Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cats, owls and tea: A conversation with Sarada

Hello ladies,

I recently had the pleasure of talking with the artist Sarada over a pot of Earl Grey tea. Come enjoy our meanderings about Halloween, owls, cats, ghost stories, Alice in Wonderland and, of course, nail polish!
Shinobi helps get us in the Halloween spirit.

Diana: Much of your art focuses on Halloween themes. Can
you tell us about your fascination with the holiday?

Sarada: Since my birthday is about a week after Halloween
(Nov. 8) it has always been a doubly festive time of year for
me, when the temperatures cool down and everything has
that wonderful haunted feeling.
Forest of Eyes (original painting).

I grew up watching Hammer horror movies on Saturday
afternoons and just loving dark and Halloweeny things --
I always decorate year-round with things I buy at Halloween
time. I'm always using Halloween plates and a Halloween
mug or making dresses from Halloween fabric.
The Owl and the Pussycat went to Tea (print).

I didn't start doing paintings with that theme until about ten
years ago when I thought about my interest in turn of the
century Halloween postcards and chose to paint for my own
amusement -- using images especially of owls and cats,
girls in witch hats, and pumpkin men having tea.

Diana: Your paintings are very imaginative and often
fantastical. Do everyday happenings show up in your work?

Sarada: I usually paint straight from my imagination with
idealized remembrances of what things look like -- but
sometimes things from nature will inspire me. Even if I can't
get a picture of flora or fauna in its natural environment, I'll
carry the image home with me and paint it from memory or
from other photos I can find.
Redhead Companions (original painting).

For example, I saw a pileated woodpecker in a forest
last summer and was so struck by its beauty that I kept the
image with me for awhile and then painted it with a
red-haired woman. Some of my favorite forests pop up in
paintings -- a tree in the middle of a field in a favorite park,
and things like that.

Diana: Haunted settings appear on your canvases. Do you
take inspiration from ghost stories?

Sarada: 19th century ghost stories and 18th century gothic
novels are among my favorite things in the world -- some
of my favorite writers are Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of
Udolpho), MR James and EF Benson (ghost story writers).
Images of women in white gowns swooping around decrepit
mansions and ruined castles with candelabras or lanterns
are of course a theme I derive from ghost stories.
Colorful Shadows (original painting).

Movies from the 60s and 70s with the
same sort of imagery are also a tremendous
inspiration, like the TV show Dark Shadows.
The Peril of Crimson Manor (original painting).

I did a few monochrome paintings of ghostly women with
lanterns and torches after reading stacks of Victorian ghost
stories last year. This year I have been painting a series
based on the image of "women in gowns fleeing from
castles" that I love on 1960s gothic book covers.

Diana: Continuing with the theme of storybooks, you create
alternate Wonderlands for Alice. These often seem to
include tea! Could you tell us about your affinity with Alice
in Wonderland?

Sarada: Alice in Wonderland is one of the first things I can
ever remember loving to the point of acting it out all the
time as a child. I'd wander through the garden or house
pretending that I was falling down the rabbit hole -- I'd take
a nibble out of a cookie and a drink of tea and pretend I was
right there in the book.

I had a Alice in Wonderland record I'd listen to all the time
and I read it over and over. It has always been something I
felt very close to, even down to my love of 1960s
psychedelic music, which often refers to the story (like the
song "White Rabbit"). It's just one of those things that never
fails to delight me. And just the image of an Alice-like girl,
wearing striped tights in a world of mushrooms or
chessboards -- even the elements from the stories in other
context, always enchant me.
Alice Dreaming (print).

As an avid tea drinker of course, that element also is
something I love to play around with. There's just
something lovely about a nice round tea pot or a hot cup
of tea, and something magical as well.

Diana: I would say tea is just about as magical as nail

With paintings like Nail Polish Witch, it's evident that your
love of color isn't limited to the canvas. Please let us know
about some of your favorite nail polishes.
Nail Polish Witch (print).

Sarada: I love all of the unusual colors -- dark, forest
greens (Orly Enchanted Forest comes to mind), dark
blues and purples (Zoya's Yasmeen is a lovely
example), I like a nice copper or gunmetal as well
and I love glitters.

China Glaze released some glitters that drive me wild with
joy, like Dorothy Who?, the Spellbound and Fortune Teller
glitters from last year. I love Nubar's glitters too, their
lime green, teal and dark purple glitters make my head spin.

Nfu Oh is another brand that makes me go crazy -- I love
for my nails to look like opals. Nfu Oh #60 is breathtaking!
I also love orange and bright or lime green in any form. I
love to just look at a big display of nail polish in what I call
"colorbetical" order (I guess most people call that "rainbow"
order). I feel like I have to have every single one!

Diana: I seem to recall your line up of Sally Hansen Hi Def

Since readers of painted Lady fingers have a love of fauna,
would you share a little about your animal companions?

Sarada: At my mother's house in New Jersey my animal
companions are currently staying -- my cats Shizuka and
Voudoun are sisters, they are 13 years old -- Shizuka is
white with a funny grey tabby tail and Voudoun is a very
fluffy black with a little white bib.

I also have two turtles, red-eared sliders, named Kermit
and Mason, whom I adopted from a friend several years ago.

My mom has three other cats -- we speculate they
might have some Norwegian Forest in them -- Snickers,
Dimples and Max are the names we seem to call them the
most often, though that changes! And where I am staying
right now is a black cat named Shinobi, plus the occasional
armadillo that wanders by.

Diana: That is quite the menagerie! Readers of painted
Lady fingers are well acquainted with the charming
Kermit and Mason. Let's introduce them to Shizuka and
Voudoun, who seem to be letting us know in their feline
way this interview has reached an end.

Thanks so much for stopping by for tea, Sarada!

Shizuka and Voudoun share a favorite past time.

To see more of Sarada's work, stop by her etsy shop. She
also maintains a gallery of past creations at You can read about her creative
process at Would you like
the opportunity to win an original painting by Sarada?
The contest closes on October 18th, so don't delay.

Happy painting, ladies!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Been making a mess of posts up there. ^^ It's approximately 1 in the morning, so I think that might be the reason.

    But I just wanted to say how much I love Earl Grey tea! So soothing for the soul. And how cute this conversation/interview was. Even though I don't actually know you in real life, I can just hear your pleasant exclaims like "That is quite the menagerie!" in my head and the exact way you would pronounce it delicately. Does that sound creepy?

    I must also comment, that first photo of Shinobi staring directly at the camera is quite freaky, black cat and all. AND there's a Friday the 13th coming up in November!

  3. Wow, I love her work, these paintings are amazing.

    Love the last picture - with kitties too <3

  4. Joan: One shouldn't be held accountable for misspellings made during late night typing. :)

    My teacup contains Earl Grey much of the time! I understand what you mean about how another person's way of speaking can feel familiar when you read their writing often. I have a similar response to my favorite authors. Even with blogging, one can have a sense of a person's way of being.

    I hear that Shinobi is really affectionate. I had a black cat for many years. He was a big kitty with a large frame and head. He looked like quite the Halloween cat, much like Shinobi.

    Biba: I have one of her paintings. I really love it. The colors are even more vibrant in person. <3 Shizuka and Voudoun are such shy girls, but sweet.

  5. Interesting interview. I also grew up watching Hammer horror films. I used to go to the drive in on Fridays with my Mom, Dad and brother to see them. Love the color in the paintings.

  6. I love how Sarada comes up with the concepts for her work. Original. The grand cats are cute. Love, me.


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