An Interview with inspiring artist Sarah Wisbey, inspired by my daughter, the artist

This is a self-portrait of my daughter

This is a self-portrait of graphic artist Sarah Wisbey:

One day, visited  

in her high school visual arts class to share with them her experiences as a professional graphic artist. 

That prompted my daughter to ask me something very unusual. 

She wanted to accompany me on my next trip to the grocery store. 

She was not necessarily going with me to help me pick out groceries, she was there to look at art.

Once inside our supermarket, Wegman’s food markets, she could not wait to go visit the pasta aisle. 

My daughter was downright giddy

“Mom, today in art class, I met the woman who drew the illustrations on these red boxes!”

She then pulled me over to the coffee aisle pointing out other packages that Sarah Wisbey illustrated.

Later that month my daughter interviewed Sarah and how she got started in her career in graphic design. Sarah also took the time to look at some of my daugher’s most recent compositions.

So, when I needed to write a feature about a prominent person from Brighton, I knew just the person to profile.

Here is my piece in the D&C about Wisbey. Thought it would be best to keep it here on my blog, for you never know when the links will go dead.

Thank you again Sarah for, inspiring my daughter, and  your time for developing this piece:

It’s not often that an artist cooks the subject she is painting, especially when the artist does not like to cook. However, when Wegmans Food Markets hired Brighton resident Sarah Wisbey to work on the packaging for their pasta line, the freelance illustrator wanted to perfectly capture the shape of spaghetti, the color of a campanelle and the texture of tortellini.

Shortly after she took the job, she found herself at the supermarket with 20 different boxes of pasta in her shopping cart.

“The cashier wondered why I was buying so much pasta. My children wondered why they were waking to the smell of cooked pasta every morning,” said Wisbey.

Overall, Wisbey illustrated 27 different kinds of pasta — from egg noodles to frozen ravioli. Her colorful illustrations are also on the labels that entice Wegmans shoppers to try flavors of coffee like orange cappuccino, raspberry hazelnut or crème brulee.

Wisbey saturates her illustrations with color, playful black lines and gaps of white space that suggest a sparkling light. Her food illustrations, like the label for the orange cappuccino, emit a tempting juicy quality that seems to drip off the packaging.

Wisbey jokingly blames her less-than-perfect visual depth perception for her flat illustrations. Since her earliest explorations in art, her style has been shaped from the books she read in the children’s sections of bookstores and libraries. She was drawn to the vibrant, simple lines and collage work of Eric Carle and later, Fauvist painters such as Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin.

When she started out as an artist, Wisbey attempted to capture Carle’s watercolor collage technique, though she admitted the result was “messy, tedious and frustrating.”

“Watercolor can be unpredictable. One wrong brushstroke and everything can turn out looking like mud,” she said.

The “aha” moment came when Wisbey realized she could achieve the look of the collage by painting swaths of color onto single sheets of paper, which she scans into her Mac computer and manipulates in Adobe Photoshop.

“In Photoshop, I can easily tweak the colors, cut and paste shapes and manipulate them into the ideal composition. The white gaps are just as important to me as the color. This gives my illustrations a light, airy feel,” she said.

But it takes more than talent to make it as an artist.

She said to be successful as a graphic artist as opposed to a fine artist, one must think of a project from a collaborative rather than an individual standpoint.

“The difference between being a fine artist and a graphic artist is that you are creating not just for yourself but for a client. You must know their parameters and expectations.”

She credits her ability to work on a team to her 11 years of experience at Rochester’s Icon Graphics. There, she learned the business side of art, the importance of sticking to a deadline and how to effectively collaborate.

It’s been four years since Wisbey embarked on her own freelance illustration business. When Wisbey was commissioned by Wegmans to work with their in-house design team for the supermarket’s pasta line, the red color of the box, the style of lettering and even the illustrated steam were already in place. She was strictly charged with designing the look of each variety of pasta.

“Wegmans has a style that really meshes with mine. They put a high value on illustration. I love that they give me a basic direction on a project and just let me run with it,” she said.

Her advice to those seeking a creative career is to become immersed in any artistic resources available. College students and recent graduates should get as much paid and unpaid experience as possible. Most importantly, just keep creating.

“Draw every day just for yourself. That’s how you will develop your own style. The creative process is a way of life.”

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

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