Sarah Clemens oil painting Ghost Fish Photo realistic portrait by oil paint artist Sarah Clemens photorealistic oil painting Laced by Sarah Clemens Soft Landing fantasy oil painting by artist Sarah Clemens


Sarah Clemens

By Mark Greenawalt, 2006
Originally published in Impulse Magazine, May 2006

Sarah Clemens painting in her studio

hoto-realism is the key ingredient to all paintings by Sarah Clemens, but the subject matter is an eclectic mix that knows no boundaries. From breathtaking landscapes of ancestral ruins to evocative portraits of seductive vixens, she waves her wands with oil paints across the canvas to reanimate her reference stills. Even the paintings rooted in pure fantasy such as the mischievous cat and dragon playmates, Magnus and Loki, are realistic. Clemens portfolio boasts a selection of bird and flower paintings targeted to one audience, unicorn and faerie paintings to another, and still another selection of nude and adult-themed paintings for another audience. The common thread is that each genre is tackled with the same tenacity and meticulous attention to detail.

Her instructors at Florida Atlantic University were highly commendable of Clemens photo-realistic painting abilities. They encouraged her, however, to redirect her efforts to doing "real art" and they tempted her with the lure of abstract and impressionist styles that historically garnered more attention from the high-end galleries and critics. This was not in her nature. Fortunately, photo-realism proved to be spiritually fulfilling and financially lucrative despite the soothsaying of her instructors. The winds of change were in league with Clemens and photo-realism flourished amidst the never-ending debate over its legitimacy.

After receiving her degree in Fine Arts and Art History she entered the work force vowing to make a living as a freelance artist. Her skills were a perfect match for doing medical illustrations and she quickly partnered with a doctor in West Palm Beach, Florida. She honed her artistic skills for the next 15 years painting step-by-step surgery illustrations, realistic bone fracture recreations, and detailed paintings from M.R.I. and CAT scan reference materials. She enjoyed this work, but eventually her education, on-the-job-training, and innate talent challenged her to take her passion to the next level. "I was searching for a way to achieve more recognition for my work," she said, "I knew that I wouldn't get there by 'working for the man' and exclusively doing medical illustrations."

On her website,, Clemens notes that the need for self-expression is most important and she began creating her own challenges in the form of large oil paintings of friends and family members. Drawing inspiration from the likes of 15th century master Jan van Eyck and 19th century pre-Raphaelite Sir John Everett Millais she strove to capture reality to the best of her ability. The effort paid off and she was honored with having her work shown in prestigious exhibitions and galleries in the Palm Beach and Boca Raton areas of Florida. She dipped deeper from the pool of creativity and tried her hand at writing short stories. This too panned out and several of her works were published including "Red" (Isaac Asimov's Werewolves, 1999) and "A Good Nights Work" (Ripper, 1988).

In 2002 she relocated to Arizona. "I had always been enamored with the scenic beauty of the Southwest," she says, "Especially these wonderfully colored outcroppings of rocks that you call mountains." Leaving the flat horizons of Florida behind revived her passion for painting landscapes and spurred trips to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Canyon DeChelly. She was home here in the Valley of the Sun and this is where here steady climb to prominence culminated in her well-earned national recognition.

In the past four years, her artwork has adorned the walls of galleries in Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and locally in Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale. Her original paintings typically sell for $1,000 to $3,000 (prints are also available from $35). The science fiction community embraced her fantasy artwork and recently elevated her to be a Guest of Honor at the Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Ft. Lauderdale and at the LepreCon Convention in Phoenix. Her "mature-audience" works have been popular at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival and The Dirty Show of Detroit, and she has taken home multiple awards from the annual Exotic Art Show held in February at the Alwun House of downtown Phoenix. Although there is a selection of tasteful fine art nude paintings on her main website, she is mindful of her target audiences and maintains a separate website at for her edgier work.

Clemens shoots reference photographs for most of her work. "My father was a photographer," she explains, "and because of his guidance I became proficient at photography and learned how to do dark room processing." Technology has allowed her to leave the dark room behind, however, and she now captures digital images on her Nikon D-100 and typically transfers them to the canvas by tracing around digital projections. "I have proven to myself that I can draw," she says, "This method allows me to save time and quickly get to the part I enjoy the most: painting."

Clemens is giving back to the community by sharing her artistic talents as an instructor at the Mesa Arts Center. Students are given a rare opportunity to learn the art of hyper-realistic oil painting from a respected and renowned artist in a small classroom setting. When she is not teaching, she stays busy creating new gallery pieces and marketing them. Her works are currently on display at Gallery Andrea in Scottsdale and she will be the artist guest of honor in September at the CopperCon Sci-Fi Convention in Tempe. Don't miss this opportunity to see the original work of a modern master. (September in Tempe) (ongoing) (April in St. Louis) (Mesa art classes) (Florida in April) (January 2007, in San Jose) (May in Montana) (May in Houston)




Mark Greenawalt