A Conversation with Local Artist Sabrina Cabada

Born in Washington, D.C., Sabrina Cabada grew up immersed in a creative world. The daughter of artists and gallery owners, her love for art and the business flourished. Although she studied fine art at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, she still considers herself a self-taught painter. Building from her success and engagement with the local art community, Sabrina is looking forward to continuing her collaborations with diverse, eclectic businesses and galleries nationwide, and continues to set her sights on ambitious opportunities ahead.

Using light movement and unique paint combinations, Sabrina creates her vibrant or subtle color palettes. Her portraits portray vivid narratives that offer captivating and authentic glimpses at both the vintage and modern woman. The artist’s abstracts are bold with both color and life – a contrast to her miniature collection titled “littles,” which satisfy her whimsical side. 

Sabrina lives and loves in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, Joe, kids, Hannah and Jake, and dog, Bear. 

How do you describe your work?
I am most passionate about my portraits. My subject matter bounces from era to era, from vintage to retro to present day. With my use of exaggerated color and acrylic paint as my primary medium, my paintings take on a pop art quality. 

Why do you consider yourself a self-taught painter despite having gone to art school?
I grew up surrounded by art and developed my love for vibrant colors from my father’s use of bold and vivid paint colors in his abstract work. My style evolution began as a child. The techniques I learned in school were and are valuable, but in the end, I arrived at this point on my own and proceed alone. 

What is the creative process behind your work?
My method or process is not conventional. I rarely sketch because I find it difficult to stay within the lines. My color palette evolves as the painting starts to take form. It is more of an instinct than a formalized plan. This process may mean several frustrating hours of time spent on the expression of a smile, for instance, but I feel this is the only way to achieve good work. If it were easy and I didn’t invest the time, heart and soul, I would not consider myself an artist.

Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration can come from anywhere, but once I find it, I file it away until I am ready to give it life. I look for interesting shadows, for example, the way light hits sunglasses. When something resonates with me, I know it instantly. 

Do you have a favorite painter who has inspired your work?
I have several painters, both classical and modern day. Until you stop, think, and write about artists who inspire you, you never realize they had such an influence on your art. Obviously, my father was my first influence. His comfort with color always gave me courage to experiment myself.

I have a long list of artists I am inspired by. I have always loved Wayne Thiebaud, Alex Katz, Edward Hopper, and portraits by Francesco Clemente. 

My favorite modern-day artists are Ali Cavanaugh, Jeff Hein, Alyssa Monks, Leah Giberson, and for fun, Ashley Longshore. Many years ago, I walked into a SoHo gallery and saw an exhibit by Kelly Reemtsen. I thought, “Wow! I want this!”

How has your art changed over the years? 
My past work seemed more loose with my brush strokes and I painted small and safe. I have worked my way up to large canvases and more defined lines. I still enjoy portrait work but now I’m dabbling into abstract. I am fascinated to find them to be more difficult than I thought.

What piece of your work embodies your true style and reflects your artistic tendencies?
Hard to say. My true style is constantly evolving but my artist tendencies will always sway toward vibrant color and portraits. I couldn’t imagine painting in black and white. 

Was there a particular moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
I’d been told that I have a talent since kindergarten and fortunately grew up in an artistic environment. It would seem like art to be the natural course for me, but honestly, I would say when you sell a painting and you see how much someone is going to cherish what you created… it’s a rush. After my first art exhibit at my parent’s gallery I knew that I would continue as an artist. 

If you were not an artist, what might have you become?
I love interior and fashion design. I have several interior design projects I juggle currently. Something creative… that’s all I have ever wanted to do. 

Although, a reliable paycheck would be nice.

What advice would you give to a young artist hoping to make a career out of being an artist?
Be prolific, work hard, power through criticism and rejection, believe in yourself, don’t give up, and go for it. I think sometimes as a young artist you want to hold on to your paintings until you get them just right or you don’t want to sell them at all. Share and sell your work! It enables you to paint more and you become a legitimate artist. I could go on and on about this subject.

What is your greatest pleasure in life?
Spending time with my family and friends, traveling, and being alone with tools to create.

You can find more of Sabrina’s work at SabrinaCabada.com