Sara Ward describes herself as a compulsive designer.
I’m fascinated to learn how I express myself, she said.
Many have experienced Wards’ mat skills in his powerful yoga classes, renowned for their wisdom and depth. Now channeling his creativity in a new way, Ward traded mala beads for brushes.
Ward has made Telluride home since the age of 19, but has spent extended stays in Hawaii, recently living in Kauai for two years. In January 2020, lacking the supportive Tellurides community, Ward and his partner returned to the San Juans to put down roots for good. Days after landing in Box Canyon, Ward returned to his familiar life in Telluride, including a busy yoga teaching schedule. Then the curtain of the pandemic fell and with it his work schedule disappeared.
Sheltering in place, Ward explored creating new ways. She started renovating furniture by sharing her colorful and transformed creations on social media. While the end result was satisfying, the process itself felt flat.
Ward began seeing a therapist for almost the first time in his adult life.
I think as yogis sometimes we think we can get around basic self-care. Therapy is so important, she says.
She started to work on identity. Deeply satisfying memories of painting when she was young came to the surface. She realized she didn’t stop until she felt like she was meant to be an adult who didn’t do weird art. It’s okay to be super weird when you’re a teenager with weird voices in your head. As an adult you are supposed to have it all figured out. I realized that I didn’t want to live the rest of my life without expressing this vibrant, colorful, distorted thing that is in me, she says.
She signed up for an online abstract painting class, but soon learned that there were rules for abstract painting too. She felt frustrated. In the midst of the pandemic, when the rules and the status quo felt shattered, she was ready to break the rules. She quit class and began to paint.
As soon as she felt that she was limiting herself to wanting a room to have a certain appearance, she let go of that and continued painting. Instead, she went through a process of wanting to express a feeling and letting those impulses go through. What emerged on the web were brilliant and awesome beings. Wards’ pieces represent the conflicting voices and impulses in his head with bold energetic colors. They are complex and layered.
So often we have these esoteric emotions and parts of ourselves. It can be difficult to have a relationship with them. When I paint them, now they have a being, she says.
Along the way, she developed her own rules and techniques, her own style. Reflecting on the influence of her yogic practice on her art, she notes the dynamism of her color palette.
My inner world is intense, but not dark. I turned my consciousness to all parts of myself so that they were no longer unknown. I made a light shine and the light made color, she said.
At the same time, yoga sometimes seeks to transcend suffering. She does not paint to transcend, but to explore the beautiful messy parts of the human being. His pieces struck a chord with people. For many, the pandemic has meant spending more time getting closer and personally with the voices in our heads. People have told her that her paintings are what they feel, a little upside down and upside down.
By sharing his work on social media, people from all corners of the world got involved. She’s had commission requests and sold to people she knows, as well as fans who found her online.
Although she feels honored that others resonate with her art, her inspiration comes from the deep satisfaction she experiences in the painting process. This satisfaction seems new to Ward. As a compulsive designer, her list of creative endeavors is long; beeswax surf wax, clothing company, handmade malas. Yet with every effort, Ward remembers a feeling of racing to the finish line, arriving exhausted and unwilling to do so anymore.
Painting is the first thing I did where I feel like maybe it’s freedom of expression. I don’t care about the end result, she said.
With each new piece, Ward learns to think less and to feel more. She also experiments with large-scale pieces
Despite the success, Ward says it’s a daily practice to engage with our inner critics.
I realized I had been waiting for someone else to give me a badge. Several months ago, I finally gave myself permission and it opened the creative floodgates, she said.
She remembers the day she officially put her artist identity on her Instagram page, I hit publish and instantly got that huge cell phone exit.
She is developing a creativity workshop to help others overcome feelings of self-criticism and embrace their creativity.
If you’d like to see his work, Ward currently has an exhibit of his smaller pieces hanging at Heritage Apparel in Mountain Village. She is also planning an exhibition at the Ethos Gallery in Telluride this summer. You can see photos of his pieces on his website at saraward.art or on Instagram @ saraward.art.