Surface Design and Painting Inspiration with Sarah Golden

“Surround yourself with as many other creative moms as you can, whether it’s in person or online. It’s some of the best conversation and support because they totally get it.”


Sarah Golden is a painter and surface designer living in Sacramento, California, with her husband and 5-year-old twin girls. She paints abstracts, botanicals and design fabric for Andover Fabrics. She loves working on multiple projects and getting paint on her hands. See her work at Sarah Golden Studio.

Tell us a little bit about your history. How did you become a painter and surface designer?

I’ve wanted to design fabric for a long time, say 13 years, before I even considered myself or knew I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be a surface designer. I’ve always been drawn to textiles. But there was one issue, I wasn’t actually making work. It was all in my head and ideas, nothing on paper, nothing tangible.

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About 4 years ago, I had 1-year-old twins at the time, I decided I wanted to be an artist as my career and start sooner, rather than waiting till they were school age. I wanted to create for a few years without the pressure of making a certain income. Back then I was starting with small chunks of time, just getting the habit of a daily practice. It literally was 15 minutes a day at first.

Sarah Golden Studio (photo credit Jacob Golden)

What’s your favorite art medium?

My painting inspiration comes from working with acrylics, they dry so fast, there’s a freedom with that. I can stack paintings up and move paintings around without too much worry of wet paint. I’ve been using oils more now, which can take days or weeks to dry, so it makes me appreciate the immediacy of acrylic paint.

Do you have a signature style when it comes to your designs? What’s your process for creating and where do you look for design and painting inspiration?

I think of my style as “gallery wall”, a collection of works that go together. For me it’s about the act of making, the enjoyment and flow I get from that. I use a lot of different mediums to create my work. I paint on canvas, wood panels, block print, draw digitally a lot, mark-making on paper, acrylics, gouache, ink, and paper. Design and painting inspiration for me comes from color and color combinations. A vintage car, the pale blue and cream of a hospital wall in a television show, the texture of vintage paper.

sarah golden painting inspiration
Sarah Golden Studio (photo credit Jacob Golden)

What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve had to deal with in your business and how did you deal with it?

How to manage the art-making with the work that has to be done to support that work. Emails, admin, shipping, website, newsletter, social media, the list goes on and on. Time management basically. In the beginning, you’re working in a vacuum, there isn’t much coming in from the outside, so it was fairly gradual for me, but it can be overwhelming and lead to burn out.

Chunking my time into bigger blocks, being clear on where my priority and focus is for a certain season, saying no more than I say yes, taking intentional time off to rest, not working in the evenings. Making tons of work that isn’t on a deadline is what I love, it gives me energy and painting inspiration.

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We see that your work has been featured in some very high profile publications and with larger companies! How long did it take you to get that point, and what would you say is the turning point in your career? And was there anything specific that helped you get there?

Andover Fabrics happened pretty quickly, I had only been blocking printing and showing my work for 9 months and then I got an email asking if I was interested in designing a fabric collection. I screamed when I got that email, I still remember seeing the notification pop up and I felt weak in the knees reading the subject line! I think being clear with my goals and sharing my work that aligned with those goals helped a ton.

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What are your future plans and goals for your work and career?

Continue painting and selling my work directly, licensing my work and collaborating with more companies. Working during the school year and keeping summer months and December light or with no client work–just personal projects so I can be home with my kids a lot.

Running your own creative business you tend to fill many shoes. How do you balance work and family life?

That’s the ultimate question, I don’t think balance is the word because there’s always a pull no matter what I’m doing, especially if I’m trying to do too much. Having a painting studio outside of the house has been helpful, it’s a couple of miles away and I ride my bike. I try and be present with what I’m doing, family time is family time, work time is work time and not cross the two too much. But the biggest thing is adding ourselves to that equation, not as a mother or worker, as a person. Work, family life and myself.

My work time is not “time for myself”. I love what I do, but I am not my work. For a while, I lost my hobbies because all my hobbies were now related to my art business. So this year I started pottery classes and I work in my garden a lot, it’s helped me tremendously, to recognize how important taking that time just for me is. Without the pressure of being productive or even particularly good at it, just for the sake of making.

Sarah Golden Studio (photo credit Jacob Golden)

I see that you have twin girls! I’ve just delivered my twin boys a month ago! Any advice for new twin moms?

Everything seemed to revolve around sleep, for them and us. Enjoy the time when they’re in infant car seats that you can pop in and out when they’re sleeping. Go enjoy restaurants and adult things because once they’re mobile (and louder), it’s so much harder to relax because you’re just wrangling kids the whole time! Also, you’re gonna hear “you sure have your hands full” so many times a day it’s infuriating:)

What are some of your favorite things to do, places to go and events to attend with your kids that spark their creative inspiration?

I love staying home with them, being in the backyard, exploring the garden and playing in the dirt is the most fun and creative times we have. They get really into pretend magic potions with flowers and branches, finding caterpillars and digging for worms. They love my fabric stash too!

painting inspiration
Sarah Golden Studio (photo credit Jacob Golden)

Do you have tips, resources or tools that you would like to share with other creative moms?

Surround yourself with as many other creative moms as you can, whether it’s in person or online. It’s some of the best conversation and support because they totally get it.

Finally, any good advice that you’ve received or words that have motivated you or given you painting inspiration?

I really love Sister Corita Kent’s 10 Rules.