Artist Sarah Quildon Talks Art, Anime, and Afrocentricity

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The following is based on true events. Sarah Quildon is an artist, a remarkable artist for that matter. An artist that carves timelines into canvases and imprints colours full of representation into her works of art. She populates black identity into landscapes absent of diversity. Quildon is a super heroine and her arch nemesis is aesthetic Jim Crow, and she is winning this battle one pair of eyeballs at a time. The following is about nostalgia, lots of talent, and oranges. Yes, oranges.

For those who are not familiar with you, who are you?

Hi, I am Sarah Quildon, I am an artist, I am a friend, I am a sister, I am a lot of things.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find a lot of inspiration when I am walking down a street and lets say I see a pattern on a dress, and I’ll say “wow that’s a dope pattern” and I will literally take a picture of that dress, or save it mentally, or write a note or do something at that very moment. I am very quick with my ideas. I always make an effort to write them down and document them in some way. And it always flourishes into something else completely different from what I got it from. Anything that inspires me or catches my eye I want to do something with it. That’s pretty much my method.

How big are your paintings?

I like doing big pieces because they are fun and generally take a long time, and I can change things as I go. But I also like to do letter size pieces because it is easier for people to look at, and take in, and they are more popular. With the big pieces, I find they are popular but not as in demand as smaller pieces because they are easier for someone to put in their apartment. A lot of my audience are young adults, and they and they don’t have a lot of space right now. Maybe when they are older and have more space they will be able to, but right now it’s a lot of medium and small. The biggest piece is my ‘Afro Samurai’, it on four different canvases, it’s quite large. A lot of the stuff I try to do are regular sized pieces, because if someone doesn’t buy it stays at my house – and then where am I putting it? Space is an issue sometimes. For example, I had client who requested a 5’ x3’ and It was a huge piece of Africa, cause the wanted it that size I did it. So, when it is requested it is not an issue. Otherwise, my go to are always medium to smaller sizes. Just being practical in a sense.

I sense an Afrocentric quality to your work… 

I think a lot of my work is Afrocentric. When I was growing up a lot of my time was spent watching cartoons. And I loved anime – ‘Dragon Ball Z’, anything cartoon I was into it. I would try to challenge myself as a child to draw these things. I would have competitions with my dad to see who could draw Pikachu better, or something stupid like that. And one thing I noticed growing up was all these shows I watched – none of these people looked like me. All these people were either white or another ethnicity but [not] a mixed race or a black raced person. The representation was never there growing up. Now we have ‘Afro Samurai ‘and ‘Boondocks’ and all that stuff and it’s different, but when I was growing up, ‘Dragon Ball Z’ had no black people. Like Mr. Popo was black, but he was literally black! You know what I mean? I couldn’t relate to these characters in that sense. I found myself drawing a lot of characters who were not drawn black, as black characters.

What is your background?

My mother is Australian, and Norwegian, and Italian. She was adopted by an English family, so, she grew up in a n English household in Scarborough. And my dad was born in Trinidad. He moved here when he was seven or eight.

What got you into art?

When I was a kid, Pokémon was my number one inspiration. I was like, “how do people think of these things?” I would never think of a of a lizard with a fiery tale. And I would try and redraw them and create my own. I feel like when I was a kid, it kind of just clicked with me. My granddad was an artist as well. He used to draw when he was younger. I think it was passed down cause my father kind of drew as well, a little creative family.

What is the role of an artist in Toronto?

An artist in Toronto’s role is speaking the voice of people who cannot speak it creatively. People who look at my art always talk to me about representation and say: “ I really appreciate you drawing sailor moon with dreads because I have dreads and I love Sailor Moon and I wish there was a cartoon like that .“ I feel as an artist speaking for people who cannot put their voice out there in the way that you can is important, and it is important for Toronto artists to do that.

How have you evolved as an artist?

When I was a kid, I thought the coolest thing I had ever drawn was all these Gotham characters like Batman and Catwoman with their Pokémon’s by their sides . All my drawings were cross overs, and I feel like when I got older I realized none of these characters looked like me then that’s when I started drawing more black oriented characters. When I was a kid it was just for fun.

How would you describe your style?

My style is Afrocentric, but I find my style is also becoming pop art. Andy Warhol is one of my favorites, and Keith Haring. All the pop art idols that have come and gone. I find that pop art is colourful and it’s vibrant and it’s energy and it stands out. I feel as a person, it is who I am, I am positive, I have good energy, and I try to portray that in my art. I definitely identify with pop art, nostalgic pop art .

Is that the range of your subject matter?

I find I draw a lot of women as well, I try to draw women as beautiful, strong, independent beings. I did a whole series with animal prints – where there was a woman in a powerful stance, with an animal representing its power. And I find that women are not ill represented, but women are at a disadvantage in the sense that it’s not equal. I draw a lot of women to empower them, to show them not matter your skin tone or your body size, you are a beautiful person inside and out.

What’s it like for a female artist in Toronto?

[Being] a female artist in Toronto is interesting. I know a lot of female artists and I find a lot of opportunities come my way, but not to others – I don’t know if it is a popularity contest or something to that effect. But I find Toronto is not cliquey – but you have to know the right people. And if you don’t, then you are out of luck. You can’t get in this show or you can’t get in this thing.

How does Toronto inspire you?

Toronto has a lot of underground art stuff, which is cool. I like that OCAD is an amazing school. I go there all the time. They have a lot of good art programs in general and I mean Toronto is just an inspiration in general. A lot of things here inspire me. That’s why I come down here. I live in Scarborough, but I always come down here. All my jobs have been down here, because on my way to work or walking around I am always inspired.

Is it important for artist to live a extroverted lifestyle?

I think it’s important as an artist to put yourself out there, unless you are anti social then don’t do it. There are artist like Basquiat who are in it and dies from a drug overdose, and then there are artists like Richard Hambleton who’s like Nah I’m good – but still has drug use and still has all these things wrong with him. He just did it behind closed doors. He wasn’t public. I find as an artist in Toronto, it is important to make connections. I’m not saying go party and go overdose, but go socialize.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I am reading How to Be an Artist Without Losing Your Shirt, Your Mind or Your Creative Integrity. It is a book written by a woman who tried to do art full time, nothing else, and just live of the art – you know every artist wants to live of the art – but it doesn’t work. When you are first starting, that shit doesn’t work and that’s what that book is about. Just tips on how to manage your time, manage your budget, manage your money, manage how many clients you have at a time.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I have an Art Show Coming up. It is my first ever solo Gallery. On June 17th at the Blank Canvas Gallery. Its owned by John Samuels – a very very very cool guy. It’s on St Clair West, 890 St Clair West. I’m going to have 50 pieces exhibiting. From 5pm to 2am – I’ve got food, I’ve got a singer, we got booze we got everything, the whole shebang. And its is also my Birthday that day. I have another show in July and another in August – you can also find me on my website.

Sarah Quildon creates the kind of beautiful art that threatens to set your walls on fire. And precipitate colourful candy coated rain drops of unfamiliar recognizable representation to flood through your soul and float out of your frame. In addition to catching her exhibit on June 17th at the Blank Canvas Gallery (890 St Clair Avenue West), you can also find her on Instagram @Orangeinal, and her website: