Sarah Ellen Reay is a third generation Arizonan and paints under her mother's surname to honor her rich western heritage. The Reays were a hardy stock of cattle ranchers and pioneers to venture west in search of of a better life in the mid 1800’s. Her great-great grandparents along with her 9 year old great-grandfather crossed the Colorado River via Lee’s Ferry in 1884 and made the long difficult trip with their family and cattle herd down through the rugged Mogollon Rim high country, along the Gila River, and eventually settled and homesteaded in the desert canyons of Southeast Arizona along Aravaipa creek and the San Pedro River. There her Great-grandfather, Granny, and Grandpa and his brothers farmed, ran cattle, and planted some of the first orchards in the state. Her grandfather is to this day the registered owner of one of the oldest cattle brands (Seven Slash Z) in the state of Arizona. Her Granny came to Arizona in the early 1900’s to be a school teacher, riding to the one-room school house on horseback every day. Stories of the seedier side of Sarah’s western heritage proliferated from her maternal grandmother’s branch of the family tree, with family connections to both of the Younger brothers who rode with Jesse James and both married into her family.
Sarah grew up spending many of her childhood days on her Grandparent’s cattle ranch and farm in the central Arizona desert, and exploring the high country of the Oak Creek/Sedona and Mogollon rim areas of Arizona at her Granny’s cabin, all the while absorbing the stories and history of her strong ancestors and the native peoples who left their mark on the rugged hill country centuries before. Her love for the west and the rugged beauty of her home state of Arizona was bred into her, communicated through the quiet but proud and passionate eyes of her cowboy grandfather, and the ambitious and proud encouragement of her grandmother as they sat and watched Arizona sunsets during their quiet evening visits. These formative years proved very influential in Sarah’s development as a fine artist.
Coming from a family of artists, painting and drawing just came naturally to the ambitious young girl. She began winning art contests at the age of 12. By her senior year in high school she was an accomplished watercolor artist, winning “Best of Show” for the entire state of Arizona at the Annual Arizona State Fair exhibition in 1996. Always an intelligent academic with a love of science and history, Sarah went on to attend Grand Canyon University earning a B.S. degree in Human Biology with the thought of going on to Medical School, but her passion for art still called to her. She minored in Fine Studio Art, and as a graduation present in 2000, sent herself to Europe for the summer to study the art and history of the Romantic and Enlightenment periods, exploring as many museums and architectural landmarks of England and France as she could find. She returned home knowing that she had to find a way to make a living doing what she loved. Within months she became an acclaimed muralist, painting murals for state politicians, business owners, and private collectors and residents throughout Arizona, California, and Hawaii. She later thrived as a commercial artist and illustrator, creating a huge
library of best-selling designs for major retailers and manufacturers as a tableware, tile, home décor, and textile designer. Her designs have been featured in major publications such as Phoenix Home and Gardens, Cooking with Paula Deen, Better Homes and Gardens, and many others.
During this time, Sarah continued to develop her passion and skill for fine representational art, focusing on the landscapes, flora, and peoples of her western heritage. In 2009, she entered her first art contest in many years and was a juried finalist for the State of Arizona’s Capital Christmas Tree Art Exhibit at the state capital, her piece was also one of the few selected and had the honor of displaying at the Governor’s invitational ceremony as the tree passed en route to Washington D.C.
Sarah is a resident of Payson, Arizona, living in the shadow of the majesty of the Mogollon Rim, with the East Verde River flowing literally through her back yard, and open range cattle ranches surrounding her. She is also an avid outdoorswoman and hiker. Many of her paintings come directly from her explorations and photography/ hiking trips. Her love of history and scientific research lend themselves to rich narratives in her paintings. She adheres to an artistic philosophy that in a world filled with very talented artists, artwork that stands out should not only be beautiful and technically refined, but it should also tell a story, celebrate the whimsy, narratives, romance, and history of bygone days, and capture the fleeting moments of awe-striking beauty that fills her beloved high country, which so few are privileged to experience in real life.
Sarah has been a member of the Oil Painters of America, the Arizona Watercolor Association, American Plains Artists, and the Payson Art League.