the words S.O. Original are flanked by white unicorns

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Biography of Sarah Olsen


    Sarah Ann Shokoff was born at North York General Hospital seeming for all the world to be a normal little baby.  By four years old her artistic nature became apparent with her love for music and art.  Sarah's kindergarten teacher noted on her report card that Sarah enjoyed teaching the other children new songs.  

    Sarah's Mother studied art in her teenage years.  Sarah's Father played the guitar.  Sarah's Great Uncle was an artist too.  And so, Sarah was doomed to become an artist, and secretly delighted.

    It was in Grade five that Sarah decided to become a visual artist.  At her Public School, Friday afternoons were for art.  Every artwork she had that year her art teacher exclaimed over, borrowed, and showed off to all the students as a great example.  Many of these pieces then ended up in the school's foyer display case for all the school to see.  The poor girl was given such a big head by this that it's really not her fault that she wanted to become an artist.  Below is an example of her grade five work, try not to laugh too hard.

paper mache cat As Sarah entered her teenage years her Mother tried ever insistingly on getting rid of this piece, but all efforts failed and the white paper mache cat is now Sarah's husband's problem.  The paper mache cat reminds Sarah of where she started out.  Over the years she's only grown more fond of it.
sketch of a hilly road through scenic farmland

    In Grade seven Sarah was given the award for "Best in Class" for art at her second public school.  She started learning art basics like perspective in her drawings.  To the left is one of her sketches.

    Sarah loved to draw nature, cats, and unicorns.  In Grade eight she got to try her hand at woodworking.  To the right are some of her favourites.

wooden cut outs of the name "Sarah"in a rainbow of colour with cats on it, and a unicorn
self portrait of Sarah Shokoff reflection in a mirror in a dark hallway. Mirror reflects fantasy land with flying dragon, star filled sky and unicorns in forest

    In High School due to limited electives, Sarah had to skip art in Grade nine, but was later allowed to skip a grade of art to catch up to the OAC (Grade 13) level.  When she was in grade twelve, the OAC art class was assigned to paint murals.  Sarah was asked by her art teacher to also paint a mural based on one of her smaller class pieces.  The murals were on thick boards about four by six feet.  Sarah spent many, many hours outside of class to work on this project.  She even carried it home, (with the help of a friend,) to get more work done on it.  When she was finished it was displayed with the other murals high up on the wall in the cafeteria.  It depicted three cats sleeping in tree branches with a background of a rainbow coloured sky and a setting sun.

In the summer at the end of Sarah's grade twelve school year, her godfather commissioned her to paint an image he had envisioned.  It was of a sailing ship coming out of a storm.  Sarah had no previous knowledge of sailboat design and spent many hours finding pictures and studying their rigging. To the right is a thumbnail of the painting. 

a sailing ship in rough waters leaving behind a storm

   At the end of the summer the picture was not yet completed.  So when her OAC art teacher said that the students needed a theme for their work that school year; Sarah chose sailing ships.  Unfortunately, Sarah's art teacher would not accept an artwork on canvas board as all the students were to build their own wood and canvas frames, nor would she allow Sarah to change her theme.  So began the imaginative journey of painting sailing ships with one foot into the realm of fantasy.  

    The first ship sailed on a sea of fire without burning.  The second left the remains of a ship in an ancient forest.  The next work showed a close up of a dragon wrapped around the mast.  The forth depicted worlds within worlds.  And the last ship carried the dead through the gates of heaven.  Perhaps not quite what Sarah's art teacher had had in mind.  You can see Sarah's ships on the Gallery page.

self portrait with night sky and crow

Sarah graduated high school as an Ontario Academic Scholar but could not go straight into university as she lacked the funds.  She took a year off to work.  With her combined savings and OSAP loans she was able to attend University the following year.  During her year off Sarah had a lot of time to sketch, paint, and sculpt.  Autumn Unicorn, Watching, and Blue Crow were all created in this time period.

    Sarah looked at many programs of study, and tried very hard to convince herself to apply for engineering, or accounting, or anything down to earth that would lead to financial stability.  However the the thought of endless homework, assignments, and exams filled her with dread.  The only thing that seemed worth all that effort was Fine Art studies.

    Sarah was accepted to York University to Major in Visual Art, but when she received late acceptance to Major in Music she accepted and minored in Visual Art instead.  She was thrilled by her affiliation to Winter's College and met many new friends right away.  Only a few weeks in to her first year of studies she met her husband to be but she wouldn't date him until March, six months later.

    In University Sarah took classes in drawing, painting, and sculpture.  She carved a one foot cubed block of limestone; into a cat of course.  Sarah sculpted with clay, made a mold, and filled it with cement.  She also learned basic welding to create a metal sculpture shown to the right.  In this piece Sarah tried to use the multicoloured hues caused by heating the metal to create even balance of pattern on the left and right of the face.  Sarah won a science award for "Best in Class" in Natural Light and Sound and graduated on the Dean's Honour Roll with a Bachelor in Fine Arts.

metal sculpture of face with spiraling metal rods comming out it's back

    After University Sarah had difficulty finding job in fine arts and ended up doing office work for a law firm which promptly started sucking the life out of her.  She moved on to working for a small retirement company, which became like family.

self portrain through time

 Sarah married  Phillip Olsen in 2007 and changed her name to Sarah Ann Olsen. Their wedding was fantasy themed and Sarah designed most of the decorations herself: invitations, flags, card box, favour boxes, sword plaques, and a painting of the wedding party.  Unfortunately not long after getting married Phillip's health took a turn for the worst.  He was barely able  to walk for a year and Sarah became the sole supporter of the family and took over most of the household duties as well.  During this time Sarah's stress levels grew as her free time to express her art shrank.  Phil was able to return to work when his health got better and Sarah decided she needed a change in career.

    Sarah left her stable job behind and, with the support of her husband, went on a hiatus to explore an artistic career.  She painted more over the next few months than she had in the last five years.  As her savings dwindled she went back to work.  Sarah decided to only work part time in order to keep painting.

    In 2009 a friend suggested for Sarah to consider selling prints.  In 2010 another friend suggested the company Cafe Press and so S.O. Original was created.  The business name was registered.  All of Sarah's best artwork were painstakingly digitized in high quality.  Each image was sized to a dozen templates to match printing size.  And endless late nights were spent setting up an online shop.  S.O. Original launched it's sales site in December 2010 and Sarah Olsen held her breath in eager anticipation.  

    Sarah was met with enthusiastic responses from friends and family but the site did not soar.  She realized that she needed a website searchable by search engines, the flexibility to create a website from scratch, the technical ability to make one, and some serious marketing.  As Sarah's ideas grew she realized the enormity and the challenge of the project were daunting.  She set at it with fierce determination and chipped away day and night and created the website you are now visiting.  

    Going forward Sarah hopes to expand the content of this site, make more previously created artworks available in prints, and keep painting.  When she started her business she set aside a painting she was working on and it has been calling to her ever since to be completed.  

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