Sara Lynn Sanders-The Artist and the Art.

Sara Lynn

I had the pleasure of visiting with Sara Lynn Sanders recently. I say this sincerely. I went into the interview as I always do with a list of questions to ask, fully prepared to dig around for the interesting tidbits. My list of questions is still sitting here with blanks next to them, save one, because Lynn was so open and fascinating, they were completely unnecessary.

In case you aren’t familiar with Lynn, shame on you if you aren’t, she is an extraordinarily talented photographer, artist and author.

Here are just a few samples of her work you might recognize.

In case you’re wondering, here is the solitary question on my list I asked, and I always ask this one. How did you get started?

“My father was a railroad man, but he was also an artist,” replied Lynn. “He was really quite talented and worked mainly in charcoals. He bought me an easel to set next to his and we spent the hours creating and visiting. My mother and grandmother were also very artistic, so I was surrounded with all these imaginative people.

“I was born July July 11, 1941, a few months before Pearl Harbor, so I guess that makes me a pre-baby boomer. I was a young wife with babies and like all mothers, I wanted portraits of my children, but I couldn’t afford them. Back then the photographers did black and white and hand-tinted the photos. The photographer asked me if I’d be interested in trading some photos for hand tinting. I jumped at it. It was the perfect job. I loved art. I could stay at home and take care of my babies and get some photos and make some extra money.

“I opened my own photography studio in the 60’s. By the time color film arrived in the 70’s, I’d tinted thousands of photos. I knew all the planes and proportions of the face. It was a real education in portrait painting.

“Things took a dramatic change in 1993. I went to a Medieval Times show with some friends and we went down to meet our knight, Cherif Fortin, afterward. He was very entertaining and fun in the show. Then I saw him up close and thought, ‘Oh my God, that face.’

“I told him I was a photographer and I’d like to do a shoot of him since I assumed he was a model. I thought I could do some more shots for his portfolio and maybe do some things with my photography. He said he’d thought about modeling, but hadn’t really done much with it. I gave him my card and told him to call me. To my surprise he drove 1/12 hours to see me shortly after that and I shot forty-eight pictures. Even more surprising, they were all great. Everything he did looked great to the lens. I paid him a modeling fee and started entering the photos in competitions. I won every competition I entered with a Cherif photo.

“We did more photos and I noticed him doodling when he was talking on the phone or taking a break. They weren’t ordinary, though. He had real talent. I asked him if he was an artist and he said he wasn’t, but the talent was definitely there.

“About that time I was also selling backgrounds to photographers. I tried to get my kids involved, but they weren’t interested. I had a big contract, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone so I asked Cherif if he wanted to help me.

“He said sure and jumped right in. Luckily, he learned quickly and had a lot of energy in his work. That was lucrative work for us, but it was also very time-consuming and hard.

“I kept thinking there had to be something more we could do to promote Cherif’s look. To me, he looked like he belonged on the cover of a romance novel. I asked him if he was interested and he was agreeable. So, we knew what we wanted to do, but we had no idea how to do it.

“How does one break into the romance market?

“I went to the book store to look at romance novels and happened to notice the Romance Times magazine. I bought it and found out about a Romantic Times conference. I knew enough from going to photographers’ conventions to know there must be something similar in publishing. I booked a room at the RWA conference hotel. I didn’t really know where to go from there, but I hoped to make some contacts there or at least find out how it all worked.

“Steve Sandalis was there as the Topaz Man and he had a table set up where he was selling photos and autographing them. As I said, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I didn’t buy a booth, but I did bring 48 of Cherif’s photos.

“I was sitting on the couch with some of the photos, chatting with some girls I’d met there. We had the pictures out looking at them and women kept stopping buy, asking if they could buy them. I told them I couldn’t sell those and finally I started taking orders from them. I sold eighty photos off the couch at $10 a piece.

“I knew then we were on the right track. Cherif had that look women wanted. Marsha Canham and Virginia Henley really wanted him on their covers so they went to their publishers and got him. That usually doesn’t happen. The first cover we did was Marsha Canahm’s BLOOD OF ROSES.

“Both Cherif and I liked to write also, so we thought, let’s put this together and sold PASSION’S BLOOD in 1989. It republished in 2009. It’s an unusual book because it’s illustrated in the lush way they used to do. That’s too expensive to do much now, but it makes such a beautiful book. Now they’re looking at bringing it out as an e-book.

“Cherif and I still work together. We’ve been working on a vampire project. Plus, I write poetry and children’s books. I’d love to sell those.

“We’ve done so many photographs and paintings over the years. There’s really a wealth of material that’s never been touched.

“I’ve always loved the mask series. I’d love to do some calendars with that.

Maybe one of my favorites is the purple shirt series, but it’s hard to chose. I love them all.

“My mother was very ill for a long time. She didn’t want to go to a nursing home and I didn’t want her to go, so she came to live with me. I loved being able to make her comfortable in her final battle, but it took its toll. I’m completely out of the loop now and I’m trying to rebuild my contacts. Art is still dear to me, but the children’s work is particularly fulfilling, both the writing and the illustrations. I have my own grandchildren and, of course, Cherif’s children who are just like mine to inspire me.

“Cherif became a fireman and injured his back three years ago. He’s trying to re-qualify for the fire department again, so we’re both working our way back.”


  1. Artist Charles Silvey, I just got to know Sara on Facebook only…She a wonderful friend, Artist, and all I can say about her is good things, she was so kind to do my portrait when I was age 21 in the Army….as a artist myself I look forward to learn more about art from her 🙂

  2. i made an enquiry via facebook,from what s your cover page sarah lynn i am in a lot of groups and some portraits of elvis were on posts i,ve also been on pinterest to see some of the work displayed are all the elvis very life like portraits urs on these groups and pinterest so many wish to know.i had interest in a cple sent a pm to ur message box and have had a reply asking what i require n explaining ur works of art .not to be too informal there was requests on there asking do you sell / and a price list was on earlier and now they are not on?noticed the cover pge as been changed also i do want to know if im dealing with the right and same person a price of £1700 plus for a painting standard and nearer £200 for a copy, its just that some tell me its hoax n the paintings arent your genuine works,that they are computer shots dressed up nthat a photo of you painting a 60×80 is fake someone else says aint true art of course i defended these people are leaving me in doubt i so wanted a painting please tell me its genuine

    1. I have the same question. Are the elvis”paintings”, true paintings or created with a special camera or computer.? My son has made real photos look like paintings.with a special camera.

      1. Julie good morning, I have tried to contact Sara on facebook will no luck. My wife is a TRUE Elvis fan and I would like to buy her a painting of Elvis by Sara for her 70th birthday in May. Could you possibly help in this matter. My email address is
        Thank you

        1. Bob,

          She had another surgery Tuesday. I asked on her Facebook. I’ll keep monitoring to see if someone can get you a painting. All my best and happy birthday to your wife. What a great husband you are.


  3. i have tried to contact Sara by message on facebook with no reply, I m interested in buying the 8×10 prints of her Elvis work do you know how that would be done??

    1. Deb,

      Just keep trying to contact her on facebook. She’s had some serious health issues and so is hit and miss. If you keep trying she will respond. I Had to ask for some other people and she said she was still selling. I think she has kidney problems and was in the hospital several times this last year.

      Good luck!

  4. I think her paintings are questionable. I dont mean to be rude. I love the looks she pull out of her Elvis Paintings but i am a digital artist as well as traditional. I specialize in photo shop portraits both from scratch and photo manipulation. Her paintings do not look like true paintings when you get close in. They look like photo graphs that have been computer painted useing the smudge tool from photo shop. And then pumped up with other tools. Tho this does take a lot of work it isnt a painting its photo manipulation. And i might add the hand brush work is done very poorly. All and all they are BEAUTIFUL. Until that is when you see the eye sores up close as well as the large signatures. sorry but unless i see her mix colors and dip a brush im NOT convinced they are true paintings.

    1. Bull. Did you see them close up or are you a fan. Because as i said i am a real artist in both traditional and digital and even over the internet at 72 dpi you can clearly see what is painted with oils and acrylics and what is poorly done in photoshop using the. Smudge tool and filters. Huge difference. Sorry but these can be printed onto anything and glossed over and someone will call it mixed media. No oil painter would ever use that term. No traditional painter who ever jump to mix media because of the changing times. That is pure bull.

      1. In one article, she talks about her methods. How for years she did everything by hand and how long it took. Now she incorporates technology with her paintings. I’m sorry this is disappointing to purists such as yourself, but with declining health and age I think she does what she can and this is how she now creates. If you’d bothered to read the other comments, you would have seen this before you piled on.

  5. It is not disappointing work it is beautiful work. The disappointment is the claim it is real oil paint when one can clearly see it is NOT oil paint or any paint it is photo shop or painter i have seen these up for a long time and have alway thought they were nice looking. What bothers me and a lot of other artist is the claim that you are getting a paint done traditionally when in fact you are getting a digital painting. Do tell me what’s so horrible about telling the truth about the matter? There is nothing wrong with digital painting or manipulation being called what it is. And it is in fact painting done by hand. The computer doesn’t do the work. The artist does. But it is not the same thing as painting outside the computer with tangible paints and a brush. What some of us do not like is the appearance of trickery. To claim digital is traditional is a lie. Digital must to printed out not traditional and there lies the difference.

  6. SO don’t put them up for sale on a price list and lable them as oil paintings. You expect everyone is going to read or even find the information? Nope. They will look at the site and description and price

  7. Hi Guys, I would love to create an oil painting or charcoal drawing of Elvis but am nervous of copyright issues. I did a few paintings of Elvis when I was at Art School many moons ago in the 80s but that was a different time. Now one has to be careful. Is it still fine to paint a portrait of Elvis and sell the original or a print online? Just thought to ask here as I have noticed many of Sara-lynns paintings on FaceBook have been removed. Looking forward to hearing back from you all. With sincere thanks,
    kind regards, Dion

  8. Dion,

    I’m sorry. I have no idea. However, you can paint anything or anyone as long as you don’t try to copy another artist’s work and pass it off as your own is my understanding. Look how many paintings of John Wayne there are by different artists.

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