Sara Morris Swetcharnik

Excerpts from an Interview with Artist, Sara Morris Swetcharnik, circa 1999

by USA Girl Scout Overseas Cadet Troop 01, Tegucigalpa, Honduras: Margaret Rich, Charith Dunbar, Robyn Lyons, Jessica Piernik, Eva Miller (Troop Leader: Susan Rich)

Photo: Sara Morris Swetcharnik talking to USA Girl Scouts Overseas Cadet Troop 01 in Tegucigalpa with La Tigra Mountain in background.

Cadet Troop 01: What type of animal did you mostly enjoy sculpting?
Ms. Swetcharnik: I enjoy lizards, mostly because they don't have fur and you can see the muscles. I can easily make use of my knowledge of anatomy. Also, I prefer to sculpt live animals, although most animals move a lot. Lizards make good models because they tend to be still for long periods of time, especially while basking in the sun.

Cadet Troop 01: How did you get started?
Ms. Swetcharnik: I became serious about sculpting and painting while I was in the tenth grade at Linganore High School in Frederick County, Maryland. I was fortunate to have a high school art teacher, Larry Hauver, who was excellent and did a lot to encourage me to take additional classes. I also studied painting with Melvin Gerhold in Frederick Maryland. I continued to study with both of them for the several years before I graduated from high school.

Cadet Troop 01: Did you attend art school?
Ms. Swetcharnik: Yes, I completed the four year undergraduate course and the fifth year graduate course at the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore and then studied two years at the Arts Student’s League in New York City.

Cadet Troop 01: What have you learned?
Ms. Swetcharnik: I have learned that making art is not just a matter of talent. It's hard work to do anything well. Being a visual artist has also taught me to be a better writer, because both require skills of observation. I also have developed a clear set of standards and artistic preferences.

Cadet Troop 01: What advice would you offer to someone just starting out?
Ms. Swetcharnik: I would say: take classes, work hard, and if you love it you will probably succeed. Even if you do not intend to be a professional artist, it can also be a rewarding hobby and stress outlet. Winston Churchill is a prime example of a person that found painting relaxing lifetime hobby. He reflects on this in his wonderful book “Painting as a Pastime”.

Cadet Troop 01: Why did you decide to come to Honduras?
Ms. Swetcharnik: My husband, William Swetcharnik is also an artist. First he came to Honduras as an “Arts America” lecturer and then he was awarded a Fulbright grant to come back to Honduras. Of course, we came together and I have come to love the people and the weather where we live on La Tigra Mountain above Tegucigalpa.

Cadet Troop 01: What's the easiest thing you have ever sculpted?
Ms. Swetcharnik: As I said, it isn’t easy to do anything well.

Cadet Troop 01: What piece are you the most proud of?
Ms. Swetcharnik: As portraits, my Laurel and Hardy sculptures please me. Stan Laurel’s daughter and her husband thought that the portrait sculptures were the best likeness they had seen of the pair. I have also been pleased by comments about my “Komodo Dragon Yearling” by people that generally do not like reptiles, but who have been able to see the lizard in a more poetic light.

Cadet Troop 01: What is the shortest amount of time that you have spent sculpting something?
Ms. Swetcharnik: Usually I don't time myself, but maybe the shortest amount of time that I have spent on a sculpture is twenty or thirty minutes for working on an impressionistic clay study. My time varies greatly. For example “Two Toucans” and “Ocelot” that I sculpted here at the Tegucigalpa zoo each may have taken one to three sittings of three to four hours. The “Komodo Dragon Yearling” took over a year, working on it several days a week.

Cadet Troop 01: What interesting things happen while you are sculpting animals?
Ms. Swetcharnik: I have had many interesting experiences while sculpting animals and I have heard many interesting stories from other people who work with animals. I have written in many of these experiences in my collection called “Jungle Tails”. For animal stories and sculpture by Sara Morris Swetcharnik see the website: “Jungle Tails”

Original publications of the complete interview for this article include "Honduran Girl Scout Troop gets to know an American Artist" in the Frederick News Post, Frederick, Maryland as a Feature Story on Friday, April 7, 2000.