Urban Outfitters Interview

February 21, 2017

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Vinyl Record Mandala ~ Sara Roizen

A couple weeks ago I was chosen to be Artist of the Week by Urban Outfitters Europe. Below is my interview with Urban Outfitters where I talk about the role of art in my life and my evolving creative process. You can also read the interview on their site!

UO: What inspires you to create artwork?

As a child I began creating out of emotional necessity, as a way to express and understand my feelings and experiences. The organic forms and rhythms in nature have always found visual expression in my work. Art has been a constant companion for me, a form of self-reflection, growth, and healing. I usually have no idea what I’m about to create when I sit down to make art. I enjoy the intuitive leap into the unknown. The challenge comes from continuously needing to trust my process while creating my own parameters to work within.

I am also an art therapist and currently work with adults at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. I gain constant inspiration from the individuals and groups that I work with. I am inspired by the creativity and the depth of emotions and experiences that naturally surface through art therapy. There is a genuine shared energy when working with others in this way, and I have always found that my art therapy career directly inspires my personal art making.


UO: Where did the idea for your ‘Vinyl Record Mandalas’ series come from?

My husband Adam used to work in the music industry in NYC. A few years ago he came home with some discarded test pressing records and asked if I could do anything creative with them. I had always loved creating mandalas (art within a circle) and the vinyl records lended themselves so beautifully as unique mandalas to create art on. We are both huge music fans with an eclectic taste in music. I loved the idea of repurposing old discarded or unplayable records and giving them new life through art. Once I started with the vinyl record mandalas, I just kept going!


Vinyl Record Mandala ~ Sara Roizen

UO: How do you choose which vinyl records to use for your artwork?

Sometimes I pick the record based on the small amount of label art on it and play around with that imagery as I paint. I like to think about what style of painting would complement the record based on the style of music. Even if the record name is completely obscured by the time I am finished painting, I like to think that the energy of the original music influences where I go visually.


UO: Your artwork combines the use of many different materials, which is your favourite to use?

It’s hard to decide on a favourite material. I work mainly in acrylics because I love how quickly they dry and how many textural pastes you can combine with them to create depth and layers. With the vinyl record art I have been using a lot of paint markers in addition to the acrylic paint. The paint markers allow me to add greater detail in sections. I’ve been playing around with hand-carved rubber stamps in this vinyl record mandala series as a way to add subtle layers. In other bodies of work I love pen and ink drawing, watercolor, and wood burning. I tend to choose art materials based on what my inner needs are at the time. For example, wood burning helps me to slow down in a meditative and unrushed way, whereas working on a large acrylic painting with palette knives allows me to use  bold strokes and channel more energy into the piece.

Sara Roizen


UO: Describe your creative process.

Open, curious, ever-changing, and fluid. Sometimes I’m on a roll and sometimes my creative process needs a mini break to hibernate as I gather more visual life inspiration. I think the creative process – for all of us – keeps going in daily moments. Having two young children also impacts when and where I create, although I have to say that I appreciate my art time even more than I used to now and I keep finding creative ways to make art. I don’t think the creative process is solely reserved for those ‘AHA!’ moments when you have an amazing breakthrough in your studio. It’s important to honor all of the quiet small creative moments that make up each day. That could be pausing with one of my children to see a shape in the clouds, or rearranging a vase in my house to reflect the light more beautifully.


UO: Do you have any advice for young art students? 

Although I loved my undergraduate painting education overall, I felt there was too much emphasis placed on getting that ‘finished gallery ready body of work.’ It didn’t jive with me. I thought I was in college to experiment in all of the glorious messy ways that are open to us as students. My artwork reflected many directions – some visually cohesive, and others less so. I would give the advice that I wish I had been given – to follow your art through each adventure, without judgment and without becoming paralyzed by comparing it to the art of others. It’s wonderful to be inspired by other artists, but it’s also too easy to spend hours perusing the internet for artists to emulate. After you’ve done that for a while, shut down your computer, head to wherever you make art, and get quiet inside yourself. If it gets uncomfortable or you think you’re not getting anywhere with your art, that’s great. That’s the starting point. Staying on for the rest of the ride is where the magic can happen. So see what emerges when you leave all of the critics at the door for a while, and that especially includes your own inner-critic.

wood-burned bird
Sara Roizen


UO: What do you like to listen to at the moment to get you in the creative mood?

I have so many things that I listen to. I used to only listen to music when I painted, but for some reason I’ve been really into podcasts lately. I really enjoy the podcasts On Being with Krista Tippett, and Insights At The Edge with Tami Simon. They are very spiritual podcasts and interview many leaders in the fields of mind-body science, spirituality, creativity, and psychology. This is kind of embarrassing, but I’ve also been on an acoustic covers playlist kick! I enjoy hearing reimagined versions of well known songs and the simplicity of the sound is moving and beautiful to me.


UO: Who are the artists that you look up to?

The list would be huge if I really thought about it, but here are some of my favorites: Bernd Haussman, Jane Davies, Paul Klee, Francesco Clemente, Georgia O’Keefe, Gerhard Richter, Rufino Tamayo, Hiroshi Matsumoto, Brice Marden, Kiki Smith, and Yayoi Asoma.


UO: What do you like most about working in your studio? 

Working in my studio is like going on a meditation retreat within my own home. My studio is a converted attic in our house and it is a light filled quiet space. Because it’s at the top of the house, I often feel like I’m creating art in a tree house. Time seems to stand still when I’m making art in my studio. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have that space.


UO: Can you tell us about any future/ current projects that you are working on? 

As always, I’m working on several bodies of work at once. I am continuing with the wood-burning, drawing, and vinyl record mandalas. With my paintings on canvas, I have started seeing a new vocabulary evolving in terms of energetic and fluid lines that remind me of calligraphic work. There’s almost an urgency to let the energy out in paint form. It’s a dance where I am giving into that rhythm and then stepping back to see how it unfolds. I have no idea where this body of work is headed, which is exactly how I like it.



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