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Meet Saz Ross

Today we’d like to introduce you to Saz Ross. Them and their team share their story with us below:

Saz has been doodling on her pants ever since she was a kid. She was born and raised on Queens/Long Island until she moved to Maryland to attend Towson University for her bachelor’s and master’s degree in art education. After spending several years working and thriving in the field of art education as a classroom teacher, Saz won the 2016 Maryland Art Education Association Elementary Teacher of the Year Award for the Howard County Public School System. After that moment, Saz started thinking about how to keep achieving more as a young artist and educator. She decided to quit her tenured job in art education a few years later to pursue her own illustration/art workshop business. The leap into this new career pursuit came around the same time Saz’s mother was dying of Multiple Myeloma. At the most crippling moment of her life and feeling more lost than ever, she was able to use her creative outlet in illustration to build a thriving business in freelance design and speaking. After seeing how her mother waited so long for retirement to find happiness in life, Saz knew that she could not waste another second to go after her dreams.

After leaving her tenured career in Howard County, Saz’s love of art education led her to facilitating professional development workshops for the Maryland Art Education Association and the Maryland State Department of Education as one of the youngest Roster Artists ever hired while working as an Educational Director of an art education non-profit called Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center (LTYC). But this did not happen overnight. In the process of becoming an Educational Director, she found herself right back in the art classroom teaching in the Baltimore City Public School System. With the heat of her classroom reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and all of her crayons melting, she did whatever she could to make her students comfortable to make art-even under extreme conditions. Once Saz got promoted to the Director of Education at LTYC, she started finding ways to reach the most underserved populations in Baltimore City by partnering with homeless communities, detention centers, and low income neighborhoods. In her time working as a Director of Education, she has been able to impact the lives of thousands of students from kindergarteners to college students while building art programs and virtual arts business courses during the pandemic. Her goal is to help all people, no matter their circumstances while using creative outlets and passion as a way to make a sustainable income and educational/professional aspirations.
As Saz built her career in the non profit space, she wanted to also partner with local artists and businesses to reach more parts of the Baltimore community with her story and illustrations. In her three years of working full time, she has managed to make designs for creatives and business owners all over Maryland/DC such as Charm City Skatepark, Rasa Juice Shop, Bunnybear Cupcakes, and Greedy Reads. She has also partnered with musicians and bands such as Flowers De Moon, Deborah Bond, and Chasing Mice to design album art. All of her work touches upon the proximity between people, architecture, and wildlife with playfully creepy imagery. If Saz can make you look twice while triggering curiosity, she feels accomplished as an artist. All of her work shares a story and it is up to the viewer to fill in the blanks. This year, Saz has opened up her business to muraling and has already made her mark in parts of Maryland like Baltimore City and the Eastern Shore. She now balances her time working in her attic studio in Hampden, Baltimore while painting on the streets of Maryland. Saz wants to spread her whimsical designs to any place that is in need of new life. In the midst of doodling her way around Maryland and DC, Saz has also opened up about her artist journey at multiple conferences and on podcasts as a public speaker-most recently, on the Ted Talk stage in Philadelphia this year. In her speech, Get Lost: A Guide to Accessing Creativity, she explains how moments of feeling lost are the key ingredients for creative inspiration.
Saz thinks that the power of humanity lies within the hands of creativity but most people do not know that they are creative. She feels that accessing the creative mindset is possible for anyone, no matter who you are, no matter where you are from. Saz believes that one’s story is fuel for the most impactful work, so what are we waiting for?…Go share it. “We must get lost in creativity, in order to be found in the eyes of confidence.” -Saz Ross

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
This road has been anything but smooth. My journey has been bumpy, rough, and has come with an abundant amount of loss.

I quit my job in 2018 after not knowing how to cope with the loss of my mother who passed away in front of me. I started teaching art for a nonprofit and accepted a fraction of what I was paid previously to teach art in impoverished communities. I have had all of the crayons melt in my classroom and I have taught in spaces where students had no choice but to use the floor as a desk.

I almost lost my husband to my impulsive behavior and depression but I always knew that no matter what my life threw at me, my mom would protect me. I believe her spirit is what gave me the resilience and strength to keep reaching. Her spirit is alive in me and will never die.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I specialize in pen and ink illustration and storytelling. I consider myself to be a creative speaker and visual artist. My work challenges the space between the manmade and natural worlds. The imagery is playful yet powerful…it invites you in but will make you question what is being depicted.

I use pens and digital manipulation for custom artworks, logos, album art, and tattoo designs.

This past year, I have taken my business to new heights with muraling by creating my largest artwork yet (23 x 40 feet) on an exterior wall in Baltimore City. I am continuing to mural around the city and it has made my heart feel the fullest it has ever been.

I have also taken speaking to a new level by sharing my story and message in a Ted Talk called Get Lost: A Guide to Accessing Creativity.

I am proud of my vulnerability and my power to let those around me feel comfortable enough to access a creative outlet and use it to enhance their personal and professional lives. I am proud of my work with the homeless community in Baltimore in creating Arts and Business class called “SMARTS in Business”, which is an online course that allows students to interact, network, create art, and learn how to use creative gifts to make a profit, change lives, and build confidence in the art of speech.

I am proud of the conversations I have with strangers who ask me about my work. If you cannot unsee my designs, I am honored to have that impact on someone.

What sets me apart from others is my ability to use speaking professionally as a way to build my art business. I find many creatives to be insular creatures but once that shell is broken, it allows you to grow, thrive, and prosper.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?

You must get lost in creativity in order to be found in the eyes of confidence.

Getting lost feeds spontaneity, humility, and originality so the world must redefine lost as a pathway to creativity and confidence.

As far as problem-solving, our minds are habituated and drawn to it. If we are getting lost physically, it allows us to have a heightened sense of awareness in regards to our environment and actions. But how does this link to creativity? Creatives notice the unnoticed. Creatives take risks. Creativity heals.

Creativity is the most important tool we have as innovators and as human beings.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Image Credit: Main Photo with illustrations on top of portrait- Halle Keighton

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