gone full-time in my artistic practice, having built a supporting base and resonating style since April 2017, through my practice Sade DuBoise Studio. Recently, I’ve been selected to paint the historic portrait of Justice Nelson, the first African-American to sit on the Oregon Supreme Court, for the North Clackamas Adrienne C. Nelson high school, opening Fall 2021. In December 2020, I was selected as a Regional Arts & Cultural Council Support Beam resident and grantee, where I was able to paint the piece “Mother of Judah”, which is now acquired into their portable art collection. I’ve also been selected as an Arnold Schnitzer Museum of Art BLM artist grantee, where I am currently painting a 30”x40” work inspired by Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit”. For the next step in my artist career I’ve applied to BFA programs in Oregon. I’m looking to accept my offer to the Pacific Northwest College of Art, starting in the Fall of 2021!
Almost daily I paint a 4x6” portrait for $100. I am a part of a Black Portland Group on Facebook with people always looking for original artwork. However, their budget is generally $50-100. Finding original artwork at that price comes with a lot of scoffing at the collectors end. So I came up with mini originals, which take me about 1-3 hours for me to complete. Offering these pieces at $100 allows making collecting original art more affordable and accessible for lower-income budgets.
What was the first piece of work that really impacted you and made you consider becoming an artist? Who was the artist?
The first piece that really impacted me was “Untitled (Lovers)” by Kerry James Marshall. When I saw the piece, I realized I hadn’t seen Black people in art before. I loved his palette for painting dark skin, of Black people in different everyday situations. His work made me want to paint so I could tell visual stories about Black people living in the Pacific Northwest. Other artists that inspired me as a teenager were local artist Arvie Smith and renowned artist Kehinde Wiley.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
For my portraits, I find tons of inspiration from the several boards I have curated on Pinterest. These include “Black Women”, “Black Men”, and “Women”. I have a variety of boards of artists, art, and techniques I’m inspired by. I also am deeply connected to my Instagram, where I also save posts with artists, paintings, and models that inspire my work. When it comes to portraits, I tend to favor a certain look - often the model is looking at the camera (or viewer), with a look that shows vulnerability or fierceness or softness that I’m myself feeling at the moment.
For my landscapes, I gather all my favorite pictures I’ve taken myself during hiking, backpacking, and camping trips throughout Oregon. I also have a landscape board on Pinterest I visit a lot for inspiration for my backgrounds.
Do you have a particular plan/routine when you start painting? OR Would you say that you have a routine in your creative process, or is it more organic?
Lately I’ve been painting a lot of 4x6” paintings, so I’ll describe my routine with these.
I’ll start by looking at my inspo boards to figure out what portrait/landscape combo I’m going to paint. Then I’ll prep the canvas by using gesso/heavy gesso on heavy watercolor paper. I’ll tooth the gesso with a palette knife if I want any texture. Once that dries I’ll sketch the piece. I start in the background and move forward to the portrait. Usually it goes sky, horizon, middle ground, foreground, face (eyes, nose, mouth, then rest of face going from eyebrows, bridge of nose, cheeks, chin, sides of the face and forehead), body, clothes, and hair last. I paint using color intuitively, whatever my eye gravitates towards, I use that color straight out of the tube. Other times, I use an assortment of colors on my palette. With this process I take about 1-3 hours.
You recently moved into a new studio space. What has that transition been like?
Moving into a new studio space has been an amazing experience! I love the location of the space (near downtown, Portland), which is right next to PushDot Studio where I get all of my captures done. With the recent snowstorm, I brought an overnight pack of materials from my studio and currently am working from home. I head to my studio about three-four times a week to package and ship orders.
Due to COVID-19, the restrooms are closed in the space, so I don’t stay in the studio long. I’m mainly using the space to pick up materials, store new paintings, and package shipments until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. I look forward to being in the studio space full-time!
All of my bigger projects, such as the Justice Nelson portrait, are being painted in the studio.
What is a typical studio day for you? Do you listen to music? Are your materials chaotic or are you super organized?
My day starts with about an hour long at-home strength training program and 30-60 minutes of running.
I’ve organized what I need to focus on in my practice the night before, with a checklist of 3-5 things that need to be completed to move my artistry forward. I will generally take meetings and calls in the morning, with painting in the afternoon and evenings.
I listen to music and Youtube! My favorite thing to do is actually have Scary/Horror Gameplay playing in the background from some of my favorites such as Markiplier, Poiised, and The Outer Middle Show. I know, it might be weird, but I’ve created most of my works while pausing and taking moments to scream/jump from a jumpscare I’ve just seen out of the side of my eye. When it comes to music I listen to almost everything. Recently, my favorite artists and music has been Marc Rebillet, the “Get Turnt” playlist, the “Lo-Fi Beats”, Tobe Nwigwe, DaBaby, Childish Gambino Radio, and so much more.
My materials are in a chaotic organized fashion. I have my materials all placed in their separate places, but chaotically placed. For instance, all my paintings are in one space, but all over the place, which is kind of not optimal when I’m looking for a specific color. So I’ll organize them by color at the beginning of the day, but by the end of a studio session my paints are back to being everywhere.
Once I’m done with painting, I’ll post my finished works to Instagram. Some you’ll see more prominently are my 4x6” paintings. I’ll post them for sale on my Instagram and Facebook. If someone is interested in purchasing the piece, generally within the first 30 minutes of posting, I’ll create a custom listing on my Squarespace website and send them the link for purchase. I’ll then take some time to authenticate the piece, which involves writing down the time it took for me to paint the piece (with timestamps), date, and sign the piece. I leave my mark on the piece with a painted fingerprint. Then I’ll ship the piece with a handwritten note to my collector.
When I have prints purchased from my online boutique, I’ll package prints and originals for shipment. Each package comes with a personalized handwritten note - some talk about the weather depending on where the collector is from (such as a recent collector from Texas that was impacted by the snowstorm and power outages), or if it’s a local collector I’ll tell them my favorite PDX framers, or if we had a conversation on IG or FB I’ll bring that up. I work to have a building friendship with my collectors and supporters by being personal, transparent, and vulnerable. Aside from beautiful work, supporters and collectors also purchase work by the meaning of my work and what I’m working for and towards in my life. I love that I’m able to be authentic with my supporters.
After I am done with my studio session for the day, I’ll wait for my husband to get out of class (currently he is working towards his Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling) and make dinner. We have the same meal every night (we generally eat one meal a day due to our schedules) of rice, beans, protein, cheese, some veggies, and salsa/sourcream.
How has your work evolved this year? Have you had to adapt in response to COVID-19?
The demand for my work increased with the onset of COVID-19. I find more supporters following my work as they are online more. The increase of demand launched me into full-time with my art practice and allowed me to quit my full-time job on December 30th, 2020. While COVID-19 has been different for everyone, it’s allowed me to finally follow through in becoming a full-time practicing artist. Before COVID-19, I was working full-time (a lot of times overtime) and working on building my art practice at the same time. Working a 50 hour week and then turning around to churn out a 40 hour painting (Zanele) included a bunch of sleepless nights. It wasn’t fun. I pretty much did this for the last three years of my practice as I grew my supporting base and obtained projects and commissions. Now I’m free to just paint and take on more art commissions and projects. I get to create artwork that deeply resonates with my supporters daily, that means the world to me.
How does the environment around you impact your work – do the things you encounter in your day to day feed into your paintings? How so?
I used to be an emotionally charged artist, sometimes I still am. My first major work in my practice was actually a piece in response to some traumatic news in my family (Umnia Vera). It changed my whole style, which resonated with so many people. I say I used to be an emotionally charged artist because now that I am a full-time practicing artist, I cannot decide when or when not to paint due to my feelings. I was actually scared to become a full-time artist because of this. Or I would self-sabotage, so I would have to work full-time and build my art practice at the same time (which didn’t allow me to take on more commissions and projects). Now, I paint almost every day. Everyday, I am working on my practice. It is actually releasing, because I’m not stopping myself from putting my artwork out into the world.
Yes! The things I encounter in the day feed into my paintings. For instance, if I get a beautiful shot during my run, a hike or backpacking, I’ll use this as a background in my painting. Going through Pinterest or Instagram gives me inspiration for the portrait I’ll paint.
What do you find are some of the best things about being an artist?
As an artist I get to share a portal into beauty. Depending on the piece, I can have a deep conversation with an admirer whose life has been impacted. That’s crazy and so fulfilling!
Art transforms people’s lives. It’s like a portal through which beauty pours. As one of my favorite modern day philosophers said, “That’s why we put frames around paintings, to keep the beauty stuck in the painting because you don’t want it leaking out all over the house, it’s bad enough that it’s right there in front of you telling you how things could be but they aren’t”. Jordan Peterson also said this about art that I deeply resonate with, “Everything is worth looking at deeply even though you don’t have time to do it. It’s a window into the realm of reality that’s outside of your casual glance. Engage with beauty. It serves as a reminder that you are connected to something that’s beyond your comprehension”.
As a full-time artist, I love reclaiming my sense of self and time. I have a beautiful connection to my body now with rest, sleep, and creativity. I work all throughout the day, but it’s incorporated into my day that is flexible and works with the other aspects and facets of my life.