Sandy Stratil – The Evolution of My Art

I have been making art as long as I can remember.  When I went to a Valentine party  in 6th grade, one of the games was to try to tear a heart from paper with your hands behind your back.  I did that easily and all the other kids were amazed.  “How did you do that so quickly?”  I didn’t know the answer, but I did know that making representations of real life objects and people was easy for me.I eventually went to college and majored in art and English.   This was in the late 60’s when abstract expressionism was at its peak.   My instructors chided students who did realistic work.  So I did semi-abstract oil paintings, usually with a figurative emphasis.   Later on, I began to teach art, and really didn’t do as much art work of my own as I did focus on my students’ efforts.

When I decided to go back and get a Masters degree in Art Education, I became interested in watercolor, and one of my instructors was Gary Akers, who is now a rather famous egg tempera and watercolor painter.   Watercolor became my favorite medium for many years.

In 1989, my life changed.   I went to Springmaid Watermedia Workshop in Myrtle Beach for the first time.   Wow!   The nationally and internationally known artists who taught at Springmaid made such a difference in my art work.  I studied with Alex Powers, who is a phenomenal draughtsman.  His book Painting People in Watercolor:  A Design Approach is a classic .   I  studied with many other watermedia instructors as well, including Skip Lawrence, Mary Todd Beam, Louise Cadillac, Carla O’Connor.   My work changed so much during those years.   I learned something that I still keep in my head about art making from each of those fabulous artists.

A real treat was the year I first studied with Katherine Chang Liu.  Katherine is a fabulous artist but also the most gifted teacher.  Students call her the “art whisperer.”   She knows just what to say to students to help them move forward to the next level in their art.    Though Springmaid Watermedia Workshop as we knew it has now ended, I am fortunate enough to have been invited to study in Katherine’s Ventura, California workshop.  For the past two years, I have gone to this amazing two week workshop with my friend Kitty.

Kitty is a collage artist and I used to think to myself.  Hmm…who would want to carry all those materials…paper, adhesives, “stuff,” to the workshops.  Then….I had a class with Carrie Burns Brown.   A fantastic teacher, Carrie does acrylic painting and the most wonderful collages.  Her DVD  Watermedia Collage Workshop is the very best instructional video on collage on the market.  She has so many techniques to share.   I learned all these and my favorite new tool was the phototransfer.

In this method, the artist makes a Xerox (toner) copy of a photo she wants to use in a collage.  Then using one of a variety of methods, she makes a copy in reverse of the image.  This can then be transferred either directly on watercolor paper or canvas, or on thin tissue paper which can be moved around wherever the artist wants to put it.

I then add paint, pencil, and other art materials to develop the painting.  The result is a very personal “story” of a family or a single person or a memorable trip or event…the sky is the limit in using transfers in this way.

Here is one of my paintings using my husband’s family photos.   This series, of which there are many paintings, is called “Family Matters.”

I have done paintings of my family of origin, our blended family, and now I have branched out into paintings of my travels.



I also do these paintings by commission.    An interested person brings me his/her “stuff,” pictures, objects, memorabilia,  that should appear in the final art work.  I then compose a painting with these objects.  It could be on canvas or paper.   Also, when someone sends me a wedding invitation, my gift to that person is usually a painting about her wedding.  Here is one such painting: