Sarah Rowan is a speed painter on a mission. She has thrilled audiences with her fast-paced work, bringing to life the energy and mood of more than 400 events. The Symes Report caught up with Sarah to find out her views on creativity, speed painting and living an authentic life.

Can you explain speed painting and why you have chosen it as a creative medium?

Speed painting simply put is painting fast. For me, it means having a canvas mounted on my spinning easel and painting in front of an audience for anywhere from three minutes to two hours. I began in 2004, soon after graduating from university with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio and absolutely no clue how to make a living. After reflecting on how much I enjoyed entertaining people and public speaking, I decided to have a go at something I had never seen before…painting in front of people. My first performance happened to be in front of 4000 people and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but the adrenalin rush was addictive. Art has a way of communicating far beyond any barriers of language, culture or religion. It allows me to encourage others and bring joy to people I never would have been able to connect with otherwise. It is a remarkable experience and I’m so grateful to have discovered it early in my 20s. My aim is to raise millions for charities through the auctioning of my paintings at fundraiser events and so far I am almost to the $200k mark. Exciting times ahead.

What does creativity mean to you? And how can it be fostered?

Over the past 20 years, my definition has continued to morph as I have grown and developed as an artist. At this point in time, I am loving (Eat Pray Love author) Elizabeth Gilbert’s definition of creativity: “The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration” and creative living: Living your life based on curiosity rather than fear. I love the all-inclusive simplicity of that perspective. Artists stereotypically have been made to feel more unique and different from the rest of society and it has not served the world well. I believe we are all born creative and can continue to grow if we embrace our birthright as creative beings. Choosing through every season of life to make decisions from a soul filled with curiosity rather than fear will foster one’s creativity one day at a time.

Is there enough creativity in the workplace?

Over the past decade of working with businesses and being in a role as a creative innovator, I can say that there has definitely been a shift in the workplace. Every year there has been a steady increase and desire for creativity to be implemented in the workplace. As the digital age has led to thousands of jobs being replaced with machines, creativity has become a necessity for survival in the business world. This being said, there is a long way to go yet…and I don’t mind as that means I still have a job.

What does authenticity mean to you?

Authenticity is living unapologetically and genuinely as yourself. Though we may spend years, even decades on a journey of self-discovery, I believe authenticity is embracing yourself even when you find rejection from your culture, family, friends or belief system.

Top motivational speaker Simon Sinek says that if we are one person at home and a different person at work…then in one of those places we are a liar. I believe authenticity is being the same in both our personal and professional lives.

Can you describe your own journey to your true self?

My journey to authenticity has been two decades in coming as I battled with the responsibilities and obligations laid upon my shoulders as a woman raised in a conservative Christian home in the southern part of the US. As a teenager, I was convinced that I had to change to fit the mould of my culture or I would burn in hell and disgrace my family. Mentors and pastors tried to yell evil spirits out of me. My crime: Being gay.

I felt like the only way to survive life was to do the “right thing” and marry a good man and become a mother, so I was a wife by the age of 25.It took 12 years of marriage and two beautiful children before I could no longer hide. My body was falling apart from depression, resentment and self-hatred when I saw the movie, The Greatest Showman on Boxing Day 2017. This Is Me became the soundtrack of my life and I decided that if the bearded lady could sing unashamed on a stage, why couldn’t I? Every excuse and lie that held me bound  fell to the wayside and 2018 became my Year of Brave.

The number one thing that had always held me back from leaving the marriage and being me, was fear of what it would do to my children. And to my surprise and gratitude, they have been my biggest cheerleaders the entire way…and not only me, but also my girlfriend as well. What a year! What a journey! When it comes to authentic living, one of the most incredible aspects I have discovered is that even on the most difficult of days, whether physically sick or financially stressed, whatever the situation I still can walk with my head held high and a grin on my face because no matter the problem, at least I am facing it as myself and not a fake version of myself created to appease others.

Pic credit: Sophie Brown