Sarah Keele: Disney with an Edge


Sarah Keele is an illustrator and graduated from BYU with a BFA in the Concept Design Track of the Illustration Emphasis and received the Outstanding Senior Graduate Award from the Illustration Department. She represented the Design Program by giving a speech at convocation. Keele and her husband live in Utah.


Tell us about your background. I was born in California and lived all over the place until I finally settled in Utah. With purchasing a nice big home and a little one on the way, I think we’re here to stay. However, a little piece of my heart will always belong to Virginia where my grandparents reside. They live in a woodsy area with about a dozen acres of land. I went there every summer growing up and it’s where some of my fondest childhood memories were made. A lot of influence from my fantasy style artwork comes from there too. Shortly after graduation I had a brief internship with Origin Studios until I was hired on as a full time contract artist at Wahoo Studios here in Orem. Now that contract has ended and so I’m working from home on various freelance projects, home remodeling and preparing for a baby to join our family.

Describe your art. I have heard it described as Disney style with an edge. I am not actively trying to emulate Disney artists, but I suppose that if that’s what comes naturally to me, I might as well roll with it. That said, I do on occasion try elements of styles that do not come naturally to me, but that I consider to be beautiful, in an effort to continually broaden my ‘style spectrum’ so to speak. My goal is for one day, people won’t look at my work and see a strong ‘Disney’ influence, but rather they’ll be able to immediately put my name next to my style.

How do you think art fits into our worship in the Church? How could we use it more effectively? This is a great question. In D&C 25:12 it says: “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” This scripture can be applied to visual art as well. A painting of the righteous is a prayer unto God. This doesn’t mean that every painting an artist does has to be a painting of Christ or some religious sentiment, but rather the state of mind he or she has while creating a work of art. “For my soul delighteth in the painting of the heart.” For me, I have to have gratitude and thanksgiving for the Lord always. I wouldn’t have got as far as I have without him. And, it’s not because he gave me a talent, it’s because he gave me the opportunities and encouragement I needed to develop it. Another thing to remember is that art is a defining feature in culture and has been for centuries. That’s a huge and awesome responsibility to artists of all sorts. A childhood friend once asked me, “What’s so great about art?” This childhood friend’s life did infact revolve around the latest video games, her favorite movies and Saturday morning cartoons. There is an artist behind every pop culture icon and yet, it’s so subtle and so powerful, children don’t recognize it as art. To them, it’s reality. Recognizing this as you create art, especially art that children will be exposed to, you can have a positive influence on how people see the world, what kind of person they become and how they in turn impact the world.

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Sarah Keele