vintage white trunk in Bowling Green artist Sarah Gust’s in-home studio bursts with color inside — pink and black images of Prince, David Bowie, old homes and vintage-inspired models dressed in high fashion.
Gust doesn’t like labels — but if she has to, she will define her style as whimsical, pop art and folk art — and sometimes a mixture of all three. She uses mixed-media in her artwork and has fallen in love with the medium gouache, a centuries-old type of paint that has characteristics of acrylic and watercolor and creates vibrant, luminous color.
She’s also very astute at painting the perfectly symmetrical lines of architecture, then adding touches of her creativity.
“I like the idea of taking something that is very structural and expected and then painting outside the lines or adding color,” Gust said. “I like to have fun with it and add some free-flowing natural elements to it.”
Originally from Minnesota, Gust attended a small private college in Florida, where she also started working as a body paint artist at Busch Gardens. Up until then, art was just a fun and creative outlet.
“I was in an art class and did a painting of an Italian villa — and I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It was beautiful. I kind of boosted up the colors, went outside the lines a little bit.”
Her professor loved it, too — and with his encouragement, she began to hone her skills and think of herself as a fine artist. She would stay up all night practicing — maybe an image of a shark for her job at Busch Gardens. Or a painting of a Victorian house. Through practice, her skills sharpened and now she owns her own art business in Bowling Green: Folksense Arts.
She is also the founder of the Bowling Green Makers group and market. The items in the white trunk are being made to sell at the group’s next market, which is held several times a year at the A-Frame in downtown Bowling Green. Gust founded the artistic group out of a need to find community here in Bowling Green — and to share inspiration, marketing ideas and creativity with other like-minded artists.
Gust grew up trudging through snow to hunt game in the winter with her father and walking fields in the spring to find arrowheads. Those elements connect her to memories of her childhood. She loves nature as much as she loves color — sometimes combining the two to create unique items that she sells. Examples include dipped antler necklaces and painted wood slice magnets. She also looks for found and vintage items to which she can add an artistic flare – like an old saw blade painted white and decorated with pink and blue folk art flowers and vines.
“I want to take something that is mundane and make it very pretty and cool,” she said. “I also want to make it affordable. Yes, paintings are beautiful. But most people admire them and move on.”
Instead, she’s offering affordable artwork on magnets, necklaces and cards. These not only give her a chance to share her work with others — but to build a more connected relationship with them. That feeling of connectedness is a very powerful motivator for Gust in her personal life, her art and her business.
“I’m a total grandma, an old soul,” said Gust. “I am connected to young artists in town, but I don’t feel like them. They’re doing things very modern and edgy — and I love it and sometimes I wish I were edgier. I always come back to honoring my inner-grandma. And she’s connected to found objects. She loves flowers, and she loves antiques and she loves pastels and nothing about it is edgy.”
And that — in itself — is what keeps Gust edgy and relevant in her own right.