By Melanie B. Glover - Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 25, 2008Story appeared in SCENE section, Page K2
At 16, Sarah Croft is the youngest artist in the 20th Street Gallery's 50-50
show, which will be at the gallery through May 2.
Sarah Croft's spirited oil portraits have been selling like bite-sized hotcakes since the opening of the 20th Street Art Gallery's annual 50-50 show. Not bad, considering the Loomis teen is the only participating artist who's still in high school.
Sarah, just 16, is beginning to emerge as the Tiger Woods of the Sacramento-area art scene, according to people like 20th Street Art Gallery owner Jim Ferry.
"Very seldom do we see someone so talented in their teens," says Ferry. "She could go a long way."
After collecting ribbons at Roseville Arts children's shows for three years, and two recent first-place titles at the annual Snowflake Art Show in Rocklin, Sarah has entered the big leagues at the 50-50 show – an exhibit that is challenging for all skilled artists, regardless of age.
For 50-50, contributors created 50 6-by-6-inch pieces, once a day for 50 days. Of the 130 artists who applied to be in the exhibit with portfolio and proposal, only 70 were accepted.
A week after the April 12 opening, Sarah had sold 29 paintings at $100 each, making her one of the show's top sellers.
"It's just so exciting," says Sarah, who began oil painting when she was 8. "Some of the artists here – I know their work, and I've looked up to them."
Sarah, who was 15 when she painted her 50 lifelike portraits, was encouraged to apply by her art teacher of two years, impressionist and plein-air painter Victoria Brooks of Loomis.
"When she decided to do portraits, I thought that was great. With portraits, you paint the spirits of people," Brooks says. "They are selling because she's very attuned to that right now."
Sarah expressed a similar reasoning for choosing to paint portraits: "I think that whenever someone has a story to tell, you can show it through the painting. I do a lot of landscapes and still lifes as well, but I love portraits. I always end up going back to them."
Sarah primarily works from photographs. She says she looks for natural, contrasting lighting when she snaps the photos used for her paintings.
For "50-50," she would often take a photo and begin painting the same day.
Each piece took one to three hours, Sarah says.
Artistic tendencies run in Sarah's family: Both her grandmother, Connie Bangerter, and aunt, Sandra Rast, are painters who live in Utah. Her 19-year-old sister, Rebecca Croft, is a soprano soloist attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
With advice from these family members and her supportive parents, George Curtis Croft and Elizabeth Croft, Sarah strives to improve her skills, reading art books and taking Brooks' impressionist painting classes at the Sacramento Fine Arts Center.
"In class she blows everyone away and never has a big head about it," says Brooks, who usually teaches 12 students at a time, mostly adults. "She's going to be world-famous someday, as long as she keeps that freshness. I have no doubt in my mind."
Her stylistic strengths? According to Ferry, Sarah is a master of skin tones, which are often difficult to capture on canvas. Still, the humble artist claims that one of her biggest challenges is color – "to look at a white wall and see all of the blues and purples."
The busy high school sophomore doesn't do commissioned work, at least for now. She's focusing on her studies at a private school in order to attain her dream of attending BYU and earning a master's degree in fine art.
Sarah also plays piano and is involved with local award-winning theater group Take Note Troop (TNT), but she says she tries to paint every day – "as much as time permits."
Her advice for other young artists: Have confidence and paint what you love.
"If you do that, people will be able to see it through your work," she says. "And take it everywhere, to as many galleries as you can."
Up next, Sarah will be featured for the third time in the eighth annual Art in the Garden Home & Garden Tour hosted by Roseville Arts on May 3. She will also have paintings in a Sacramento River Delta works show at 20th Street in July and August.
With such a promising future, it's no wonder Sarah's parents bought her a package of 120 paintbrushes for her recent birthday.
But is that what she wanted for her sweet 16? She smiles confidently. "Yes."