A great part of my job is interacting with artists, writers, fountain pen experts and leather crafters, and getting their inside view on our papers and products. I learn when I listen to them. They are the experts, since paper and creative materials are both their tools and inspiration. It is also satisfying to get to know people, and what makes them “tick.”
One of my favorite people to discuss things with is Sandra Strait, a multifaceted artist based in the Pacific Northwest. I asked Sandra if she would share some insights on her life and art with Quo Vadis Blog readers.
When and how were you first introduced to drawing and painting?
Truthfully, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. I suspect I was born with a pen in one hand and a crayon in the other.
What inspires you? Where do you turn when you run out of ideas–or does that ever happen?
I really enjoy letting the media or technique inspire me. I’m a “Happy Accident” kind of gal, who prefers to take inspiration from the tools I’m using and how they interact rather than planning what I do. I like to see my finished work and think “Wow! I wasn’t expecting that.”
I dislike planning or prepping and avoid both as much as possible. I’ve found that if I have an expectation, a vision of what I want, I’m much more likely to judge or dislike what I’ve done.
When I find myself repeating the same composition or theme too often, or just feeling bored with what I’m going, I know it’s time to change to a different medium. Sometimes, I’ll jump to origami or learn something totally new. I’m learning to tat right now. I know it isn’t something I’ll do often, and I’ll probably never do well, but I expect it to show up and enhance my patterns and line work. I’ll probably end up with tattling pieces glued to my art journal or onto my mixed media canvases, too.
However, I do have times of low creativity where my art and craft tools don’t speak to me, no matter what I do. I’ve found the best way out of that is to keep on creating. I create a lot of junk during these times, but it usually pops me out of the funk after a week or so. I go back later and look at what I’ve done. Sometimes, I discover my work wasn’t junk after all. Some of it is, but, at that later date, I can see how to fix it, or how to use it to brighten up another piece.
I also post a daily list of art and craft resource links to Tangles, Tutorials, and Giveaways on my blog, Life Imitates Doodles. That gives me an excuse to spend time looking at what others are doing and then passing on the inspiration.
You seem drawn to abstract themes and Zentangle patterns. Are there any other styles or themes you like as well?
I usually approach my work as though I were finding shapes in the clouds. The shapes I find dictate the theme for the page. That said, I seem to find lots of elephants, cats, giraffes, coffee mugs, vases, suns and moons, so those must be a preference. When I see lots of angles and geometric shapes, I usually aim for a steampunk theme.
I was very big on steampunk for a while, but burned out on it, somewhat. That’s common for me. I really get into something new, to the point of doing little else. Then I tire of it, and only retain a few things that become part of my standard repertoire.
Another theme is hidden objects. Often I’ll start a drawing by doodling an animal or two (almost always an animal), then I’ll integrate them into the patterns so they are hard to find. People do find them though, and it adds an element of interest for both myself and the viewer.
Do you have any tips for tangling or maybe for someone just starting out in tangling? How did you get into it?
My tips for tangling are to always remember the ‘no mistakes’ rule, and to have patience. If you practice a pattern, you’ll learn to do it well. If you don’t have time to practice, then just enjoy the process and don’t worry about the outcome. Zentangle is as much a method, a way to reach calm, as it is a finished drawing. My work is Zentangle-Inspired art which means that I borrow from the method, but feel free to add or skip steps from the traditional method.
I started tangling when my Mother was in the hospital. They had just installed a new computer system, and it quickly became apparent that mistakes were being made. I stayed with her pretty much 24/7 to keep an eye on things. She slept often, and I needed something to do that required very little paraphernalia or patience. All you need for tangling is paper, pen and some patterns, so it was perfect. I think it kept me sane for the six months that my mother was ill.
Are you self-trained or have you taken art classes or attended workshops? Do you teach or display your artwork in any stores?
In my younger years I took a couple of oil painting classes. I’ve taken some watercolor and mixed-media classes the last couple of years, but most of my training comes from books. YouTube and experimentation.
I don’t teach or display in real life, but I blog mightily (http://lifeimitatesdoodles.blogspot.com/), sharing almost everything I create. I often write down my processes, review products, and explain why I make the choices I do, which people seem to find helpful. I publish a daily list of Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways to help people find resources for their own creativity. It doesn’t pay well (zero), but I find it highly satisfying.
What are some of your favorite techniques and why?
I can’t remember the exact quote, but something that the writer Ray Bradbury once said seemed to sum up my way of creating.. You learn as much about technique as you can. Then when you create, you step aside and let your muse use what you’ve learn. When I sit down to create, I sort of think for a minute about mark making. When I draw, I actually feel more like I’m weaving. When I paint, I feel more like I’m pouring color on the page. Using markers takes me back to color books and the feeling I had when a child. Even back then, I didn’t color like most of the other kids did. I was very much into monocolor–coloring a page only using browns, but blending them with other colors to see how many browns I could make. So I think about the feeling I want, and then I’ll decide what techniques will best bring that feeling about.
To sum it up, I don’t really have favorite techniques. I have favorite feelings regarding certain methods of mark making, and I’m constantly looking for new techniques so my muse can add them to her list of useful items.
Aside from being an artist, are you otherwise employed?
Except for my art, blogging, helping my 91 year old mother and, occasionally, doing housework, I’m unemployed. When my job was down-sized about 4 years ago, I was close enough to retirement age, and my mother needs enough care that I didn’t look for another job.
Tell me more about your hobbies and interests, family life. What other creative outlets do you enjoy? Anything else you would like to share about your work or yourself as an artist or in general?
I’m very much a homebody. I spend an inordinate amount of time doing my artwork and craft and blogging. Even the time I spend with friends and family usually involves some time painting or crafting. I’m into art journaling, mixed-media, watercolor painting, origami, molding and resin casting, scratchboard, digital drawing, drawing celtic-knots, and tying knots.
I’m just learning tatting, and I’m always looking for new techniques to try. I’m on the design team for Amazing Molding Putty, and my recent interest there is building prototype dolls and embellishments from items out of my craft stash, molding them and turning them into resin creations.
Between that and the time I spend with my mother, I don’t spend time on much else. I guess that makes me a little boring, or maybe just interesting with an artistic theme.
My husband and I like to spend time at the Oregon Coast, taking long walks and driving from the Washington border to the California border. We don’t have any children, so we’re free to take off at the drop of a hat, and often do.