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A New Day, A New Vision, The Pastel Journal Artist Interview Series featuring master pastelist Sally Strand. As technologies advance, Sally Strand talks about her efforts to keep up, to keep painting, and to keep growing as an artist.

SALLY STRAND HAS A RESUME that any pastelist would envy. She has been named a Pastel Society of America Master Pastelist and was inducted into the Society’s prestigious Hall of Fame. She has been a sought-after workshop instructor for more than 20 years, and her paintings have earned an extensive list of awards and honors. career-has begun to do some reevaluation. In our conversation, Strand talked about how she’s been dealing with the increasing demands of the art profession, particularly with respect to rapidly changing technology. The artist has made some significant adjustments, it turns out, both in her art- making and in the way in which she conducts
the business side of art.

One hallmark of a Sally Strand workshop is a series of questions, based on the foundational principles of art, that lead students toward better decision-making. Not unlike this practice, Strand has been asking herself some difficult questions lately, as she reexamines her artistic life.

The Meaning of Work
DS: The idea of questions that challenge an artist to grow is wonderful. What are some of the questions you’ve been asking yourself?
She has participated in numerous solo and group shows with prominent galleries and museums, including the Butler Institute of American Art and The Bakersfield Museum of Art, which hosted an artist retrospective.
Despite the long list of accolades and successes, Strand-like many artists at mid-
SS: Years ago I asked myself about my role as an artist: What do I personally contribute to other’s lives by doing this thing I love? Sometimes I didn’t feel that what I was doing alone in my studio had any meaning to any-
Duet, pastel on paper by Sally Strand
Duet (12X9)
Awake, Pastel on paper by Sally Strand one else, in the way, for example, that a nurse or teacher might. But I came to realize that artists do give people a gift, a way to experience the beauties and wonders of life-little things that many people never see or notice. I once had a woman in my booth at an art festival who looked at my painting of a simple head of lettuce for so long that I got a little nervous. Finally, she turned to me and said with a sense of wonder in her voice, “Oh ... I’ll never look at my vegetable drawer the same way again.” That was a defining moment for me as a young artist.

Having painted for many years, it’s possible to look back at my body of work. How I saw the world years ago is very different than how I see it today. I now have a much deeper well to draw from, so I continue to ask
Awake, 13X17
Meeting New Challenges
DS: Are there still issues you’re hoping to clarify?
SS: I’m struggling with balancing my time between artwork and business. The challenge has been to adapt to all the new technology and set up new business systems so that I can still focus on painting. This technology explosion has altered not only the way I do the business of art, it has also changed the working methods I use in the studio to create my art.

In this digital age, there’s been a very steep learning curve. We’ve all had one foot in the old world and one in the new. In making the transition from the use of film to digital images, I’ve been learning how a digital camera differs from a film camera with regard to color and light. I took a class in Photoshop to learn how to manage the images. This whole digital thing feels to me like the Wild West; you still never know how the color is going to be seen on someone else’s monitor or in print. When sending images to galleries, competitions, or for printing in magazines or brochures, it’s a trick to achieve the right color.

Digital photography has changed the reference materials I use in my studio. In addition to working from life, I’m using a computer, which makes everything different, even the way I look at color. It’s vastly changed my working methods, both in business and in the studio.

My life was really simpler before the computer. Things used to be slower paced. I used a typewriter with carbon paper, and I didn’t even have a phone in my studio. There weren’t as many distractions, except maybe when I brought one of my babies into the studio in a laundry basket, snuggled down in the warm clothes from the dryer.

There’s been a lot to learn, but I’ve figured it out when I needed it. Over the years, I’ve learned to do all my own photography—with some help from artist Doug Dawson, who showed me his 4x5 camera. I participated in the Laguna Art Festival, made a business card and brochure, and learned to deal with the public. I built my résumé by entering competitions, because galleries wanted to see a track record. I moved from local galleries to national ones, then to a New York gallery, all the while doing solo shows and figuring out how to price my work so it would

Bedside, a.m. (18x27)

For this painting, which won an award in the 2008 Pastel Society of America show and was later selected for a special exhibit at the Butler Institute of American Art, Strand worked on UART pastel paper, beginning with an underpainting of acrylic and watercolor washes.

myself what is my vision and what do I want to say. Art is much less about technique at this stage of my life and more about how I see the world. So I will forever be asking myself: What do I need to say next?



sell in different places.

There were some hard lessons along the way, but every mature artist has war stories. For instance, in those days an artist couldn’t always expect to be provided with collectors’ names, so I’ve no idea where some of my best work went.

Professional Assistance

DS: Artists are reputedly spontaneous and unstructured people. Is this true of you? Or are you naturally methodical and organized?

SS: I'm a very disciplined person when it comes to my time, but I recently found things were piling up in the
studio, so I partered paintings in trade with a professional organizer to help me set things up in the studio to run more efficiently. First, she tore the studio apart and then sat me down with colored tubs around me and told me to sort everything. I’ve also hired various consultants to give me business advice. One expert mentioned that the technology explosion has created stress for artists everywhere, and many of my peers seem to agree.

For years I did everything myself, but I’ve realized that my time is worth something, so now I have a bookkeeper, a web designer, a graphic artist to assist me in designing mailers, a professional photographer, a framer, and a shipper to pack and ship work to shows. The key has been to get a good working operation first. The upside is that in doing it all myself first, I learned these skills, which gives me confidence in overseeing what others do for me. I’m currently considering hiring an assistant to take over more of the office duties-updating databases, inventory, correspondence, workshop contracts, answering e-mail. Before I started the reorganization process, my business systems were so convoluted that no one else could have used them.




Windowsill to the Sea (19X11)

I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve made, although I still have more to do. For example, I’m learning to write down and follow a time-line for exhibitions instead of just having a vague plan, as I did for years. All of this is a constant move toward more professionalism. Ultimately, the goal is to remove all distractions, freeing me to concentrate on the quality of my art and where it’s going.

DS: A change in season is often a time when people more closely evaluate priorities. What’s your highest priority?

SS: Excellence and integrity. It’s important to me to hone my skills and only show my best efforts-to do all things to the best of my abilities. My personal priority has always been my marriage, as well as my two sons, who have grown into really great guys. At the end of my life I know what will be important isn’t what I’ve achieved, but my relationships with the people I love. That said, professionally, I wasn’t able to do all that I could have, or would have liked to, had
Apples With Figs (18X24)


Stacked Cups With Tangerines (12X17)
I not put my husband and children first. I’d idea that when two situations arise that need my presence or attention at the same time, and both seem of equal importance, I ask myself which one can never be repeated. That’s the one I choose to do. This has helped me make many difficult choices. All your decisions flow from your priorities, after all.
Poolside, White Hat, pastel on paper by Sally Strand

Poolside, White Hat (12x9)
Breeze, Pastel on paper by Sally Strand

Breeze (11 1/2X12)

Setting Goals, Sticking to Them
DS: What would you advise other artists to remember as they travel the path to becoming more professional?

SS: One quote that has helped me is: “Just do the work. The rest will follow.” When I was younger, I found that to be true and it helped me stay focused. More often, these days, I remind myself to “eliminate and concentrate.” I consider art to be
my profession, so I have daily work hours and stick to them. I’m self-employed and therefore I have to be my own watchdog.

In art, goals are very personal, and success may look totally different from one person to another, but I think it all comes down to how an artist evaluates and orders life’s priorities. I’m learning to keep the art paramount and be sure the business supports that. the changes new technology brings, The challenge for me has been to learn and grow with and then to manage them so that they become part of my creative
Red Sundress, Pastel on paper by Sally Strand

Red Sundress (6x8)
process and business. Overall, my goal is to share with others what I’ve learned as an artist and to keep focused on the joy of creating.

Albuquerque, N.M., artist Deborah Secor (www.deborahsecor.com) teaches pastel classes and writes about art for The Pastel Journal and Watercolor Artist magazines.