Road Taken

Painting: Olson House

Jason Sawtelle ’92

Artist, Norfolk, Mass.

When I think about the idea of my “road taken,” I see a trailhead with many different paths (and no trail map, of course). I have followed many of them, but somehow I keep looping back to the same spot: the world of art.

When I chose Colgate and a major in physics, my high school peers (who expected me to study painting) typically responded with, “You’re doing what?!”

Of course, like most people, my initial course of study was short lived, and I quickly took a turn back toward my first passion. By May of 1992, I was finishing my Colgate journey as an art major who was known among my friends to have designed T-shirts, painted a mural on my wall, and drew political cartoons for the Colgate News.

So, when I started, in a depressed economy, down a corporate road working for a commercial printer, my Colgate peers typically responded with, “You’re doing what?!”

Initially, the best thing that job offered was an opportunity to be independent and support myself. Eventually, though, I found that I enjoyed learning the industry, and I took even bigger leaps into sales and management. Last spring, however, after more than 21 years in the corporate world, the road back to art called again and I started BlackBeak studios.

I am now making my living painting, and it is my old corporate colleagues who are asking, “You’re doing what?!”

My primary business is creating commissioned pieces — from portraits to landscapes — and custom murals — from the sea to the sky. One of my first jobs with BlackBeak studios was a painting for Kelley ’92 and Amy Jacobs Connolly ’92 — Colgate classmates and good friends who, this time, were not surprised by my change of path. I am also selling prints of my artwork and trying to publish a children’s book, co-created with my wife, Gwynne.

Recently, my painting September Afternoon, Olson House (pictured above) was selected for a juried exhibition at the Danforth Art Museum in Framingham, Mass.

Each trail I have headed down has taught me something, but I’m thrilled to have returned to doing what I have always truly loved. My looping path has also made me appreciate the many ways Colgate helped prepare me for each turn!