Sonja Sweterlitsch


Sonja Sweterlitsch's series, Pennsylvania Sunsets, was a departure creatively as her past artwork focused solely on realistic portraits of women. Sweterlitsch found it quite freeing and fun to loosen up for this nature series. Inspired by artists John Singer Sargent, Cecilia Beaux, Thomas Eakins, and Elizabeth Peyton, Sweterlitsch uses Windsor Newton oil paints and a Walnut oil medium on gesso-treated canvases. She begins each painting with a photo shoot of her subject, before drawing the image and creating an underpainting in burnt sienna, burnt umber, and titanium white. Then she layers in her colors, going from dark to light, working up from general shapes to greater detail.

Born in Silver Spring, Maryland, Sweterlitsch graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA in Art and a BA in Creative Writing. After experimenting with diverse media in college and then focusing on abstract painting, Sweterlitsch spent seven years learning the painting techniques of the "Old Masters" through art manuals, frequent museum trips to study paintings in-person, and steady practice. Inspired by the beauty she sees in other people, Sweterlitsch's 2012 exhibition "Beautiful Dreamers" honored sixteen women who made an impact in Pittsburgh. In 2013, her exhibition "Julia" explored the serial portrait, a series of portraits all about a single subject meant to capture different aspects of the subject’s personality. Sweterlitsch has taught studio art classes at the Smithsonian Institute, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and the Trust Arts Education Center. She has also curated dozens of exhibitions and coordinated large-scale art events in her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.  

portfolio.jpg View Sonja Sweterlitsch's artwork in the 2022 exhibition, The World at Our Feet.