Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

An Eye for Art: In 'creative phase,' FSK graduate Sarah Gawens instructing at COB51, has show at Off Track Art

Sarah Gawens, local artist and partner of Off Track Art in Westminster, first discovered art at Francis Scott Key High School when she was 16. Then, she was only taking art as an elective. Her teacher and classmates noticed her talent, and from there art became more than just an elective.

Gawens began studying in graphite and colored pencil. She took a liking to pointillism with pen and ink, a type of art that consists solely of tiny dots that make up the image, introduced to her by her teacher, Stanley Gilmore. She was also influenced by Stacey Saltzgiver, also an art teacher at Francis Scott Key at that time.


Gawens became more serious about her art when she majored in Fine Arts at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg. While there, she explored many art mediums, but her true colors shown through drawing and eventually painting. Gawens’ first show was the annual juried student show at Mount St. Mary’s, where she received several awards for her submitted works.

Her biggest show was her Senior Art Show, which was collaborated with a group of her art classmates.


“I went outside the box for my senior art show. I did artwork that was more sculptural,” she said.

The group was required to select a theme. Gawens and her classmates came up with “World Issues.” Her part in the collaboration of the show focused on mental illness. Through this show, her creative abilities broke through.

In 2014, Gawens took an art internship in Florence, Italy. She lived there for three months and was an intern at Florence Art School Bianca Cappello ( Gawens was a teacher’s assistant for local Italian artist, Marco Biagini. He taught private lessons to children including mosaics, drawing, painting, pastels and watercolor. The ages ranged from 6 to 13 years old. The art school also provided studio space for adult artists and even provided Gawens studio space in exchange for her time as his intern.

Gawens graduated from college in 2015. Since then, she has participated in a wide variety of art events and shows. Gawens has participated in the Hanover Area Art Guild’s Annual Open Art Exhibit. In May 2016, she was in a juried show called “The Art of Stewardship,” a nature themed exhibit at the Howard County Conservancy, whose featured speaker was Greg Mort, a well-known nature artist and astronomer ( Gawens did a bleach painting of a birch grove that was accepted for the show. She painted the trees on cotton fabric using bleach that was purchased by the executive director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts. Her artwork also received honorable mention at the show.

In July of 2017, Gawens participated in a plein air workshop in Molndal, Sweden. Plein air painting is a tradition of painting outdoors that was popularized by French Impressionists in the mid-19th Century.

The workshop was held through the Florence Academy of Art Sweden (

“That was where I fell in love with plein air painting,” Gawens said. “It is the perfect excuse to get me outside and to travel. It has allowed me to become reflective of my art and has become a channel leading to the metaphorical landscapes I am now painting.”

In April 2018, Gawens’ plein air art was accepted into the juried Philadelphia Sketch Club’s 155th Annual Small Oil Painting Exhibit. Art shows that are juried require an artist to submit their artworks for show and only some is accepted for exhibition. Gawens had two oil paintings accepted, including one that featured Lake Marburg and the other was a painting of gourds turned into birdhouses. Both were done en plein air at Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pennsylvania.


Last year, she participated in the 2018 Carroll County Arts Council’s Members Show. Her painting featured birch trees against a dark purple background that won the People’s Choice Award.

Gawens was also invited to be in the 2018 GFWC Woman’s Club Show held quarterly at the Non-Profit Building in Westminster. The shows are held in the conference rooms where the Woman’s Club has installed a professional art hanging system.

Gawens has also done portrait commissions since she was 18 in pen and ink pointillism and graphite (pencil). She has also done some portraits with colored pencil and paint.

Recently, Gawens was hired to be an art instructor at COB51 in TownMall of Westminster.

Gawens is featured in a duet show with Fred Nastvogel that opened Wednesday, May 1 and runs through June 24 at Off Track Art in Westminster ( The public is invited to attend the opening reception held on Saturday, May 11. Nastvogel works in wood and a lot of Gawens’ art revolves around nature.

“The pairing of us in a collaborative art show seems almost natural,” she said.


Gawens recently participated in the Hanover Area Art Guild’s Open Show. She will also be a vendor with Off Track Art at Art in the Park on June 1, held by the Carroll County Arts Council. Gawens plans to participate in the 2019 Carroll County Arts Council Members Show.

“Art is an outlet for me. There are three hierarchal steps every creative individual goes through: imitation, emulation and creation,” Gawens said. “Most of my art career has been in the imitation and emulation phases. Now, I feel that I am just beginning to enter the creation phase.

“I feel good creating artwork that is more meaningful to me. Through my commissions and partnership at Off Track Art, the recognition and exposure I have been receiving has kicked up a notch, and I am grateful for all the opportunities they have provided me in the art community.”

Contact Gawens at She is also on Facebook and Instagram.