Many things affect an artist’s work and life

Some people must wonder why I use the name of S. Sands on my paintings...

Some people must wonder why I use the name of S. Sands on my paintings.

The reason is because I’m a fourth generation Sands painter, starting with my Great Grandfather, who did a lovely watercolour of a lady standing under Bolten Abbey in England.  I still have it, old frame and all.

The painting bug hit me when I was 16.  I then asked my father, “Daddy can you show me how to paint the red reflections from a red-light district? I don’t want the light showing, just the reflections on the street and buildings.”

I was amazed when he took it all in calm stride and got out his paintbrush. He dipped his brush into some reddish paint and in no time I had my red light district, with an old man trudging along the dark street with his coat wrapped around his ears.

As an aside, I’d like to mention that in later years, my father won many silver spoons for the wondrous charcoals he submitted to the PNE in Vancouver.  Also, his collection of 30 years of poetry now resides in the University of Victoria.  He was considered one of Vancouver Island’s best poets.

Oh yes, and we have a four-and-a-half-year-old, who is giving her Grandmother one watercolour after another.  Music is more inclined to run on my Mother’s side.

I had fallen in love with the Impressionists, especially van Gogh.

Later, with three children, I made a trip with my husband to Dawson City, then over the summit to a place called Granville where only 12 families lived and the clanging of gold dredges out on the tailings never quit.

The strange bug hit again.  I had been reading about Jackson Pollack and some hard-edge painters in the States  I thought, “I  can do that!”

There was going to be an art show in Dawson.  So I got out an entire sheet of plywood (canvases were not easily had) and began to paint the “Crucifixion,”  using triangles, rectangles, and every angle imaginable.

Somehow I managed to convey Christ on the cross with the two thieves beside him.

This was all in blacks, greys, and white.  I doubt if I could do it again.

The viewers in Dawson were very polite and asked me many questions about the painting.

Surely, they must have thought I was mad or becoming a bit isolated.  There was one other painting but we won’t go into that.

Then because there wasn’t a school for my oldest son, and the gold dredges were about to shut down, I fled to the south and eventually wound up living in the Terrace.

It wasn’t long before the painting bug was on my trail again.

Only this time it took a somewhat lopsided abstract pathway.

I was  painting with everything including broken windshield glass!

But, amazingly, I sold 22 paintings over a two-year period, including six sardine cans!

Those were the days when Wally Humphrey, and some of our best artists, gave us the benefit of their opinion of all our paintings submitted and displayed in the arts and crafts shows.

Wally told me he thought one of my watercolours was the best he’d ever seen, but on the other hand, he said my one nude was too strident. I’m sure he realized it was of me!

We all got a shock at the quality of Anne Marie Nehring’s paintings.  They were a real eye-opener, especially her portraits.  So we have had some terrific painters in Terrace.

I’d like to mention Susann Williamson at the new Mountainside Gallery, near the four-way stop as you turn to go towards Kitimat.

Just look up at the left to see the Mountainside Gallery.  She has done an amazing job of setting up the paintings of artists, both good and far-out.

The second time she arranged the paintings, I was really impressed!  She also makes stained glass windows.

Sylvia Sands Johnson is a writer and painter formerly of Rosswod and now living in Terrace.