Sawyier is considered by many the Kentucky painter. His family moved from Ohio to Frankfort, Kentucky, when he was five years old, and nostalgic scenes of that city and its environs dominated his art, which was primarily executed in watercolor. In 1884 he traveled to Cincinnati to study at the Art Academy, first with Thomas Satterwhite Noble and then with Frank Duveneck. He also received instruction from William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League in New York City. He was one of the few proponents of Impressionism in the Commonwealth at the turn of the century and produced several quality prints during the American Etching Revival of the 1880s and ‘90s. In 1913 he moved to New York and further honed his considerable skill as a painter in oils..