I caught up with Sarah Thibodeaux on a beautiful fall morning at her one bedroom apartment on the corner of Sixth and Acker streets NE. In true artistic fashion, Thibodeaux wore an oversized sweater tainted by several spots of Alizarin Crimson oil paint. She showed us her latest work, a commissioned portrait of one of her neighbors.
November 6, 2010 would be Thibodeaux’s last day as a Capitol Hill resident as she made final preparations to return to her native New Orleans. Surrounded by boxes and the sound of her yellow lab Boudreau chewing away at a raw hide, we spoke of her time here in DC and her experiences as a working artist in the Capitol Hill community.
Thibodeaux arrived in Washington in September of 2007 after her husband Troy was offered a position with the Associated Press ‘ Washington office. Thibodeaux, who had studied at the Art Students League in New York City in the late Nineties, quickly adapted to life on the Hill and easily assimilated into the local artistic community.
In early 2009, Thibodeaux began teaching portrait painting classes at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) on Saturday afternoons. Her alla prima portrait painting techniques, in the tradition of John Singer Sargent, emphasizes single heavy brush strokes that finish and define the subject. Her course was one of the more popular with the adult students at CHAW. Thibodeaux also organized and led the Saturday morning figure drawing course, an open drawing session frequented by many of the area’s local artists.
During her tenure in Washington, Thibodeaux had the opportunity to pursue her specialty, portrait painting, by receiving private commissions. She also took advantage of her new surroundings to paint some of Washington’s most beloved sites such as the Key Bridge and Fletcher’s boat house.
Thibodeaux exhibited her collection of portraits, still lives and Washington landscapes at Studio H’s inaugural show on October 17, 2009. Her work was very well received both by the press and by the 300 people who came to her opening.
However, once again, Troy Thibodeaux’s job moved only this time back to New Orleans. Sarah and Troy Thibodeaux will return to the Faubourg Marigny where they still own a home. The Faubourg Marigny lies just East of the French quarter and South of the Elysian Fields. “Marigny has a whole bunch of new galleries popping up everywhere. It’s very exciting” says Thibodeaux. “New Orleans has a great tradition of creativity not just in terms of music but visually with all of the masks and costumes used by the marching bands.”
Thibodeaux has already been invited to teach portrait painting at the New Orleans school of Art and Craft. She will also participate in the Bywater Art Market, a monthly art fair that where local artists sell original, affordable art.
Naturally, I had to ask Thibodeaux about HBO’s new hit Series Treme, set in present day New Orleans, to see if it held any “street cred” with the locals. “Yes, I love Treme” Thibodeaux exclaimed. “That show pretty much sums up my life! Marching with the second lines- yes, it is incredibly accurate.” Thibodeaux’s brother has made a number of cameo appearances in Treme handing Davis McAlary (played by Steve Zahn) coffee or a newspaper. Davis McAlary’s character is based on the life of one their good friends. “I couldn’t believe they actually made a show about him” Thibodeaux laughed.
Asked whether or not she would miss DC, Thibodeaux said “the Hill is such a great place to live. There is such a great sense of community here that you don’t find anywhere else. I’m also going to really miss the local artist community, the routine of the Saturday drawing sessions but especially the people in the open drawing session.” Thibodeaux also made her final “pilgrimage” to the museums to catch last glimpses of the Sargents and the Whistlers. “We take for granted that we have a Leonardo da Vinci right here in DC”. “And it’s all free” we added. “Yes and it’s all free” agreed Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux says that she will neither miss the winter, especially if we experience another “snomegedon”, nor the street lamp on Acker that shone brightly in her bedroom window at night. However, she will miss Lincoln Park and jogging on the Mall.
Thibodeaux plans on returning to the Hill next year to teach a weekend workshop in June. She will also compile a series of work to exhibit at Studio H sometime in 2012. As always, we will keep you abreast of these events on East City Art.