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Sierra Roberts has her eye on equilibrium. This talented young lady is tackling the art world in her own unique way. She has folded art, travel, purpose, work and the outdoors into her creative life. She balances purpose and productivity, travel and stillness, and the commercial and creative aspects of her art. A mindful approach has served her well in curating a life of adventure, a steady stream of work and income, and taking time to reflect and explore in the hills.

Creative and commercial

Sierra works as a full-time artist, but not by chance. She made art her day job by taking a step-by-step approach. She steadily felt her way by pursuing her painting work six months of the year, balanced with working six months of the year offshore in a heli-ski lodge in Alaska. After 3 years of this routine, she progressed to work as a full-time artist in 2020. Turning painting into a paid career has been a calculated and deliberate mission for Sierra; one that has paid off and is on track!

Art for business and for pleasure

Sierra works in a garage-come-art studio at her parents’ home high on the hill overlooking Wanaka. Maintaining the marketing, relationships and sales side of her business requires significant energy and Sierra looks forward to tipping the scales towards more painting and less promotion in the future. To her credit, she has grown a solid and loyal audience globally. The majority of her work is commissioned and sent offshore – a mighty task from home town Wanaka! Sierra admits she has made much of her progress by making mistakes, and making them in a way that ensures she will not repeat them!

Percolating and producing

We talked to Sierra about her creative process. In keeping with her measured approach, she carefully judges the time spent percolating an idea, before pouring it onto the canvas. Following a month traveling in India, Sierra returned to Wanaka charged with inspiration; she then took 6 weeks to let the inspiration settle into something solid before taking action. Experience has taught her that managing inspiration effectively requires patience; she understands that in order to produce her best work, the ideas must be cooked to perfection. Her mindful approach and keen self-awareness have meant she has a finely tuned, optimal balance between thinking and producing.

Home and Away

This self-constructed approach complements Sierra’s formal training. She holds a Diploma in Fine Arts begun at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City and completed at the Whitecliff College of Art and Design in Auckland. Sierra loves to travel but a yearning for Aotearoa brought her home to complete her studies. Her travel has provided a reliable source of inspiration and subjects for her portraiture. On her travels she collects photographs of people she meets, and on her return, she captures these characters in large-scale, colourfully detailed, lifelike portraits.

Little landscapes, big faces

Historically Sierra has predominantly painted portraits; however, more recently, during lockdown, she explored painting landscapes. Time spent walking and running in the hills motivated her to capture the unique colours and light of the local mountains. Once again paradox plays an influence as Sierra chose to create small canvases to capture large landscapes, and in contrast, she paints larger-than-life images of people’s faces.  Sierra says she loves bringing in her work to be framed; she loves the fact that the frames transform the art and add a final professional touch. A selection of her work will be showing in her forthcoming exhibition at the Cardrona Distillery, opening 8 July. Sierra will donate 10% of the proceeds from the exhibition to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Work and play

Sierra is conscientious and disciplined in her approach to work and fun. Although painting is her job, once she is underway, she can disappear into the craft, and the hours fall away. She diligently works 8 to 10 hours a day filling orders, planning exhibitions and managing her clients. She offsets these hours with yoga, meditation, running and fun with her friends. She says striking the right balance is a continual challenge. It seems she has the right formula for success and we look forward to her exhibition and to framing more of her work in the future.

You can check out more of Sierra’s work at: