Many of us have had to face the harsh reality of downsizing. In Sarah Heinbaugh's case, that meant diverting her artistic energy from the giant, in-your-face portraits of party girls for which she'd become known, to smaller, more relatable works.
At a show at the Commons Gallery this past August, guests responded favorably to her large paintings, complete with confident brushstrokes, buoyant color and cartoonish wit. But ultimately, they left the gallery empty-handed. This inspired the 26-year-old to change her approach and paint new subject matter, on a lesser scale and at a greater speed.
She began working with things she "just found laying around the house, something that would look like what you might find at Target, a little more generic — and they're quick." A brightly patterned tote bag, a pair of sexy red high heels she likes to look at but can't stand to wear, even bottles of beer.
"Pattern is another thing I like to play around with," she says.
These new paintings, compiled into a show called Side Works, are currently hanging at Dog Tooth Coffee, where two of her former exhibits were held and where she was employed for three years. It's also where Commons Gallery owner Michael Cellan first saw her work, and was inspired to do the August exhibit.
Side Works, in a nod to our collective attraction to landscapes here in the Pikes Peak region, also includes several versions of painted aspens, three of which had already sold as of the winter solstice.
Heinbaugh, who grew up in Texas and earned her bachelor's of fine arts at the University of Texas at Austin, moved to Colorado Springs in 2006 with her husband, who was in the military at the time. They decided to stick around after his discharge, leaving her to figure out how to survive while pursuing her passion.
"I thought maybe I'd do murals for an interior designer, stuff like that. I couldn't find a job."
That changed one day while in line at a liquor store. She started talking with the man behind her, and he offered her a job. That was Mark Kalmus, Dog Tooth's owner.
"He's a big supporter of my work," she says, noting that Kalmus proudly displays one of her large paintings of his gelato selection.
Today, she struggles to find time for her art — she's even started using acrylic paint instead of oils, because it dries more quickly — while working six days a week as a newbie business owner. Almost a year ago, she and friend Allyson Buck, an interior designer, launched InteriLife to sell eco-friendly flooring, countertops and paint as well as design services.
"I'm not part of the community that builds homes," Heinbaugh says, "so I'm learning a lot."
Maybe her party girls wouldn't think much of that type of education. But, hey, Heinbaugh's never been beholden to them, anyway.