Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Feature: Sandra Busby

"Big Ted on Beethoven" by Sandra Busby
Hi Everyone,

I will admit to you that Friday snuck up on me this week:)  Anyone else feel like March is flying by?  Without further ado I will introduce you to my feature this week.

I met Sandra through blogging:)  We became fast blogging buddies.  She is delightful.  Her spirit and fun come through in her blog and her art.  She has truly been on a journey and has come out on the other side painting her passion and it shows.

To see more of her work visit her blog

 How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?

My friend and I used to draw all the time when we were little.
We’d make comic strips, draw people, make posters, collages... We would sometimes draw for hours!

Once I became a distracted teenager, my life took me in other directions and unfortunately, I didn’t pick up a pencil again until I was 35!
It was then that I realised how foolish I had been for not keeping it up.

A year later, armed only with the basic knowledge and an Artistic itch, I enrolled on an Arts Foundation Course, which I did from home. I completed it within a year and it was probably the best decision I’d ever made where my art is concerned. 

With a view to obtaining an Arts Degree I then enrolled on to the second year.
But unlike the foundation course, I soon began to feel stifled as though I was being held back rather than pushed forward.
I found it very difficult to paint subjects as dictated to me by the course and even harder trying to copy styles that didn’t come naturally to me.

After thinking long and hard about it, eventually I decided to withdraw from the course and that was probably the second best decisions I’d ever made where my art is concerned!
Free to paint as I liked, I began to discover how ‘Sandra Busby’ paints and quickly began to realise my own style.

Of course there are pro’s and cons to both going to Art College and being self-taught. Having done a little of both, I only know which suited me.

Where were you born?

I was born in the seaside town of Eastbourne, East Sussex on the South-East of England.
Now I live in a village just a few miles inland from there.

If you could live anywhere where would you live?

Hmm… that’s a difficult question!
I’ve had all sorts of romantic ideas in my life of living in a country full of sunshine and culture. The bottom line is I would miss home. So, I choose to just visit other counties instead. I LOVE travelling! :0)

If I could live anywhere in England, as long as my family could come along too I would probably choose somewhere like Cornwall. It is one of the most beautiful parts of England situated on the tip of the South-west coast.
If I could live anywhere abroad and take my family, I would choose somewhere like New Zealand.

One thing I could never live too far away from is the Sea. Though it is 16 miles from where I live, I can still ‘feel’ it. Any further away and I immediately feel its absence. For some reason it just has to be close.
"Single Malt, No Ice" by Sandra Busby
 What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

I seem to go through phases. I love painting glass – in fact anything that catches the light. I particularly love to paint these things against a really dark background, which really emphasizes the lights.
More recently I have been drawn to painting in a more vintage style with subjects and medium to suit. I’m quite settled on it to be honest.
I tend to bore easily though and so every so often I might decide to do something completely different in an entirely different medium!

I almost always prefer to paint subjects that I feel some sort of connection too.

Could you talk about your painting techniques? 

Hmm… Okay – let’s talk about oils then, since that is the main medium I am working with at the moment.

So, I work in layers. Firstly, having stained my canvas with a dilute wash, I transfer my basic outlines to the canvas. Then, I will start with a monochrome under-painting. This establishes my darkest areas and allows me to see in advance if something’s not working.

Next, I work from background to foreground, beginning with my darks. This is where I try to make the most of lost edges. Sometimes I can get the effect I want in just one layer, but other times it needs several layers. Sometimes I need a layer to dry before I add the next and sometimes I work wet in wet, depending if I need to blend areas or not.

I try to work transparently as much as possible, i.e. without the use of white. I don’t know why – somehow I feel that the painting looks less ‘chalky’. Of course white has to come in to it in some areas, but because I don’t use it much, it really sings when I do use it.

So, the lights come next and then once the whole painting is dry I might add further glazes in certain areas to bring more depth of colour.
Finally, I add detail and the brightest highlights.

My best friends are Liquin, Glaze medium and my Fan Brush with I couldn’t do without!
"Sherlock Wilson" by Sandra Busby
 You seem to really enjoy your bear paintings, could you talk about the personal significance?

Well, who doesn’t love bears? ;0)
It all started with a list of things that I wrote, of things I wanted to paint. Bubbles, glasses, marbles…
On this list was my Dads teddy bear, which he had kept since he was four.
It was coming up to Fathers Day and I decided it would be a lovely idea to paint the bear in a portrait style as a gift to him.

Whilst I was thinking about it, I decided that it would be nice to paint the bear in a vintage style, like the Old Masters used to use to paint portraits. I suppose I thought that this style would suit the bear’s age.
So, I painted him against a really dark background with a third of him disappearing in to the gloom.

I fell in love with the style as I painted and so decided to paint a whole series, which is currently in progress. Each bear is painted in what I consider to be my own take on the vintage style, with a contemporary edge - and I just love surrounding them with interesting objects :0)

How did you arrive at your current style?

Well, having withdrawn from the course, I quite literally rebelled!

I had spent a couple of years being told to ‘lunge’ at the canvas, to ‘throw’ paint around... I was so sick of the word ‘loose, loose, LOOSE!
I had begun to feel that so much emphasis was being put on imagination and ‘looseness’, and so technical ability came a very poor second!

Don’t get me wrong – I love loose paintings. I mean, who doesn’t love the work of Jean Haines and Shirley Trevina? But, that is their style. Try as I might, it just doesn’t come naturally to me.

I began to feel that I was being urged to follow a fashion – a trend. We were all trying to follow something that someone else had started.
The way I see it, with that comes the danger of becoming lost amongst many Artists, all doing the same thing. Fair enough, if it does come naturally and it is who you are, then fabulous! You will stand out regardless! But I was most certainly one of those who were lost.

When I withdrew from the course, I began painting things from my list of things ‘I’ had wanted to paint in the way ‘I’ had wanted to paint them. I began with glass.
I loved the freedom of being able to paint as neatly as I liked.

From that moment I have never felt the need to loosen up. This was just something that I had been made to think I should feel as an Art Student.
By Sandra Busby
 Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Well, yes I do. Rolf Harris!

I suppose it is because he has been around since I was a child. He was a TV entertainer and he used to paint with a huge paint brush on a wall. His catch phrase was ‘Can you tell what it is yet?’  I was totally in awe of him.
Of course he does fine art too and more recently he did a lovely painting of the Queen.
Not just that though – he seems to be a lovely, genuinely good man – and oh, his lovely Australian voice!
He is in his 80’s now and is still going strong.

My favorite of the Old Masters is Monet. I just love his paintings :0)

As for who has been my inspiration, well I get inspiration from SO many people!
Of course I get it from my family who are constantly re-assuring me that I am good enough! But I also get masses of inspiration from the blogs I follow.
Often, if I am having a confidence melt-down or an unproductive week and I feel bad about that, I will find that several other people have posted on that very subject.

I have learned so much from other people’s blogs; we all seem to feel the same insecurities about our work from time to time. We all make mistakes and we all struggle with sharing work that is not our best. I have learned that it’s normal to feel this way, it is normal to make mistakes and that is what has stopped me from hanging up my apron.

What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist?

Hmm… Well, music!
Though sometimes on a sunny day I can feel quite happy just listening to the birds singing, most of the time I listen to music. It keeps me painting for longer.
Also, I seem to be much more productive during the spring and summer. I always feel happier and more positive and of course the days are so much longer.

More recently, I have started to sketch at least one simple thing a day.
Because I can spend a long time on just one painting, it can sometimes be weeks before I pick up a pencil. So, I decided that this is a great way of stretching my creative muscles and exercising my drawing skills between paintings.
Honestly – now I have started this – I don’t know how I managed without it! I have suddenly woken up to how quickly we can become rusty and how important sketching actually is and I don’t intend to stop any time soon :0)

Do you have go-to paints/colors and brands, what are your favorites?

I like Winsor & Newton paints. I used to use cheaper brands thinking it really wouldn’t make any difference, but once I signed the contract with a Gallery, I thought it was only right to move on to a better quality paint.
Now I have tried them, I realise that there really is a difference (though not in all pigments). And though I might try an alternative brand of the same quality, I wouldn’t go back to using the cheaper paints. It is true – you do get what you pay for.
"Ted's Bear" by Sandra Busby
 What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

Hmm... well, some are big and some are more realistic – At least then in five years I can look back and see I have reached some of them! ;0)

Assuming you mean all art related things:

  1. To have a solo exhibition – HUGE dream :0)
  2. For my bears to be displayed on a Gallery wall and to sell! WOOHOO! :0D
  3. To enter a competition and not necessarily win, but to do well in it
  4. To fill up lots and lots of sketchbooks and lose the fear of sketching in public
  5. For my husband to strip out my art room and re-design it with me - HUGEST dream, lol ;0)

What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

·                     First of all, don’t expect to be good right away. It’s like riding a bike – at first, you fall off! It takes lots of practice, so don’t get disheartened when you make a mistake. Just learn from it! I still make lots of mistakes and I still learn from them – as do even the most accomplished Artists. It took me a while to get that!
·                     Try to draw something simple every day. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can see an improvement of hand to eye-coordination!
·                     Never throw away old work. It’s a good way of judging your progress :0)
·                     And most importantly - NEVER see an unsuccessful painting or drawing as a failure – but rather as another valuable lesson learned. And most definitely don’t see it as a waste of time.
by Sandra Busby
 What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?

Don’t be afraid of the dark! And by that I mean darks.
If your darks aren’t dark enough then your lights won’t sing. It’s interesting that the darker the darks, the lighter the painting can seem!
I used to be afraid to be bold, but paintings can too easily look wishy-washy without wonderful, rich shadows!

Oh, and sketch! Something I have only recently embraced :0)
"Codi" by Sandra Busby


Chocolate or vanilla?

Vanilla – YUM!!!

Sunny beach or rustic mountain retreat?

Sunny beach! There is no place I’d rather be other than under the sea :0)

Book or movie?

Both – except I don’t get enough time to read, so it will generally have to be a film

Favorite author?

Helen Fielding and J K Rowling! I love comedy and I LOVE magic!

Favorite movie?

Bridget Jones – Hilarious! And what woman can’t relate?
Harry Potter – Just magical in every way!
Grease!!! Classic! And John Travolta is just gorgeous!!!

Romance or comedy?

Comedy – No contest!

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Haagan Daz Pecan Nut and Caramel. Mmmmmmmm…

Night owl or morning person?

Neither! I need my sleep!
But - I am trying my hardest to train myself in to becoming a morning person!

Cake or Cupcakes?

Either!! If it’s yummy, sweet and it’s likely to give me a heart attack, then YES PLEASE!!!


  1. Thank you so much Carrie! What an honor to appear on your Blog!! Let's hope I don't disappoint when your readers pop along and find themselves in the middle of my recent sketching frenzy!! ;0D

  2. This was such a FUN interview!! I loved every single word. :))) Sandra you are such a spot of brightness in this blogsphere and I just love you to pieces. :))) And Carrie you are equally awesome and generous to host these fab interviews. :D

  3. Wonderful interview, Carrie. Sandra's work is lovely.

  4. Oh Carrie! A wonderful interview with an incredible artist and blogger friend!! I've been following Sandra for quite some time and absolutely love her and her paintings!! Another amazing interview!!

  5. Loved it. The best part for me was the thing about painting the way you want to paint whatever the fashion may be. That way you are actually loosening up...

  6. Ok, now not only am I BLUSHING but my head is now SWOLLEN!! Thank you all so much! Your comments mean the world!!! :0D

  7. Well done you two. A first class interview, Carrie and lovely work Sandra. The detail of the veneer - on the wood in the background - is quite remarkable.

    Thank you both - highly entertaining

  8. Love it! What a great interview. I love Sandra's work and how she is so expressive in her writing as well as her painting. This is a nice overview of Sandra's work, too! Great questions and answers. My favorite was not to be afraid of the darks.

  9. Okay, that was just DELIGHTFUL. No other word ; ) Beautiul work Sandra. And I agree whole-heartedly: to thine own self be true. That's the key! And I also like your note about darks. And J.K and Grease? awesome ; )