By: Western Art & Architecture | April/ May 2022 | Norman Kolpas
This story was featured in the April/ May 2022 issue of Western Art & Architecture Magazine.
Sabrina Stiles sees herself as a storyteller. Instead of words, however, she wields pastels to convey the narratives she discovers while observing the world not far from the vintage 1905 house where she lives and works in Longmont, Colorado, about 20 minutes northeast of Boulder.
Consider, for example, a cow she witnessed one early autumn day while walking with her husband Henry, a dedicated birder, in the Pawnee National Grassland east of Fort Collins. Grazing apart from the herd amidst some trees, the black bovine watched the couple so intensely that Stiles felt compelled to photograph her. “She just had this look on her face,” the artist says, laughing warmly.
Back home in her attic studio with its southward view of distant Pike’s Peak, Stiles selected an image on her computer monitor, cropping it and adjusting lighting levels. On a piece of sturdy multimedia board, she applied a watercolor underpainting in warm yellow and cool blue-green, “completely covering the surface because I don’t want little white dots poking through the pastels.” Then, in sessions lasting about three hours daily over a couple weeks, she meticulously told her story in pastels, starting with the featured cow and then working around it to create a scene that captured the animal’s unique personality. As with many well-told tales, the title she bestowed summed it all up: Sylvia Exhibited Poor Camouflage Skills.
Although becoming a painter was one of her childhood dreams, Stiles’ prodigious artistic skill developed relatively recently. “I drew a little bit but didn’t really take it seriously,” she admits. Instead, the Michigan native first studied, worked in, and taught electronics technology, eventually moving to Colorado.
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