Your story deserves to be witnessed, honoured and shared with your loved ones and the world.
“Your art goes below the surface of skin and tissue and goes directly to the soul.”
Sensitive, luminous heirloom portraits that embody your spirit and story
It seems like time moves faster every day: the precious moments zip past us, disappearing before we even have a chance to blink. We chase after memories with our phone in hand, snapping photos that end up in a camera roll, thousands of images deep, never to be seen again.
Or maybe we’re too busy enjoying life to even remember to take a photo, but you’re left wishing you had some way to keep those memories close.
The important moments so often slip past us, lost in the chaotic river of our lives.
Maybe you’ve achieved things you never thought you could.
Maybe you overcame a personal challenge that tested you deeply.
Maybe someone you love is in a precious moment of transition: graduation, marriage, a significant birthday, the last months before parenthood begins, or the transition into adulthood.
All of these moments are stories to be told: rich, layered times that mark where we’ve come from, what we’ve been through, and where we’re going. These moments are the chapter headings in our lives.
These stories deserve to be witnessed, honoured and shared.
I feel my portraits are so special and intimate
Sarah was so amazing to work with. She is patient and easy to work with. I never really thought of myself as someone who would commission portraits, but I knew Sarah, and had seen samples of her work on social media. I feel my portraits are so special and intimate; they are life-like and it makes me feel like my children are here even when they are not.”
The thing is, I know portraits have a bit of a bad rap.
When most people think of portraits, we think of ego run amok: massive paintings of kings and queens, the rich and powerful flaunting that power over their peasants. The men are filled with hubris, the women are reduced to decoration.
But this is art reduced to its most shallow form. Portraits can be so much richer, deeper and more nuanced: they can be about the human behind the title.
I deeply believe our individual stories matter, both to us and our loved ones and to the communities we belong to. We share our stories not because of ego, not because we want to say “Oh look at me, I’m the King/Queen of England” but because we are important to the people who love us, and we all want to carry our loved ones’ stories with us.
A woman once told me that because her mother hated having her photo taken, she has almost no images of her mother from her childhood. That moment is gone and this woman felt so much regret. Our loved ones want us to be visible in their lives.
I believe that portraits can be transformative, liberating, healing.
I have seen the power they can have in people’s lives: to create change, to show us our whole selves, to shine lights on the richness we don’t always know is there.
Portraits can be about telling different kinds of stories than the ones told to us.
We can use portraits of ourselves and others to change the narrative: they can change the kinds of stories we tell about ourselves and can be part of changing the broader cultural narratives we live within.
I wanted to capture my daughters at the height of their beauty in a unique and memorable way.
I told Sarah at the time, there were so many ways that this might not have worked out, but the whole process was wonderful and the outcome completely satisfying. Looking at my daughters’ portraits makes me feel proud of my daughters and proud to have had them painted.
How are we telling the important stories of our lives?
How do we commemorate these milestones and moments in a way that is more enduring and meaningful than a quick snap on an iPhone? How do we make sure that these stories are being told?
How are we creating a legacy we can be proud of?
Portraits are memory made tangible.
“It was either going to be a tattoo or a portrait, and a portrait seemed like the better choice.”
Portraits help us slow down time. They evoke a moment with depth and wholeness in a way that snapshots can never replicate. They tell our stories with sensitivity and nuance, capturing our softness and our strength.
Each painting is literally and metaphorically layered, crafted with care and attention. Our faces contain so much richness: our experiences and stories are written there, embedded in our bones and skin.
“Sarah makes you feel safe and welcome.
My portrait definitely captured a side of me that I usually don’t see. A portrait captures an accumulation of your micro expressions that makes you You! There’s dimensions.”
Our painting brings back many wonderful memories
It’s a great joy to see my husband portrayed so very well. He likes it because it captures his image from a few years ago in his favorite place besides home, Italy.
I enjoy seeing myself through Sarah’s eyes. She sees me.
I see these portraits every day
and think of Dorian Grey
each one a self of my own true selves;
none less wonderful.
About Sarah Marie Lacy
I’ve always been drawn to portraiture and people’s faces. I am endlessly fascinated by the human body in all of its intricacy and grace.
Growing up, it was the portraits in art history books that I first fell in love with – people’s stories and lives looking out at me centuries later.
But those stories are also limited in their scope. While there are exceptions, for most of history, portraits were used to tell just a few kinds of stories.
Portraits are about legacy, but I want to stretch that definition beyond merely “status symbol”. I want your portrait to leave the legacy of your journey, to share the wholeness of your character.
I want to tell new kinds of stories. I want portraits to be inclusive, subversive and dare I say it – a little bit radical. I want to break portraits out of their tiny pigeonhole and invite the whole world in.
I want to honour the lives of those of us who have been historically left out, whether because of gender, race, social status or the thousand other ways people were excluded.
If you think “A portrait? Me? Really? But I’m not [fill in the blank]” but the idea intrigues you, then you’re exactly who I’m talking to.
We all deserve the dignity of having our story told. None of us is boring. We all contain a lifetime of depth in our faces.
If you’re looking for slick, flashy and ostentatious, you won’t find it here.
If you’re looking for rich, meaningful, intimate storytelling that honours you as a whole person, then you’re in the right place.
How it works
“Sitting for Sarah is entertaining and relaxing; conversation goes everywhere and the time passes quickly.”
My process is highly collaborative and dedicated to telling the kind of story you want to tell. We can play with background, clothing & costume, lighting, and more: whether you want a subtle, intimate portrait or something playful and bold, this process is about exploring the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.
First, we discuss your vision: who will I be painting or drawing? Is it a gift for someone else? A surprise? Something for yourself? We start to think about size and scale as well – where will it hang? Are we creating something intimate and personal or are we going for a bolder statement piece? Will this piece eventually be gifted to children or grandchildren?
Next, we collaborate on reference images so I have all of the visual material I need to tell my subject’s story.
If you’re local, I can meet with the sitter to create the perfect reference images: we can take photos in the home, you can come to my studio, or we can find a gorgeous location to act as a backdrop. I’ll also do a small colour study and some sketches from life if possible. Sitting for me is fun and informal – I am very entertaining, trust me! This allows me to get to know who I’m painting and really infuse their character into the portrait.
If you’re not local, we can still collaborate! I am always happy to travel to meet with my clients in person, or we can video chat to plan outfits, setting and lighting and I can help you with taking your own reference photos. I’m also happy to review reference photos you already have on hand to find the right one.
However, if you have a photo that you’re dreaming of turning into a painting, we’ll work together to create something beautiful from that. The pieces shown to right were all done from client-provided photos.
Once we’ve finalized reference images, I dive into the work. Every portrait evolves over dozens of hours: portrait drawings take anywhere from 20-50 hours and portrait paintings often take over 100 hours to complete.
Paintings are started with a colour study, followed by a simple drawing that is the foundation of the painting. Once you approve the drawing, I’ll begin to paint, building the piece up with 3-4 layers, each one adding more detail and character.
Clients are updated throughout this process, and are given several opportunities to give feedback so I can be sure I’m truly capturing the presence of my subject.
Portrait drawings are typically completed within 2-3 months while most portrait paintings are completed within 4-6 months, depending on changes requested and complexity of the piece.
If you have a particular deadline you want to meet, I recommend you get in touch with me 12 months in advance as I usually have a waiting list and can’t meet last minute requests. This allows me to schedule you in with plenty of time to meet your deadline.
Sizes, Fees & Materials
Sizes can range from 8” x 10” to 40” x 55” for three-quarter length portraits.
Fees start at $750 for drawings and $5000 for paintings and can run into 5 figures depending on number of sitters and complexity of concept.
All materials are archival and of the highest quality so your portrait can last for generations.
Reserve your spot on the waiting list
I only take a select number of commissions per year.
I am currently booking portraits to start mid-summer 2023.
If you’re ready to invest in telling a story that will be passed down for generations, please fill out the inquiry form with a brief description of who the portrait will be of and let me know of any significant deadlines.
I look forward to telling your story.
As a kid, I once made a whole series of portraits of the backs of my fellow students’ heads while bored in class. For the past 15 years, I have had the honour of painting the front of people’s heads as well (much to my relief).
My art has been featured in American Art Collector and Fine Art Connoisseur, and has won multiple awards and grants. I have exhibited in public and private galleries and museums in Canada, the US and Ireland and I am working towards another solo exhibition (2023). I trained at Studio Escalier in France, spending over 2000 hours honing my craft under master artists.
I currently live in Ottawa, Canada with my elderly three-legged Maine Coon rescue cat and a small legion of benignly neglected houseplants. In my spare time, I knit with an absentminded disregard for instructions and practice ballet.