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Local Artist ‘Sabtastic’ Leads Fulfilling Freelance Career

Sabrina O'Donnell artist sabtastic

By Jared Gomes

Sabrina O’Donnell, or Sabtastic online, is a local Edmonton artist.

She creates a lot of different art but the two things that she is most well known for are her drawings of cute fat birds and monster girls. They are two things that don’t usually come from the same place.

The inspiration for her monster girl illustrations comes from 50’s and 60’s pin up artists like Gil Elvgren. As for her birds, there is no real inspirational source, she just purely enjoys drawing them.

“I like to hop back and forth between the cute and the dark or the adorable and sultry,” said O’Donnell.

Sabtastic print of bird on corgi.
Her current favourite piece and her most recent print. | Supplied photo.

Sabrina has been drawing since she could hold crayons and knew that this was the career that she wanted to pursue. Her mother was an artist and helped her to grow and encouraged her with her art. She also had an elementary teacher who was an artist as well as a full-time teacher. That teacher helped encourage a lot of the habits that Sabrina still practices now.

Sabrina travels to many conventions selling her art. When she first started, she was not alone. Initially she began her art career with her two other sisters who create similar work. When they went to conventions they would work together and share a table. They all now have a large enough following to each run their own booths.

“What I do is very, very fulfilling. It doesn’t feel like much of a job but it’s definitely easy to fill the day with work. The best part of it pre-Covid, was traveling around Canada and the US meeting other like-minded people and artists who are just as passionate about art as me,” O’Donnell said.

After high school Sabrina got a four-year bachelor’s degree of education for English and arts but decided to carve her own path through freelancing. Looking at her work it’s evident how her education has contributed. O’Donnell doesn’t stick to a specific style. This has allowed her to adapt and be flexible in her work.

“As a freelancer it’s super valuable if you know a variety of different styles, mediums, and skills in art. Weather it be traditional digital realistic cutesy or whatever, the more you know the better,” said O’Donnell.

artist print of female demon
O’Donnell just completed a cover for a very successful Kickstarter. She was hired to do promotional art for a company called Ava’s Demon. The image is of Wrathia the Demon Queen, another new print. | Supplied photo.

Along with everything else this year O’Donnell’s work was also impacted by COVID-19.
“It decimated everything. It was brutal.”

Normally O’Donnell has a convention or show booked every second weekend, but they were all cancelled. All the flights, hotels and plans she had made had to be cancelled as well. For a freelancer, where this is a big source of her income, it was hard.

“The first couple months were rough,” O’Donnell said.

Eventually markets started opening and she also started doing a lot more work online. O’Donnell says things have started to level out now.

“There is a silver lining to being forced to stay at home: more time to focus on my art and health,” she said.

“There are so many expectations on people and so many assumptions about what’s going to do well, and what’s going to sell and what’s popular. With art it’s all subjective. You can look at something for a second and think “that’s not my thing”. But if you are really passionate about what you are making, and your face lights up when you talk about it…I think people pick up on that and it resonates with them,” O’Donnell said.

“It maybe inspires them to a degree too and I think that if you can instill that kind of reaction you are going to go so much further if you truly passionately [and] love what you’re doing.”

O’Donnell encourages any budding artists to reach out to her.

“If there are any aspiring artists out there that are interested in local markets or trying it out for the first time don’t hesitate to drop me a line,” O’Donnell said.

To follow her work or to get in contact with her, visit her Twitter @Sabtastique or Instagram @Sabtastic.

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