Saturday, May 4, 2019

SE Ohio Artist: An Interview with Sandra Russell

Above: The postcard composite is of a method Sandra uses in mask making, parade characters, and set design elements. Large clay originals, and covered in paper mâché, then painted. She will be making two Madonna figures for ABC Players Sister Act and some fake stained glass windows. Sandra has made many trees, lions, tigers, etc. over the years. 

SE Ohio Artist: An Interview with Sandra Russell

In a small town you can meet at the local coffee shop and share ideas. Creative ideas. Southeastern Ohio is full of prolific writers, artists, musicians, and other creatives; a deep sea of hidden gems. It has been my good fortune to be able to work with a few of Ohio’s best. Every day I have the opportunity to find a pearl, ruby, or emerald – all different, all beautiful.

On this particular day, I met with local artist Sandra Russell. Contemplating ideas, we collaborated on a journal cover. I love Sandra’s graceful designs, flowing on paper, igniting imagination.

If you attend the ACENet Women’s Conference on May 17, 2019, you will receive a journal (compliments of Monday Creek Publishing) featuring Sandra’s art. Sandra shares her bio…

Sandra Russell (illustrator) was born on a dreary rainy December afternoon in the parlor of a farmhouse midway between Athens and Albany Ohio. She started drawing at a young age when her grandmother, a painter herself, gave her charcoal and paints. Sandra holds a BFA in sculpture and painting and a master’s degree in art history from Ohio University. Professional work includes a wax pattern maker for monumental bronze sculptures, and for gold jewelry manufacture. Sandra was chief porcelain painter for Lee Middleton. She recently has been active as parade puppet designer (paper mâché) seen in festival parades and in the recent past given much time to theater work, as a set designer, props master, and performer with local community theater groups. Sandra lives in Southeast Ohio and is the mother of a pharmacist, actress, sculptor, painter, named Chloe.

Welcome, Sandra!

GM: Are you a naturally gifted artist or have you attended classes to become the talented artist you are today?
SR: Natural, as in called "the artist" since 1st grade. In 4th grade, I made coloring books for the class. High school won some contests and an art "talent" scholarship in art to Ohio University. Then trained off and on as a student, finally got BFA in Studio arts, sculpture major, then much later a master’s in art history focused on Renaissance and Baroque painting and sculpture.

GM: What mediums do you like to use?
SR: Different media bring out different expressions. I learned that I show a sensual figurative mythic idealized or fantasy tendency in sculpture, but with photography, it's all about the inner psychology of people, the dual nature of angst fear or "other" inside - a calm exterior...earned me the nickname of "spooky" in the photo lab. I didn't see it till years later when I could step away from the work and see it with a cold eye. I really like working in clay, wax, paint, paper mâché, pen and ink... lots of things. I guess the key is to have something to say, then to find the medium that says it best for me?

GM: Describe your studio...
SR: My studio is not really a studio... when I'm working on something it is all over the house, the porch, the basement, the kitchen, the garage... I take it everywhere... especially if working on a play set, the pieces themselves are monumental scale, and the process takes up all the areas; cooking glue on the stove, storage, drying in the sun, and so on... no separate work space. I've tried, it doesn't (work for me, alas).

GM: What are you currently creating?
SR: I am currently working on a shoe for a Miss Ohio candidate, and set designing a play, plus doing a few paintings… hope to have a soiree in my garage sometime next month and hang (some new artwork) for viewing, but still in process. Also trying to sew a dress, I'm not really a seamstress… (haha using a very simple pattern).

GM: Do you have a mentor or muse that propels your creativity? Favorite artist?
SR: Mentors are anyone I respect and admire... favorite artist is impossible to say, as I have so many. One thing I think is true of love, and the love of any art for that matter is that there are basically two kinds… the first is WoW love this!!! Love at first sight, want to jump in with both feet sort of joyous response. The 2nd one is what? That? You've got to be kidding me, this is boring, ugly, dull, or irritating... but you study it, you work on it, you find why it bugs you, or what you need to do to craft a beauty of it, and that becomes love for what time and effort you put into it. For example, I might joyously love a Renoir, but I will reluctantly love a sculpture by Donatello… when push comes to shove which one will I spend on a $3,000 plane ticket to study and understand... the pretty one or the puzzle? I think you know the answer.

GM: Do you have advice for novice artists?
SR: My advice is to have something to say, then start saying it. Art works when words fail… sometimes you don't know what you are saying, so do art and let it tell you what you think.

GM:  List 10 things that your fans may not know about you...
SR: Things you may not know about me…
     1.  I love horses
2. I was left handed as a baby and blue-eyed, didn't stay that way
3. I've been to Italy 3 times, and want to go again
4. I like lemon suckers/popsicles best
5. I am a very good cook/baker
6. I love optical toys, prisms, peek-a-boo Easter eggs, stereo photos, flip      books, logic puzzles
7. Spring is my favorite season
8. I've seen the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls
9. One night drove a tugboat on the Mississippi River for about five minutes
10. I jumped off a high dive as a kid on a dare and I can't swim

This is a 'for fun' ceramic tile relief mosaic Sandra made based on the artwork of Marc Chagall. "I have made so many tiles and paintings on flat ones, that to find images would require getting into many boxes, and that would not cover the number done in the 90's as I seldom document anything."  

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