“Teaching helps me make other people’s dreams come true”: Sandra Sanchez, a portrait artist from Southern California

27 Jan 2024

Sandra Sanchez, a distinguished contemporary artist from Southern California, seamlessly blends the realms of traditional fantasy and realistic portrait art to create the vivid and luminous pieces she is known for today.

Her artistic journey traces back to childhood visits to The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where the profound influence of the Old Masters ignited a passion for technically and emotionally rich painting. Guided by a desire to elevate her craft, Sandra embarked on a new artistic journey, completing the core program at the prestigious Grand Central Atelier after graduating high school. This experience became the bedrock for her commitment to mastering the intricacies of traditional painting.

Upon moving back to California in 2022, Sandra made a conscious decision to weave her cherished childhood influences into her canvases. She brings a totally unique fusion of classical and contemporary elements to her work.

Sandra’s artistic prowess extends beyond the confines of classical art, allowing her to skillfully render fantasy subjects with a nuanced touch. Her paintings not only showcase technical mastery but also exude a profound connection to humanity. Through the interplay of sensitive light and fluid composition, she captures the essence of her subjects and can create a powerful visual impact.

Fast forward to today, still under 30 years of age, the artist is full of exuberant joy talking about her work and her students.

She says teaching helps her make other people’s dreams come true. She loves giving back to the communities that have given so much to her. And it’s a full circle of her teaching, and then learning from those she teaches. When asked what makes a great teacher, Sandra says communication is key.

With empathy, she understands the vulnerability of her students, opening her mind and heart to meet their needs. Teaching for her is a collaborative creative experience.

Some students have different approaches, and she doesn’t dictate “one way only,” but feels into their way. So one must also ask, “What makes a great student?” And to this, Sanchez opens a door to understanding how she has grown, seemingly so quickly, as an artist and teacher.

As a student, she learned to be very open to feedback, to ask what her teacher thought, then to ask students and friends. She listened to multiple perspectives. This led her to reach out to other artists in her local community, and then even farther, to online communities. She studied what she loved in others’ artwork and, wanting to understand their approach, wasn’t afraid to ask questions. This opened the door to more art communities, and the momentum grew. Along with all the information she was receiving she spent many hours developing her paintings.

“It is people that have had the biggest compound effect on my art.”

It is the people in her classes, and in the community of friends she has built. She’s involved in group chats of artists that offer critiques, share opportunities, and encourage each other to continue the dream. She paints alongside other artists and whether in plein air, in personal studios, or in workshops, she believes that sharing this life with others creates an aliveness in her personal work.

But it wasn’t always this way. The transition from school to making a living as an artist was one of her biggest hurdles. She felt isolated and alone in her struggle, until she forced herself to reach out and be vulnerable to other artists, sharing her fears and hardships. And bit by bit, these baby steps of sharing allowed her to see how everyone struggles. The newfound community encouragement created new worlds of possibility.

Sandra’s journey involves learning from those around her, even down to the art of daily rituals in her studio. She has intentionally slowed down. To begin the day, she enjoys coffee while anticipating a beautiful day ahead.

Putting the paint on the palette is an experience of gratitude, the acknowledgment of a new beginning.

She has learned to remove work distractions like her phone, and constant snacking. And she takes intentional breaks, like an afternoon tea. She tunes into what makes her creative and what feels good, which creates more balance and play in her art. To break out of ruts she breaks the routine, painting something that she wouldn’t normally paint. Mix things up—paint landscapes, plein air, small studies, or abstracts—and just allow yourself to enjoy the journey is another piece of advice she gives. You can do this by yourself or with community.

A book Sandra read, and comes back to is The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest. It has given her insight and gentle tools in becoming who she wants to be. Having had the courage to ask, and building on the power of community she continues to break new ground as an artist and teacher.

She currently teaches in California, New York, and across the country, as well as online courses via the Grand Central Atelier.

Acknowledged for her exceptional talent, Sandra is a recipient of prestigious awards, including the Anders Larson-Toich Fund Scholarship, the Alma Schapiro Fund Scholarship, and the Neil Patterson Award of Excellence. As a two-time Hudson River Fellow, she continues to evolve as an artist, consistently breathing life and energy into her art, ensuring the spirit of her subjects resonates in every stroke.


By Gilbert Castro | ENC News




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