Sandi Lear is a well-travelled, articulate and passionate watercolour artist, who alternates her time between two homes – one in far north Queensland, and the other at Diamond Beach. Sandi’s art is garnering recognition worldwide, so if you’ve ever had a yearning to try watercolour for yourself, take the opportunity to learn from Sandi while she’s spending some time locally …
Hi Sandi. Fill us in on some of your background, please … Whereabouts do you usually call home, and what’s your connection to the Great Lakes area?
I’ve been a nomad all my life, with my parents travelling for my father’s career, then leaving Australia at 19. I lived and worked all over the place from Singapore and China to the Mediterranean (sailing on our 12 m yacht), to the Caribbean and the USA. Returning to Australia 16 years later, I became a Paramedic Practitioner/OIC for 15 years, a job I loved, culminating in my Masters of Medical Science – before discovering art.
Home is a mix of two places: far north Queensland, where we have a rainforest cottage complete with Platypus at the bottom of the garden, and Diamond Beach with which my partner fell in love, and where we bought a little place about eight years ago. He then built the home we live in. I absolutely adore it – from the spectacular coastline to exploring the glorious hinterland.
Describe your path navigating the artistic world so far … When did you first pick up pencil and paint brush, and how has your work progressed over the years?
Life took a right turn about six years ago when, after all the drama, I met my partner. He was determined I had artistic talent and cajoled me into drawing and painting.
Later, I attended ArtEscape in Cairns 2012, learning from, oh … everybody … But most importantly from local artist/architect Mike Ferris.
My first piece won Best Emerging Artist that year and was sold internationally. Encouraged by these amazing people and falling totally and irrevocably in love with watercolour, I had no choice really but to pursue it.
In 2014 I had my first exhibition at Hallidays Point Library, which was a wonderful experience.
I entered and was successful in a few more competitions, then had work accepted for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai.
My work has developed from just painting what I see and love representationally, to harnessing my feelings about issues and relating those feelings through allegory, whilst exploiting the incredible facets of the medium.
Capturing the essence of the subject, I merely suggest, inviting the viewer to form an emotional connection, imagine their own story. To evoke emotion, memory, or a feeling is an amazing gift; it enables me to reach out and touch people again.
I have a deeply innate connection with the ocean – walking on Diamond Beach, listening, smelling, hearing its dynamic conversation, provides me with endless inspiration – as do the lives of wild animals and birds.
It’s actually a problem deciding what to paint next – my brain overloads with all the images I would like to express through watercolour.
Travelling to New Mexico last year, I was incredibly fortunate to strike a chord with the owner of The Longworth Gallery, who signed me as their newest artist.
An artist’s studio often gives an insight into the artist themselves! On any given day, what’s it like in your studio?
Goodness! Well, I have two studios, one in each place and both very different. The Cottage studio is tiny, in a “garret” (starving artist syndrome!) and warm, with a huge easel, overlooking the garden, the wild birds, streams, butterflies and treetops.
The beach studio is about four times larger, light filled and cool. I have three easels going; I can glimpse the ocean, hear it, smell it, be energised by it.
Both have music in common … I ALWAYS have music playing; it gets me going, forms a mood, I can dance around the room and sing as loud as I want flinging paint with abandon, freeing up the washes, or sit quietly to complete the finer passages of a painting.
My work in progress is around me, living with it, letting the work tell me what happens next.
My photographs are on a big screen, to sketch my studies, show the work as I go, which helps to define the bits you know are “not quite right” but can’t necessarily fathom.
Why is watercolour one of your favourite mediums to work with?
Watercolour is unique and not the delicate medium people think it is. It’s vibrant and alive, incredibly light fast, and transparent, so you can create layers and depth. It has personality… The pigments and their interaction with water are inspiring and utterly fascinating; some push and bully, others are sedimentary, some insinuate softly, creeping through the water in the valleys of the paper. No two works are the same.
What’s been your proudest (or most satisfying) artistic accomplishment to date?
I think it was when a lovely lady shared her innermost feelings with me about one of my pieces and what it said to her. We both had a little weep, she bought it, lives with it every day, as a reminder that light always, always comes after the dark.
You’ll be presenting a watercolour workshop, entitled “Something Wild”, at Hallidays Point Library from 18th – 20th March. What times will the workshop run, and what materials (if any) will participants be required to bring?
Times: 9am – 4pm. Materials list available at the Library; alternatively email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What topics will the workshop cover … Is any previous experience with watercolours necessary to attend?
No experience needed. We will explore, create and play, covering everything from drawing, composition, design, materials, to application and a finished painting using a range of subjects. Bring your questions!
How much will the workshop cost, and where do people register their interest in attending?
$250 pp for the three days. A cash deposit can be paid at the Library to secure the place; balance on the first day. Alternatively, email me for Paypal.
Looking ahead, what are your future plans for when the workshop is completed? Any exhibitions/upcoming events in the pipeline?
I am very excited to be guest artist at The Longworth Gallery’s annual Artists Exhibition and Artist in Residence in May this year in New Mexico.
I would like to be able to offer courses and workshops whilst I’m here at Diamond Beach during the year.
And I will be entering various competitions during the year, international and national. In fact, I have just been shortlisted for the International Emerging Artist Exhibition in Dubai – very exciting!
Where can readers view samples of your work or find out more about you?
My website features most work: http://www.sandilear.com