About the Artist, Sarah Soward

Artist Statement

I create Symbolic and Surreal art centered on animals in an effort to elicit love and genuine concern for them. The rhinoceros is my particular favorite. I want to save rhinos from extinction. I'd love to save all animals from extinction, but the rhinoceros is my main focus.

In many of my works, I link an animal to the sacred by tying them into or by coaxing them to embody different powers, deities, and archetypes. Not every painting I create is a story on an epic or cultural scale. Sometimes, I nudge you to love a creature simply by representing it in your favorite color—or in every color—with luscious, expressive brushstrokes.

Painting is my first love when it comes to art making. I do, however, create artwork in a wide range of media. This includes digital art, drawing, mixed media, sculpture, and laser etching. I believe that the message is the most important part of my art. So I let the message determine what media and at what scale I create a piece of art.

Because I’m serious about this whole no extinction thing, I donate a percentage of the proceeds from my art sales to the International Rhino Foundation.

Artist Biography

Sarah Soward (pronounced SOH-wurd) is an artist with a focus on endangered wildlife and color. She holds a BFA from the California College of the Arts (view her art C.V.). She shows and competes internationally.

Soward’s work is characterized by expressive brush strokes and an impressionistic sense of light. She plays with scale, juxtaposition, unusual animal poses, and enjoys employing a purposeful combination of color and brush work. Symbolism in both color use and iconography are key in her work, much of which draws from archetypes, mythology, and even astronomy to tell stories and build connection between the human viewer and the animals depicted in the art. She creates in order to build and strengthen the bonds between humans and animals in an effort to gently persuade people into animal conservation and care.

Highlights of her career include the acquisition of a painting by the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, acceptance of her work into the Wildlife Artist of the Year (WAY) 2013, 2015, and 2017, 2023 exhibitions at the Mall Gallery in London, England, with her giraffe painting, Sky Creature, ending up in both the Londonist and the BBC Wildlife Magazine. Her work was also accepted into the 2021 WAY exhibition, but due to the pandemic, the exhibition was virtual. Two of her rhinoceros paintings traveled with the Artist4Rhino exhibition in Italy, one of which was exhibited with the show at the Museo Civico de Storia Naturale di Genova.

She works in traditional art media, like oil painting, as well as digital art, design, animation, and authors and designs books. She will not stop learning and incorporating new skills or taking risks. She enjoys jumping headfirst into things. (This might be why she's nearly drowned five times.) She believes that persistence and resilience are key so she never stays out of the deep end long.

Her endeavors outside oil painting include teaching design theory, web development, UX/UI, and the Adobe Creative Suite at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), AcademyX, Sonic Training, and for on site custom trainings for a decade. She still designs print and web collateral, web based animations, and was the developer and consultant on many web projects. Clients of note include Cal Shakes, Samsung, Kaiser's LMPartnership, and SalesForce Foundation. Sarah was a technical editor on the HTML5 Mobile Development Cookbook and coauthored the WordPress and Flash Cookbook. She did the Flash animation and coding on the Inspire Change Online Storytelling Tool for Kaiser Permanente's LMPartnership that won a Gold Quill Excellence Award in 2013.

Excerpt from Sarah Soward's artist bio about the Rhinotopia series

I’ve been painting rhinos off and on and in fits and starts since 1999. I am obsessed with them: Their shapes and negative spaces, their wrinkles and horns, the hairy ones, the armored ones, the stoic ones rolling in mud. The first paintings were made because a friend needed a wedding present. In my process of research and study, I fell in love.

The Rhinotopia series is about form, paint, light, and composition. However, it also takes storytelling and my desire to share into larger account. In each painting, I tie the rhino to the sacred. Sometimes a painting will have a specific myth gently mentioned within it. Other times I look to general characteristics of an archetype/deity and portray those in the painting. I am not an expert in world religions and mythology. I’m a student of it all, and I like to share what I learn.

In my paintings, I immortalize the rhino. In real life—outside my canvases—I donate a percentage of my proceeds from my art sales to the International Rhino Foundation. In addition to being an artist, I’m also a conservationist.

Exhibitions of Note:

  • Finalist in the DSWF: Wildlife Artist of Year exhibition in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2021, 2023. The physical exhibitions took place the Mall Galleries in London.

  • Lunar Codex, Luna is set to travel to the Moon as part of this curated, cultural time capsule in 2024. 
  • Stellae Errantes debuted at the EHCC: Hawaii Museum of Contemporary Art 2015.

  • Sky Creature was featured in articles in BBC Wildlife Magazine and in the Londonist.

  • Sky Blue was part of the Artist4Rhino exhibition (Dec. 2014 to Jan. 2015) at the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova in Genoa, Italy, and selected to be part of the traveling show.

For more information about my past exhibitions, visit my CV page.