Thursday, June 21, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Colleen Sanchez

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. 

To enter to win Colleen Sanchez's painting, Ready or Not, go to and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Colleen Sanchez's DPW Gallery page:
I took a few watercolor classes and workshops with wonderful artists when I started painting in 2009, but I am mainly a self-taught artist. I just love the whole process of research, study and practice and enjoy painting the essence of nature - it seems to soothe something in my soul. 
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

It was somewhat by accident - painting never actually crossed my mind as something I would do. All my life I've had a passion for textiles; I spent about 15 years designing and creating high-end bridal, formal and career wear for personal clients. Anything to do with fibers, I loved, and was always looking for interesting finds to create with.

About 3 years ago, I stopped into an art store looking for some project supplies, noticed a cute little watercolor kit and on the spur of the moment, picked it up. I thought, no problem, I can just knock out a couple sketches and paint them. Well, I didn't get the result I wanted, kept trying, but just didn't understand these paints.

Ready or Not

(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking the "Artist Spotlight and Giveaway" button!

I needed help and luckily I found it in the way of a watercolor class at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. I had a great instructor who really taught the basics and learned a great deal about the properties of watercolor pigments and water. Several light bulbs went off for me, one after another, during that 14-week course and I was hooked. I also quickly realized the importance of using only high quality paints, papers and supplies and use all archival materials.

I took a couple more classes and workshops before continuing to study and practice on my own.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Well, as I'm a late starter, I haven't had any stops yet. I enjoy the learning and painting practice so much, I hope to continue this journey for the rest of my life. Some days I wish there were three of me so I could do more painting.

Heading Home
(click here to see original image)

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Charcoal and graphite, of course, because I've been sketching off and on since I was a child. With painting mediums, I've explored several to find out what is right for me: watercolor, acrylic, pastel and most recently oil. My favorites are watercolor, oil and pastel.

Because I'm a bit of a late starter though, I know I need to narrow my focus in order to continue to improve my work. I think for the next while at least, I've determined a direction and my mediums of choice will be to work in watercolor and oil.  I'm looking forward to exploring landscape and still life in oils - working in a painterly style. One of the oil painters I admire right now is Bob Rohm, he does gorgeous landscapes and makes it all look so easy, but we all know it's hard work and practice and lots of trial and error. Right now, I'm trying out different supports and brushes to figure out what will be best for me as I develop my own style.

I'm very attracted to the luminosity that can be achieved with watercolor, so I want to continue to explore floral, foliage and maybe some ordinary urban subjects. I never seem to tire of flowers. Some people don't really have a lot of respect for floral painters. I'm not sure why, because flowers (especially if you focus closer in) are such wondrous and complicated natural treasures and NOT at all EASY to paint. Even for the artists who portray them in a more abstract style, it takes observance, practice and skill. So, I will persist with flowers, along with the fabulous foliage in abundance on these Hawaiian Islands.

White Waterlily
(click here to see original image)

I have many wonderful soft pastels, but I've put them away for a while so I can focus on watercolors and oils. Down the road I'll try the pastels again.

Your floral paintings capture such a fine level of detail that I'm not even sure how you can see what you do, much less recapture it on canvas or paper! What can you tell us about your particular painting process?

The florals may look like I work in a lot of detail, but truly, I do less and less of the fine detail as I move forward. I'm also near-sighted and usually paint without my glasses on, so I don't focus on details. I do love flowers - they provide so much inspiration to me, but once I have the paper and paints in front of me, I don't really see what I paint as a flower anymore.

Regardless, if I paint from life or from photo resources I am looking for the light first and then the shapes. I try to show those with color. I think my past experience with fabrics has taught me so much about color, that part seems to just come to me without even thinking. When I paint the flowers now, I challenge myself - get as much color down in one passage. It truly is a challenge because when you lay it down, it can look so dark, but watercolor lightens quite a bit when dry, so it takes a bit of chutzpah to use lots of paint. I try to go back in only for the shadow shapes and follow up with the background and maybe a tiny bit of detail at the center of interest.

When I'm finished, many times I'm surprised, hey, it does look like a flower. This way of painting has taken a lot of practice and I really do toss out some unredeemable pieces. I'm also trying to loosen up, but I still want the paintings to look like flowers, mainly because I tend to focus in on them individually or in very small groupings, rather than painting a bouquet with a profusion of flowers, where they can be done in a very painterly way.

Cardinals in the Volcano Forest
(click here to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I've learned to use a day-timer. I'm sure like many others who try to take on too much responsibility for everything and everyone around them, eventually you realize you are not indispensable and your husband and or family can take on some of the chores. I try to paint at least 5 days a week now. I schedule my sketching, painting and photography times and try very hard to stick to it.

Most of the reading I do lately is also art related. The other time thief for me is the internet. Its great to have so much information at my fingertips, but I limit my computer time too, I really want to paint. I think I'm lucky that I can and better take advantage of my abilities while I have them.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I used to dream ideas, but lately I have had some good ideas while in the shower and actually jumped out to write them down. I'm working on a few full sheet watercolor paintings from those shower ideas. I try to spend as much time outside as I can too, walking the dog, going to the parks and beaches and can't help seeing great things to paint all the time. There is so much beauty here, I don't think I'll ever run out of painting ideas.

How do you keep art "fresh"? What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

For me, I realized that if I decided to only focus on what may be considered highly marketable work, the quality I am after just will not come. If I painted on demand the love for it would go. I need to really enjoy whatever subject or idea I paint to have any hope of creating something I'm proud of. I do commissions as long as I'm interested in the subject.

Sometimes how we see things changes when you are so focused on the visual and what you may have just walked on by in the past suddenly becomes fascinating. That keeps me on my toes and constantly interested in ideas that may become a painting.

Promise Me
(click here to see original image)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I think I am learning to trust myself more. Not every painting works out, but you learn something from each attempt and grow from it. You take a step with each day and with each painting and learn to adjust your goals a little higher as you continue to progress. Paint what you love. Keep learning for the rest of your life.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I think the two things that make me the happiest are when I open my paintbox and see all those wonderful colors and how I can try to make them sing -- and when someone falls in love with one of my paintings and just has to have it. It is a great feeling to know you have touched someone with your work.

Thanks, Colleen!

© Jennifer Newcomb Marine

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