Wednesday, February 20, 2019 Medina 27°

Medina Twp

Brushing up: Medina Township teen creates portraits ahead of yearlong apprenticeship


You could call her a Renaissance woman, but Sarah Griffith is still in her teens. At 17, Sarah already is an accomplished portrait painter. She started selling her paintings online when she was 15. This fall, she plans to embark on a yearlong apprenticeship before attending college.

Though she has a passion for art, Sarah plans to study politics, history and philosophy when she attends college.

On Friday, Sarah unveiled her most recent and demanding portrait commission — six portraits of the six presidents of Philpott Rubber Co. in Brunswick. The portraits, which are based on old photographs, were completed in about six months.

“I usually like to have about three months for one, so to do six — I had to work hard,” Sarah said.

This fall, the Medina Township resident is headed to Maryland to complete a one-year apprenticeship with Cedric Egeli, one of the nation’s most successful portrait painters, whose works are displayed at the Pentagon, Duke and Brandeis universities, Mount Sinai and Johns Hopkins hospitals.

The apprenticeship is exclusive, as Egeli doesn’t take apprenticeship students on a regular basis. A weeklong workshop session with Egeli costs students between $600 and $1,200 according to his website.

“I’m very excited about it, it’s an amazing opportunity,” Sarah said.

Sarah made contact with Egeli through studies she has completed online with Egeli’s student Tim Chambers. Sarah said she sends Chambers high-resolution photos of her work and what skills she wants to work on, and he offers lecture style lessons, via Skype.

“If I have questions I can type them, but usually I just listen,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from him.”

Sarah’s parents said their daughter has always stood out among her peers. At age 7, she insisted she be allowed to play tackle football on a Pee

Wee team, as her older brothers had done.

At only 54 pounds, her parents were worried — many of the players were twice her size and near the 8-year-old-and-younger limit of 100 pounds.

At first, her father, Frank Griffith, hoped she might have a good arm and could play quarterback. Remarkably, Sarah was best at tackling. She was named starting middle linebacker, captain of the team.

She got the training in tackling from her older brothers, her father said.

“She’d just lean in with her shoulders and take them down,” he said. “She was good, but we wouldn’t let her do it another year.”

Since then, she hasn’t stopped setting goals and tackling them. Sarah continued to compete in sports, serving as a goalie for the Internationals Premiere soccer team. She took piano lessons, was homeschooled by her mother, Jane Griffith, and was successful at speech and debate tournaments they traveled to compete in. But among her many activities, Sarah said a profound love of art topped her list.

At age 14, she began designing websites, earning her first income, and designed sites for Westfield Bank, Gerspacher Realty, and more. At 15, she enrolled in the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy to create a business plan and founded Sarah Griffith Art & Web Design Studios.

Her dream of being an entrepreneur follows in her father’s footsteps. Frank Griffith is an entrepreneur and head of Griffith Holdings, which he said has helped launch seven high-tech start-up companies. He also serves as executive vice president of the Alice Training Institute, a

Medina-based national organization that helps schools and businesses prepare for active shooter situations.

Sarah put her marketing skills to work and completed her first official portrait of Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell at age 15. Earlier this year, she started work on the Philpott portraits when she was 16 years old. When her work was unveiled to staff on Friday, Sarah thanked those in attendance, for what has been her largest undertaking so far as a portrait painter.

“This company is so nice, it’s not every day you work with people who are so friendly and encouraging,” she said.

Sarah said members of the Philpott family provided photographs of the company’s first three presidents: John Philpott; his son-in-law, Blake Cooper; and grandson-in-law. Tom Ellison. Family members talked about eye and hair color so she could transform black and white photos into portraits. Portraits of Jerry Vaughn, Joe Kuzma and company President Mike Baach also were done using a series of photographs.

Sarah said the portraits are intended to reflect the individual personalities of the men depicted, but she wanted the series to work well as a set hanging on a wall for the company.

“I worked very intently to make (the portraits) stand alone, but be a part of one line of thought,” she said.

Sarah said she gravitated to portrait paintings because of the challenge in capturing a person’s attributes.

“When you photograph a person, you’re getting a few seconds in time,” she said. “But a portrait, it’s more holistic. I love being able to capture an entire personality.”

After her yearlong apprenticeship, Sarah plans to attend college at Patrick Henry College in Virginia and study history, political science and possibly philosophy. She said she will continue her art studies off-campus with Chambers, who lives in Virginia, on a part-time basis in addition to her school studies. She said Egeli’s studios are also close by and she hopes to continue attending his workshops and learning from him.

“I’m not going to stop painting, I love doing it,” she said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or Follow her on Twitter @lorengenson.

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