Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Feature: Kelley Sanford

"In the Red" original oil by Kelley Sanford 
 Hi Everyone,
It's Friday again:)  Today I'm introducing a fabulous oil painter, Kelley Sanford.  Kelley was on some of the first Artists Helping Artists radio shows.  I began following her blog at that time and just love her work.

To see more of Kelley's work check out her website

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

I went to college with the goal of obtaining an art degree but switched majors after feeling that I learned more from my high school teachers than the professors and lost the desire to be an artist.   It took almost 2 decades before I realized that I really did mean to be artist.  It’s been almost 13 years since I called my boss & quit without a real plan except to pursue my art.   While the road has been anything but smooth, I wouldn’t change a thing.   The true surprise was in starting to teach art.  A few ladies kept showing up at my studio asking if I taught.  Oh no, I said but they refused to leave it alone.  So a deal was struck.  I’d teach for one month & at the end they’d realize that I couldn’t teach & they would stop bugging me about it.  5 years later, I’m still teaching & loving it.

 Where were you born?

Asheville, North Carolina
"In the Orchard" original oil  by Kelley Sanford

If you could live anywhere where would you live?

Anywhere I can look out & see water

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

 It’s color & light that attracts me, not the object.  

Could you talk about your painting techniques? 

I’m an Alla Prima painter.   If I have to work on a piece for more than 4 hours, it usually never makes it out of my studio.  The intimacy of brush to canvas is what attracts me & try not to have more than a couple of passes across the canvas.  I also work with a limited palette.  It consists of a warm & cool of the primaries plus burnt sienna (with which I make my own darks…not black out the tube for me).   I don’t knock artists with a more expanded palette but I can mix almost any color & know that it will be in harmony with the rest of the painting. 
"Blueberries" original oil by Kelley Sanford
How did you arrive at your current style?

I always envied the artists that had gorgeous brushwork & color but realized that it was time at the easel & having a solid understanding of the basics that allowed my brushwork/color to develop.   Although I have recently realized that the “style” wasn’t what made me unhappy with a piece,  it was if the painting lacked freshness.   Having my painting appear spontaneous & fresh is the ultimate goal for me.  I guess the clue should have been that I was an “alla prima” painter.   Guess I should tell you now that I’m blonde.

Do you have a favorite artist?

It’s so hard to say just one but John Singer Sargent is probably it.    I remember standing & looking at one of his portrait’s & being memorized in how he painted a strand of pearls.  

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Russian Impressionists.   They are the masters of grays.  Nicolai Fechin, Sergei Bongart & Fedor Zakharov are among my favorites.    But I’ve also been following a few contemporary Russian artists recently. 
"All in Yellow" original oil by Kelley Sanford
What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist?

They include …

  A good cup of coffee or margarita (depending on the time of day)

  Some inspirational art books by my bed

 Collectors & gallery owners who believe in you as an artist

  A trustworthy artist friend who will tell you like it is, push you to grow & pick you up when you can’t seem to paint anything well

 Listening to your inner voice to not follow the crowd
 Friends & family who love you but don’t ask them tell you what is good or bad about your work

"Hydrangeas on Turquoise" original oil by Kelley Sanford
Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Just ask my students what will happen if they touch my Gamblin Indian Yellow.    It’s my go to color.   Gamblin & Winsor Newton are my mainstays. 

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

1. A large studio with the best light

2.  Signature status from the American Impressionist Society

3. Someone to clean my brushes on a daily basis (this should be #1)

4.  Teaching workshops around the country

5.  Taking 2 months off each year to travel and paint anywhere
"Passing By" original oil by Kelley Sanford
 What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

Take time to really understand the foundations of painting.   Once you’ve got those down, the rest will work itself out.   And to not take yourself so seriously.   Painting is serious but have fun along the way.

"Yellow House, Beaufort" original oil by Kelley Sanford
What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?

Just paint!!!!!!!!!

Chocolate or vanilla?


Sunny beach or rustic mountain retreat?


Book or movie?


Favorite author?

David McCullough

Favorite movie?

Blazing Saddles (don’t ask)

Romance or comedy?


Favorite ice cream flavor?

Nope…got to be a salty thing

Night owl or morning person?

Night owl

Cake or Cupcakes?

Once again…salty reigns.

 Thanks so much Kelley:)  I had to laugh at your favorite movie choice, that is a favorite of my husbands and I'm subjected to it at least once a year:)

Have a great weekend everyone:)



  1. This is such a fun and interesting post! I love all the artwork, and the way that you decided to follow your own inner voice and stop following the crowd! I'm going to do the same, and I'm so excited about it! I'm impressed with how each of your paintings has it's own unique palette of colors, and it looks like you did the brush strokes differently on some, to achieve the effects you needed. Very nice work! I like the Hydrangeas best because of the colors, and the red flowers on the top because of their passion and vividness. Everything is so pretty!

  2. Another great Friday Feature Carrie. Have been a fan of Kelley's since I found her and her work. Really enjoyed reading more about her.

  3. Love it! Love her work! I've been following her all this time, too!

  4. Thanks, Carrie. I really enjoyed doing this even though you made me admit I'm a Blazing Saddles' fan. My brother will be so proud.

  5. So pleased...the world gets to know Kelley Sanford better! Thanks Carrie for sharing.

  6. Carrie, I am SO glad you interviewed this amazing artist! I have been a follower of her fantastic artwork and have stalked her for years. She is truly a special teacher and most talented artist. Everyone should have an original Kelley Sanford! (P.S. I am her part time art representative!!)

  7. Fantastic interview of an amazing artist. I really want to take a class from her.

  8. Another great interview, Carrie - don't know how you fit all your activities into a week.

    I just love Kelley's work, my favourite is 'Blueberries' I think ... or is it the Geraniums ... or it could be ....

  9. A wonderful interview, Carrie! Kelley is an amazing artist...

  10. An insightful and wonderful expose! Follow Kelley yet this leaves a clearer picture of her thoughts and process.

  11. Another wonderful Artist! There is a touch of 'Monet' in these I feel. Beautiful :0)

  12. Kelley Sanford work is astonishing. Is this for sale? I would love her paining posted on our wall.

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