Sarah Ann Shokoff was born at North York General Hospital
for all the world to be a normal little baby. By four years
her artistic nature became apparent with her love for music and art.
Sarah's kindergarten teacher noted on her report card that
enjoyed teaching the other children new songs.
Mother studied art in her teenage
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
become a visual artist. At her Public School, Friday
were for art. Every artwork she had that year her
borrowed, and showed
off to all the students as a great example. Many of these
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
really not her fault that she wanted to become an artist.
an example of her grade five work, try not to laugh too hard.
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.
paper mache cat reminds Sarah of where she started out. Over
years she's only grown more fond of it.
In Grade seven
Sarah was given the award for "Best in Class" for art
second public school.
She started learning art basics like perspective in her
To the left is one of her sketches.
nature, cats, and
unicorns. In Grade eight she got to try her hand at
To the right are some of her favourites.
High School due
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.
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
one of her smaller class pieces. The murals were on thick
four by six feet. Sarah spent many, many hours outside of
work on this project. She even carried it home, (with the
friend,) to get more work done on it. When she was finished
displayed with the other murals high up on the wall in the cafeteria.
It depicted three cats sleeping in tree branches with a
a rainbow coloured sky and a setting sun.
at the end of Sarah's grade twelve school year, her godfather
commissioned her to paint an image he had envisioned. It was
sailing ship coming out of a storm. Sarah had no previous
of sailboat design and spent many hours finding pictures and studying
their rigging. To the right is a thumbnail of the painting.
At the end of the
summer the picture
was not yet completed. So when her OAC art teacher said that
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
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
work showed a close up of a dragon wrapped around the mast.
depicted worlds within worlds. And the last ship carried the
through the gates of heaven. Perhaps not quite what Sarah's
teacher had had in mind. You can see Sarah's ships on the Gallery
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
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,
and sculpt. Autumn Unicorn, Watching,
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
that effort was Fine Art studies.
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
and met many new friends right away. Only a few weeks in to
first year of studies she met her husband to be but she wouldn't date
him until March, six months later.
Sarah took classes in drawing, painting, and sculpture. She
one foot cubed block of limestone; into a cat of course.
sculpted with clay, made
mold, and filled it with cement. She also learned basic
create a metal sculpture shown to the right. In this piece
to use the multicoloured hues caused by heating the metal to create
even balance of pattern on the left and right of the face.
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.
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
which became like family.
Phillip Olsen in
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
health took a turn for the worst. He was barely
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
levels grew as her free time to express her art shrank. Phil
to return to work when his health got better and Sarah decided she
needed a change in career.
left her stable job behind and, with the support of her husband, went
on a hiatus to explore an artistic career. She painted more
next few months than she had in the last five years. As her
dwindled she went back to work. Sarah decided to only work
in order to keep painting.
a friend suggested for Sarah to consider selling prints. In
another friend suggested the company Cafe Press and so S.O. Original
was created. The business name was registered. All
Sarah's best artwork were painstakingly digitized in high
Each image was sized to a dozen templates to match printing
And endless late nights were spent setting up an online shop.
S.O. Original launched it's sales site in December 2010 and
Olsen held her breath in eager anticipation.
was met with
enthusiastic responses from friends and family but the site did not
soar. She realized that she needed a website searchable by
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
and chipped away day and night and created the website you are now
forward Sarah hopes
to expand the content of this site, make more previously created
artworks available in prints, and keep painting. When she
her business she set aside a painting she was working on and it has
been calling to her ever since to be completed.