Name: Sadé Beasley
Location: Portland, Oregon
Bio: Sadé Beasley is a Portland, Oregon native residing in North Portland's New Columbia. She is influenced by African American portraiture from painters such as Arvie Smith, Kehinde Wiley, and Kerry James Marshall - by engaging in the visual rhetoric of strength and sonorous in her representations of black women. With the intent to interrupt the insufficient voice given to women of color - specifically black women, she uses bold brushstrokes and large canvas space to dramatically call attention to the women she paints. Her work vocalizes a dialogue of acceptance for the aesthetic of her own blackness and the evocative resiliency of her personal life adversity.
Her mission is to create discourse around the aesthetic and significance of black women by installing work throughout Oregon. Sadé uses her paint practice as a tool of healing and often weaves in creative writing and showcasing as a way to create conversations around mental health and wellness.
Describe your experience as a current artist.
Currently I’m working part-time as an executive assistant to the CIO and Director of Department of County Assets for Multnomah County, obtaining a Bachelor’s in Business Administration: Management and Leadership, and pursuing an art practice full-time. This month I will be transitioning from my current job to the Oregon Health and Science University as a research intern studying substance use disorder treatment and related issues among different racial-ethnic groups in Oregon.
I’ve been pursuing an art practice for a little over one year now since April 2017. That is the month I had my first art showcase at Abbey Creek Vineyard and Winery, when owner and winemaker, Bertony Faustin, saw talent in me that I hadn’t. When he asked me to showcase my work I went all in on my practice and sold almost every piece of art I created for that month. From there I collaborated with Bertony on a wine label, continued to give back to my community by donating artwork to non-profits for their banquet dinners and galas, and am now starting to vendor at various events and apply for artist residencies - I start my second AIR this July with the Salem Arts Association!
By taking these opportunities I am fulfilling my artistic purpose of exposing the potential and magnitude of the black creative to an audience and scene that is predominantly white, while creating an imagery and dialogue around the significance and beauty of black women and mental health.
What was your occupation/education prior to becoming an artist?
After graduating from Benson Polytechnic High School in 2012 with interests in construction and graphics I went to Oregon State University on full-ride scholarship to study civil engineering. I’ve taken coursework in advanced mathematics, statistics, engineering, and art. At the end of 2014, I dropped out of Oregon State University due to homelessness and depression, and moved back to my hometown in Portland, Oregon. There I took on odd jobs as a commercial painting apprentice operating heavy machinery such as boom lifts and sandblasting, and did commercial housekeeping. During this time I came to realize the industry I was working in was not good for my well being or mental health, so decided to finish my bachelor’s at Portland State University. I transferred there in summer 2015. Because my interests were so varied, I spent almost two years dabbling in any course I found interesting. It wasn’t until 2017 when I became focused on graduating with a degree in business.
Once I realized I could use my talents and interests to make a difference in mental health I decided to take a non-traditional route and pursue both a career in clinical informatics and art practice. I woke up one day and was frustrated with rampant mental illness in depression and suicide along with substance abuse and opiate addiction. From that point on I knew I could create a career path studying health records and data to create better healthcare policy, all the while using art as a form of personal and community healing.
Transitioning into a full-time art practice, while also pursuing a career in health informatics, has been a learning experience - sometimes even a struggle. I know if it weren’t for my current position with Multnomah County or pursuing my education, I wouldn’t have had the financial opportunity to pursue my artist practice. My job has given me the financial means to mobilize my art practice.
What was your biggest challenge in pursuing art and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge in pursuing my art practice has been working part-time and studying full-time. To combat fatigue I do my best to get a good night's rest, eat healthy, and exercise daily. I have completely forgotten about what a work-life balance means.
Another recent challenge for me has been commission work. One time I was asked to make three large revisions that were not discussed at the beginning of the project. Doing all work by hand makes revisions a tedious task and misuse of my time. To claim my time, I let me clients know up front that details confirmed at the beginning of the project are firm and that any revisions made will cost X amount of dollars per hour.
Describe your biggest milestone or project achieved since pursuing your art.
Developing into my current style of painting has been my biggest series achievement. For my 2017 paintings I worked on small canvases, generally 11” x 14”, because the feedback I would get from admirers was to keep my prices relatively inexpensive. If my buyers were limiting their budget to $100 - $150 for original artwork, why would I paint larger pieces that I couldn’t sell? While in Blick purchasing canvases, I kept looking at the larger 24” x 30” and bigger canvases, and felt in my heart to purchase. I came out with several canvas in sizes 24” x 30” and 24” x 36”. The first painting I did on large canvas was Imani: Faith. Painting on larger canvas gave me the ability to add in details I wasn’t able to do before on smaller canvas space. The size also gave more energy and power to the women I painted. I feel like the size difference matches the dialogue I want to have through my work. With my 2018 paintings, I have been able to showcase my talent and progression since 2017. I also gained the confidence to show my work more through vending, gallery exhibition, and applying for art in residence programs. What I learned through this process is to follow your intuition and don’t let people’s opinions and preferences stall your progress. If I was still working on smaller canvases, my work would have progressed, but not of the height it is today.
How does your personal style, identity, and/or beliefs translate into your artwork?
I started painting black women portraiture in 2017 with an emphasis on natural hair and its various styles. This was enhanced when I was consulted by Ryther, a leader in behavioral health services for children and their families facing complex challenges, in Seattle, Washington, to create a hair and skin care training manual and resource guide for their staff and foster parents. I keep my hair mainly in protective hairstyles such as twists and braids, but also enjoy my afros. I love that black women can be so versatile with their hair styles, so wanted to explore and paint that. In my current works, I now explore the structure of the face, skin tone, and hair texture. My works have an abstract undertone, which I do present in all of my backgrounds.
What is one thing that makes your art unique?
The painting style I do and message I invoke from my work is unlike what I’ve seen other artists in my community create, and that makes my work feel pretty unique. Because I am working and going to school, I tend to break my process over three days and work on sections for 3-5 hours at a time. My sections are generally: muse sourcing (I find my muses on Instagram and Pinterest)/sketch, background/border, clothing/accessories, and portrait/hair.
The muses I use generally have little to no facial expression - nonetheless, very powerful eye contact. All of my 2018 paintings have significant meaning behind them, with each accompanied with personal letters, creative writing, and poetry. When I sale a 2018 painting, I send all the writings I do with the piece so the owner knows what I was going through as I created the very piece they felt moved enough to purchase.
How do you maintain your mental health and inspiration?
The very act of painting for me is a tool of healing and therapy. This year alone has personally been filled with transitions and heartache. At the beginning of the year I made a major life decision and cut ties with almost all of my associates/friends and family who were not positive influencers in my life. I stepped away from an organization I’d been apart of for almost five years. I discovered that my youngest sister was self harming and contemplating suicide. My other sister was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. I also suffered from acute stress and developed a tick disorder from all of it. However, during this time in my life, I have also created some of my best work.
My Faith series is named after my youngest sister Imani, whose name means faith. Tatyana’s Dream is inspired by my sister Tatyana when we got her diagnosis. Terrified (The Scream) is an expressionist piece of my reaction, during which I had the tick disorder and no control of movement from the shoulders up. If I didn’t have painting, it would be like having no voice when something traumatic is happening to you and not being able to vocalize your distress.
What is some advice or tips you would give to a fellow BGWP interested in furthering their art goals and/or mobilizing their own art business?
The first thing I did to improve my art practice was figure out what things held weight in my life. I had to ask myself what makes me happy and carefree and want to vehemently pursue my passion and purpose in life. I realized that creating and healing through art was one of them, so I went all in. Here are three points I gained through my journey.
Listen to great influencers/motivators. For me, that is Gary Vaynerchuk. He gave me permission through his content to go all in with my art practice. I listen to his general advice for entrepreneurs and apply it. One of the first things I heard from Gary was eat shit and stop being fancy. I started working my butt off by prioritizing my time. After work and school, almost every day when I started my practice in 2017, I painted or worked on my business. I was working on my practice from 8:00pm in the evening to 2:00am in the morning. I stopped going out as much. Hanging out as much. I shopped less expensive food. I did what I had to do to further my dream.
Your friends and family will not make you rich. I used to get so frustrated when my family or friends didn’t support my work or when they asked for a discount. You will have to force yourself to get out into the world and break free from the comfort of your circle if you want to expand and succeed financially.
Network and engage with 1000 new people a week. I knew that if I wanted my business and art practice to grow I would need to meet new people every week. You can do this by collaborating with other artists, purchasing ads on Facebook and or Instagram, vending, and going to events. Invest in a website and business cards! There isn’t anything more professional than having a great business card that speaks to your work as an artist and a professional website that highlights your paintings.
If there is anything you need to learn to further your business, look it up and get to work! My phone and Google have been my best friends in helping me figure out how to create prints, shipping, and pricing my work among other things. If you can’t find the information on Google, find someone who knows.
What is next for you?
Summer 2018 is a busy season for my artwork and I. I am currently waiting to hear back from two big opportunities, both Vending for the 11th Annual Governors Island Art Fair and participating in The Dean Collection, TDC20. I have several showcases this summer, with six this month alone. I am finishing a commission project with a pastor in Los Angeles and working on painting a few more graduation caps (I’ll be done with graduation caps after this year). I’ve decided to take a break from my university studies this summer and resume back in Fall 2019. I will be graduating Winter 2019. For the summer, I plan on painting 20 large portraits (super excited!).
What does being a "black girl who paints" means to you?
Black girl who paints solidifies and magnifies my existence and purpose as a painter. With Juneteenth coming up this month I am reminded of the African American artists from the 19th century who created possibility and representation for black girls and women who pick up the brush and paint today. When I hear black girl who paints, I feel empowered enough to say that one day my work will significantly impact our art community and culture, sell for millions of dollars like the paintings of Kerry James Marshall and Basquiat, and have recognition from prestigious galleries and celebrity influence.