Five questions to Sara Mai

Five questions to Sara Mai

Sara Mai (b.1987, Denmark) is a self-taught visual artist with a background in graphic design, art direction, and animation. Sara mai works with acrylic on canvas and with clay. Mai’s paintings are based around women and their symbolism. She finds inspiration in friends and ancient sculptures. Her sculptural works are based around the meeting between the organic shapes trying to co exist with geometric shapes.Tell us your story, why did you become an artist?

Since I was a little girl, I have loved being creative. I mostly drew and geeked out on comics like Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. As a teenager, I delved into Moebius' universes and Jamie Hewlett's Tank Girl. I played Tomb Raider on PlayStation and fell asleep to Spirited Away.

I dropped out of high school at 17 and started an art program where I gained a deeper understanding of visual arts. My grandmother was an artist, and I began painting in her small studio in Copenhagen. It was cozy and reassuring to paint with her.

In my early twenties, I took a Specialist Degree, The Drawing Academy, (Classical drawing) 2007-2008 in Viborg, enhancing my understanding of anatomy. Intrigued by an animation school in Viborg, I joined the 3D program, exploring color, form, composition, and movement.

After graduation, I found it challenging to secure a job in the creative field, and the complex 3D programs left me uninspired. I experienced depression, losing my sense of self and creativity. Seeking a fresh start, I pursued a creative communication education in Stockholm, eventually working as an Art Director in the advertising industry in Copenhagen. After eight years in the industry, serious problems with insomnia led to illness, and I lost my job after a sick leave.

This turned out to be a real gift for me because I suddenly had time to return to my creative roots that had been neglected for so long. I discovered the therapeutic nature of clay and resumed painting. Despite the persistent inner critic, I learned to stay in the process even though I find it challenging and it may be difficult to get the idea out as I imagined it. I now focus on the process instead of the final results and see the value of continuous practice and the joy of constant self-improvement. I have now realized that art is a path I need to follow and I am eager to pursue what I love.

When you create a new work, how do you go about it? What comes first?

I find inspiration everywhere, from architecture and nature to Roman sculptures and people. My mind tends to overflow with ideas, especially when trying to sleep. I imagine how to compose or develop existing ideas, sometimes becoming obsessed. I must get up, draw, or write to find peace.

In painting, I usually start with sketches and jot down ideas. Once satisfied, I conduct small color studies before proceeding with the painting. Often, things don't work as expected, requiring adjustments to colors and motifs. I may take breaks for weeks before figuring out how to achieve the desired result.

In my clay practice, I am more intuitive. With only a basic idea in mind, the piece unfolds between my hands, often diverging significantly from the initial concept. Clay restored my creative confidence, teaching me the importance of the process and the need for patience in creative endeavors.What can you tell us about your studio, what makes it special to you and how does it influence the way you work?

My current studio is a corner in my apartment in Nørrebro, where I paint and draw. Additionally, I work with clay at a shared workshop called Ceramics and Wood. However, my dream studio is a serene, bright, open, and minimally furnished space, preferably with a view of a harbor or forest. It should offer room for creativity without worrying about making a mess. A dedicated studio, solely for me and my creativity, would significantly ease my process.Is there a work of art in your life that has especially impressed you? 

As a young artist, my idols were Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, fascinated by their stylized, symbolic, and graphic approach to art.

Laust Højgaard, an artist today, impresses me with his unique expression.

Reach to the stars: where will you be in 5 years?

In five years, I dream of being a recognized artist, exhibiting globally in prestigious galleries. I want to sustain myself through my art, spending my days in a wonderful studio with my dog, immersed in creativity.Learn more about the artist: