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Biography


I was born and raised in piedmont North Carolina, on a working family farm. My first art experience occurred at age 3, when I was given a coloring book and crayons to keep me entertained. I very carefully colored each shape on the page I chose, a picture of a little boy wearing a straw hat, sitting on a creek bank fishing. I took my time, stayed in the lines and got the colors very even. When I showed this to my dad, he shot a look at my mom, which often happened where I was concerned. He asked me if my older sister Janis helped me. I told him that I did it all by myself. He said it was very good, and pronounced that maybe I would be an artist. I remember how much I liked the sound of that word “artist” even though I didn’t know exactly what it meant.

I graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a BFA in Art Education, with studio concentrations in painting and fibers. I was drawn to the patterns in ancient textiles and the processes involved in taking fibers from raw materials to finished products. Drawing and painting required a lot of discipline and practice, and the improvements I made over time were evident and gratifying. After graduation, I taught art in several public school systems in North Carolina. I enjoyed my students and found that teaching kept me motivated as a producing artist. Teaching art is as much about encouraging and nurturing a passion for art-making as it is about conveying the rudiments of design and color. An art teacher who doesn’t make art is a conundrum to me. How can one who doesn’t create empathize with and guide one who is learning to create with any sense of authenticity?

When my son was a toddler, I returned to off-loom fibers as medium of choice for a few years. Countless afternoons were spent in our small apartment, my son on the floor happily tangled in multicolored fiber splendor while I worked on basket structures, weavings and hangings. When he started school, I worked in watercolor again, enjoying the challenges of the medium in the blocks of time that became available to me while he was in school.

I joined several watercolor societies, and in their exhibition catalogs I first saw the loose, layered, glowing abstracts with their saturated colors and textural passages that still appeal to me so much. At first, I literally spent hundreds of hours trying to duplicate these effects with my watercolors and brushes. Then I took my first workshop in experimental water media, where I was exposed to alternative ways of applying paint. Working with acrylic paint using mixed media techniques provided the expressive tools that would serve me for the next twenty years. I began to play with compositional ideas, pushing tools and media further, bringing collage elements into my work. I experimented with texturing mediums and gels, as well as varying finishes and weights of paper and boards. Gradually I began to replace paper with canvas for some of my works. I liked the immediacy of the image on canvas to the viewer, unimpeded by mats, glass and framing.

Within the last five years, I have further expanded the scope of my artistic focus to include metal smithing and artisan jewelry production. Though I was initially taken with the colors and patterns in gemstones, I soon began to include cold connections metal joining techniques in my personal embellishments. From there I learned soldering, forging, and metal finishes. The skill set necessary for working in metals is totally different from that of a painter/2D artist. There are molecular and chemical reactions at work that require advance knowledge of the limitations of the materials. You don’t get many do-overs, and there aren’t too many happy accidents in metal work. Even so, the aesthetic sensibilities that govern all fine art production are equally essential in metal work.

My newest direction is assemblage, both relief and freestanding 3D. I am still in the early stages of this interesting art form, which allows me to combine all the skills and materials I have accumulated in my career. I find it challenging because one must literally eliminate as many objects and visuals as one includes. It is very much like reductive sculpture because it is as much about what you take away as what you include that makes each piece a success.

My teaching career has run parallel to my career as a producing artist. Whether I am teaching in an elementary or high school, or in workshops for adults, I have tried to preserve the highest standards of creative guidance for my pupils. I love teaching, particularly seeing my students try new things that are outside their comfort zones, and the inevitable “aha” moments that occur. I have taught workshops for the Tennessee Art Education Association, Arrowmont School, Hunter Museum of American Art, Tennessee Watercolor Society, Knox County Schools, Tennessee Art League of Nashville, Townsend Atelier, Association of Visual Artists, and Tennessee Artists Association of Knoxville, among others. My works have been featured in numerous juried shows, where I have received many awards, with several best of show honors. I have been privileged to judge shows for a number of arts organizations. My working methods and art work were featured in an article in The Artists Magazine. My works are included in many important private and public collections worldwide.

Currently I am working as Director of Art Education at Art Creations at Hamilton Place in Chattanooga. There I am in charge of scheduling classes and workshops, interviewing potential teachers and collaborating with the web designer to publicize the classes, among other things. I also teach adult and children’s classes and workshops. In my studio, I continue to create the art that has always been such a vital part of my life.

© 2015 Sandra Paynter Washburn | Site by RamseyMedia » wgramsey.com