August 24, 2011

A&E Guide 2011: Spotlight On Sloan Showalter

I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical of the bold claim on Sloan Showalter’s website: “No one in the world does what I do.” Yes, it’s true that event portrait painting isn’t a common career, and yes, the portraits certainly hold their own unique beauty, but still, I thought … it’s just a portrait.

After being the subject of one of these portraits, I can safely say I was wrong.

“My main intention with painting is to capture the spirit,” Showalter says. “I gaze into the eyes, which are the most important, because they’re the windows to the soul.” This deep level of eye contact makes the process extremely personal. Her portraits are fast — mine took less than 10 minutes — but Showalter is adept at capturing the essence of a subject and translating it to paper. Looking at the finished product, far from realism (Showalter calls it a “fine art caricature”), I could still see myself reflected. I can also see the impact of Showalter’s appreciation for Asian-style art and paintings (referencing this, she tells me she uses Asian inks and brushes).

Another unique aspect of her work is that while Showalter is right-handed, she paints as a lefty. “I wanted to be more free,” she says, explaining why she tried her left hand 10 years ago. She has painted that way ever since, traveling across the country for events and painting portraits of employees ranging from Pixar to Google. “I think people enjoy the portraits, because it forces them to look at themselves in a different way.”

Showalter attributes her interest in art to the woman who raised her, always telling Showalter she was an artist. “All children are natural artists,” she says. “It either gets brought out or pushed down in you. I was very fortunate to have it brought out.”

Born and raised in Lexington, Showalter only recently moved to Louisville. A former art teacher, she’s working on getting her art business up and running. In addition, she also is writing a book (“Cliff Notes For Teens,” which she describes as a life book for teenagers). A love of art is at the forefront of all Showalter does — always connecting her artistic process to daily life.

“The ink is permanent and there’s no turning back,” she says. “It’s like life — you just make another choice. We are making a mark every day, whether we realize that or not.” —Brandi Terry