Sarah Coleman's Organic Style is Perfect for Kiehl's
When Sarah Coleman sat down to draw the latest image for Kiehl’s Artfully Made series, she did it essentially with a timer. With a camera over her right shoulder, and her inks in hand, she started to work. It was the one and only shot she took at the image celebrating Kiehl’s Calendula line. So much of Kiehl’s brand identity is using responsibly sourced, organic ingredients. Sarah felt it was only appropriate to mirror the same effort in her own work. “That’s why I just reached for the colored inks and did the whole thing in one shot on one piece of paper, it was a reflection of the product itself,” she says. “I didn’t want anything about this piece to be digital at all.” Although Sarah does use digital processes to clean up part of her work sometimes, that’s not a defining element of her work.
It would be accurate to describe Sarah’s work as “organic,” “natural,” “elemental.” But she uses a completely different word: “idiosyncratic. Because a lot of the time things aren’t symmetrical, and everything’s hand drawn,” she explains. “There’s always movement in my work.” Anything else and it wouldn’t be authentically Sarah. That’s what gives her work its identity. “In the past I have tried to be very slick, rigid, quite controlled, quite polished,” she says. “And I’m really not that good at polish. I’m really not that good at things looking slick.”
For Sarah, like for anyone, it’s better to lean into what comes naturally. That’s what gives the best results. “I think over time I’ve just relaxed into the idea that this is how the work emerges,” she explains. “And then you kind of settle into your own skin.” That’s how she approached the Calendula for Kiehl’s. She painted right over the original sketch she drew, meaning she had just that one shot. No matter what happened between starting the ink and finishing, it was going to be the final product. Of course, it could have gone another way. She could have spilled her ink, destroying the image. Then what would have happened? “The camera would have caught it. I would get another sheet of paper and start again.”
But she wouldn’t have had it any other way. That’s how the image drips Sarah and her artistic point of view. She says, “Anything else would feel like trying on someone else’s costume.”