New Artist on the Lane: Sarah Otts


We are thrilled to introduce the newest artist on the lane, Sarah Otts! Based in Mobile, Alabama, Sarah has an eye for shape and color that translates into stunning abstract pieces. Her use of layers and fluid brush strokes make for unique and refreshing details in each painting.


Get to know Sarah by reading below and stop by the shop to see her beautiful work in person!


When do you first know you wanted to be an artist?

I have always enjoyed art, since I was a young girl, but I remember a very specific conversation with my high school art teacher. I sarcastically said to her that maybe I would just grow up to be an artist. At the time, my career seemed a hundred years away. She turned and looked directly at me and told me that I would be a successful artist. It kind of gives me goosebumps to think about what an influence she was. After that, I never thought twice about what I wanted to do with my life. She made it seem so practical.


Where do you draw inspiration?

I like to search for inspiration within myself because we are all individually unique. No two people are truly alike or have had the same experiences, and that gives us the perfect material for creating art that is original. The hard part is being honest enough with yourself to know who you are and who you are not…

When it comes to color, I am a “noticer”… great color combinations are everywhere. I have collections of magazine cutouts, graphic designs, fabrics and wallpaper, things found in nature, and even my children’s art work. I also feel like a kid in a candy store when I stand in front of the paint sample wall at the hardware store.  🙂

The marks I make are purely instinctual. I like to look at the lines and shapes I mindlessly doodle while I’m on the phone. I’ll intentionally translate that later in my art. Even the shapes within my own handwriting are a source of inspiration. Throughout my painting process I try to pick up on where my mind wanders, and make connections between my personal emotions and the way I am manipulating paint. Of course, right now, motherhood is at the forefront of my thoughts which explains a lot of what I find myself painting.


Has your style changed or developed over time?

Yes. Slowly and subtly. Although, you might compare my work from eight years ago to now and not know it is the same artist, the changes have happened gradually as I paint more to please myself versus what I think people want to see.

We absolutely love the way you develop colors and alter with oils. Can you tell us why you choose to work in those mediums?

I like the way oil paint is manipulative. It has that creamy, flexible consistency. Once I learned how to paint with oil in college, it just felt like the real deal compared to acrylics, which stop short of achieving a certain depth. I do like to work with acrylics in the beginning stages, particularly if I want to achieve areas of clear, powerful color that will not become diluted and blended throughout the process.


Is there a type of work you most enjoy creating?

I am exclusively painting non-objective abstracts now. I used to do other subjects, but I like being focused on one approach rather than jumping around all different parts of my brain…and studio. What overwhelmed me was painting an animal on one side of the room and a landscape on the other side, and also trying to create these abstract paintings that establish who I actually want to be as an artist. It was mentally draining and just too distracting from my ultimate goals.

How would describe your signature style?

Energetic and enthusiastic, unpretentious and up-lifting. Hopefully distinct. Definitely honest.  It’s myself without any inhibitions.

Do you have an all-time favorite piece of art (by yourself or another artist)?

I have a few pieces of my own that I feel really achieved what I wanted it to. Some have colors that I am more drawn to, but I don’t form attachments to my paintings. As far as other artists, that sort of thing is a revolving door for me. I can’t choose a favorite color either. I appreciate so many types of art. I could go on and on about artists I like and why…I just don’t fixate on one artist or one work of art. I find myself drawn to the work as a whole and different artists for different reasons. The Abstract Expressionists are my favorite for the way they pioneered a new approach to what is considered art. The process involved is as important as the outcome, and thanks to them, all the rules became breakable. That’s good because breaking rules is fun.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist?

One college professor said to go into your studio every single day even if you only sweep the floor or have a cup of coffee. I don’t know how valuable that was, but it stuck! I do that whenever I am able to and often end up grabbing a tool of some kind and walking away a few hours later covered in oil paint! (My husband and children would say they hate it when I do that!)

What is the biggest compliment you’ve been given as an artist?

I keep coming back to this, but when someone points out that my work is uniquely appealing, that makes me think I am doing something right. It’s a challenging balance to obtain; finding a way to make art while enjoying the process as much as the outcome, and then considering whether it is something other people can relate to and enjoy.

What type of art do you collect for your own home? 

Again, all types. I wish I had a bigger collection, but I am just starting to buy original art. I have everything in my house from traditional street scenery oil paintings to intensely colorful mixed media abstracts. I like a variety! Keep us guessing.

  • The latest from Alex

Alex Deringer and Courtney Cox combine their formal training in design and fashion with their renowned sense of style in Ivy Lane, a full-service interior design firm that curates casually elegant family dwellings that are elevated by a unique spark. Whether an entire house renovation or a one-room makeover, Alex and Courtney’s extensive experience and collaborative dynamic inform a successful design philosophy: thoroughly understand the client’s lifestyle, bring a thoughtful spatial perspective, and enliven the space with the freshest aesthetic interest.

309C Cameron Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314


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