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Sabrina Stiles | Enjoying the Struggle

Southwest Art, “Sabrina Stiles, Autumn Radiance, pastel, 16 x 20

Sabrina Stiles embraces the challenges of harnessing light, color, and mood in the landscape

By: Southwest Art | January 8, 2020 | Elizabeth L. Delaney

This story was featured in the February 2020 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art February 2020 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

“I ENJOY ASKING ‘What if?’ every day, the excitement of facing a blank surface, and the anticipation of what it will become.” Such musings not only reveal Sabrina Stiles’ thirst for creativity, but also point to the gratitude and tenacity that define her art practice. Every pastel landscape delivers a thrill and a challenge to Stiles, who celebrates both as she meticulously composes vignettes saturated in light, color, and quiet energy.

Stiles, who lives and works in Longmont, CO, never envisioned herself as a professional artist. In fact, the global concept of art as life never even crossed her mind. Growing up in Flint, MI, Stiles didn’t have a relationship with art. Though she enjoyed drawing as a child, she wasn’t exposed to art in museums or other places, nor did she understand it as something to do professionally. “I drew, but it wasn’t in the forefront,” she says. Art simply wasn’t a part of her cultural microcosm.

Sabrina Stiles - Evening Tranquility
Sabrina Stiles, “Evening Tranquility,” Pastel on Paper, 14 x 11 in

Once she reached adulthood, Stiles held positions as varied as biomedical electronics engineer, paralegal, cosmetologist, and coffeehouse proprietor. “I’ve definitely gained the ability to self-teach, manage my time, and persevere,” she reflects. Given her wide range of experiences and desire to continuously evolve, perhaps it was a logical conclusion that almost four decades after her childhood doodles, Stiles decided to return to art, this time seeking out a much deeper level of understanding.

Sabrina Stiles - Open Road
Sabrina Stiles, “Open Road,” Pastel on Paper, 12 x 9 in

She experienced this realization in 2001, when she decided to display artwork in her Denver-area coffeehouse. The more time she spent looking at the paintings on the walls, the more her interest transformed from appreciation to a desire to create. Her old love of drawing came flooding back, and she decided to put pencil to paper once again. “I thought, ‘I really want to do this. I think I could do this,’” Stiles recalls. She took a few lessons during that time, but her day job and family life took precedence — as is so often the case — and she pushed her art-making to the back burner. It wasn’t until 2008 that she decided once again to seize the day and pursue her new calling.

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“For me, it’s more about the mood… That’s what really appeals to me, that feeling you get with a certain kind of sky. I think that’s what moves me—the light in the landscape.”

Sabrina stiles
Sabrina Stiles - Winter Willow
Sabrina Stiles, “Winter Willow,” Pastel on Paper, 20 x 16 in

“I’m just going to enjoy the struggle. There are many ways to approach a painting. There are so many options—that’s what makes it exciting.”

Sabrina stiles