"Our heart already knows the one thing that we need to be doing on any singular, sensational day.
Listening to what your heart is telling you and taking action IS the master plan."
~ Sandy Troudt, AFCA
Please tell us about bit about yourself. Anything you’d like to share, perhaps where you live,
where you were born, your family?
I was born in Colorado and, growing up in a military family, lived all over the Pacific West coast, parts of the southwest as well as in Japan. My father was a WWII pilot and a career Air Force Officer. As an Air Force brat, I moved with my family every two to three years and grew up surrounded by Quonset huts, tarmac, metal, camo colours and khaki. I think that growing up in this relatively colourless environment explains why I’m so drawn to bold colour and the beauty of the natural world. These are big contrasts to my early surroundings.
My husband and I moved from Colorado to Prince Rupert in 1971 and have lived in FSJ since 1974. We came for one year, but fell in love with the area, made wonderful friends and now we can’t imagine moving away. We cleared a space on one of our three quarter-sections, built a house, bought and raised horses, planted a garden and have spent most of our free time on adventures on land and water in the beautiful wilderness area surrounding FSJ or just enjoying our own land where we’re surrounded by many walking/x-country ski trails and a wide variety of wildlife.
Can you tell us when you first realized that you enjoyed creating art and wished to become an artist? Is there a particular person who supported your decision to pursue your goals? If so, in what way did you feel supported? If so, how did you feel?
I always remember drawing or enjoying creating with found objects, but it wasn’t until an art class in grade 5, when a pastel artist from the college was invited into our classroom to give us a “real” art lesson, that the “art spark” burst into flame. My mother took me right down to the art supply store after school when she saw how excited I was, and we purchased a set of pastels and a pad of pastel paper.
In H.S., I wasn’t allowed to take art because I was in the college-bound cadre, a prehistoric idea, I know! So, I was determined to major in art at university, but got side-tracked there, thinking I must really come out of this prepared for a job, so I earned a B.A. in Elementary Education with minors in Psychology and History while still enjoying as many art classes as I could fit in.
Creating my own art was put on the back burner for many years, but I was able to weave art instruction into pretty much every area of the curriculum throughout my 32 years as a teacher and loved it! Presentations of art Pro-D sessions to district teachers and then, working with Pre-Service Teachers in a Teacher Education Program, led to Simon Fraser University asking me to teach an art course for district teachers and student teachers. Being given the responsibility and freedom to develop that curriculum for teachers was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I did during my professional career.
It wasn’t until after I retired and became immersed in my own work, including making willow furniture and bird-houses and exploring a wide variety of painting media, that art became my encore career! I’m very grateful that I’ve been able to work with amazing artists whom I admire and who helped me find my own voice.
What is your motivation for creating art?
I think it’s the opportunities for constant learning challenges that lure me to the easel like a magnet. I still pursue art like a perennial student. There is so much to learn and my curiosity runs deep. I love change and after working with various media and styles, I find my technique and interests always subtly and naturally evolving. This ongoing evolution is exciting, often surprising and has resulted in the creation of an eclectic body of work.
Bringing the outdoors in and helping others feel the passion for place is a primary motivation for creating.
My other strong motivation is being able to share what I’ve learned with others and love lending support as they find their own unique learning paths. As a teacher and mentor, working with people who are excited and motivated to learn is a pure delight.
Do you have a favorite medium and if so, why?
At the moment, I’m enjoying acrylic painting the most. I love the vibrant colours that can be achieved with acrylics and it’s easy to make changes as your work progresses. Since you can now use oils without toxic materials, I’m eager to go back to using that medium in plein air work during good weather months. I also love various forms of printmaking and feel that working in one medium informs my work in other media. My next experimental series of work involves mixed-media, the combination of paint, printmaking processes, collage as well as negative painting.This exploratory and experimental way of working makes me laugh out loud as engaging surprises emerge.
Can you tell us a bit about some of your artworks and what they mean to you?
The pieces I hold closest to my heart are the ones I’ve either painted of my husband or the works I’ve painted of places we’ve found in the outdoors that elicit treasured memories. My husband and I have roamed all over the North Peace Region and other areas during our 50 years in Canada on horseback, in off road vehicles or on large ranch holdings adjacent to deep canyons and other wilderness areas. We’ve explored Williston Lake, and the Peace, Pine and Skeena Rivers in our watercrafts and I’m full of awe for the beauty we’ve been privileged to see and experience. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of wide-open landscapes and small hidden places and never lack for a subject that excites my interest or that challenges me to try to capture a bit of magic in my compositions. The experimentation, freedom and playful messiness of pure abstract work calls for my attention as well. I believe painting in a variety of ways loosens up your brushwork while helping with the development of your own recognizable, signature mark-making techniques. I have become much more experimental with my color, brushwork, composition and content. My painting process is now more intuitive and explorational.
When you create art, do you ever listen to calming music? Are you thinking of anything particular or have any emotions at all?
I sometimes listen to music while working (Andrea Bochelli, Leonard Cohen among others), but much of the time, I enjoy the “sounds of silence”, the peaceful quiet of my own thoughts as I attempt to resolve what is in front of me on the easel. I believe that painting is about solving problems, making many important decisions and taking risks. I seem to do this better without too many distractions. I’ve tried listening to audible books while painting, but find that I unconsciously tune the stories out while concentrating on my work.
In our busy world, time can be an issue. Do you have any tips or tricks to find time for your art?
Yes, let my husband do some of the cooking! Seriously though, I’ve decided that, since I've retired and at my age, art can be and will be one of my greatest priorities. More than anything, I enjoy spending time with my husband and he’s my best art critic and supporter. If I wish, I may choose to be at my easel every day. As a late bloomer, I find it easy to let myself be immersed in art, especially since I put it off so long.
Is creating art your main profession?
It is now, after a long teaching career and many years as an active community volunteer.
How lucky we are to have two vibrant art organizations in our region. The PRFCA and Flying Colours Artists’ Association form a strong and connected art community and I’m pleased to have been a founding member of both. My art friends make working and learning together a joy!
Can you tell us about any awards or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life?
The first award won at an PRFCA juried show was a very special honour. When your peers think your work is worthy, that is a pleasure and great confidence booster. It was certainly a special honour to be awarded signature status (AFCA) with the FCA after some intense, but satisfying work. Other impactful moments were when amazingly, someone actually bid on the first painting I donated to a fund-raiser, having my first solo show, seeing my work represented in the Grant Berg Galleries in Grande Prairie and Kananaskis, being invited to have works published in Artists of BC, Southwest Art Magazines and in a few other publications, being presented with the FSJ Cultural Award twice and named Favourite Artist by the citizens of our community were very impactful events. Art is a joyful pursuit whether you work toward predetermined goals or just enjoy serendipitous moments.
Do you have any major goals for your art career?
My main goal is to continue developing as an artist, painting in a lively colourist tradition to create works that sing! I plan to continue supporting and encouraging other artists and to continue supporting my community with donations to worthy causes.
What inspires you to be the best artist that you can be?
I’m self-directed and love learning to satisfy my, seemingly, insatiable curiosity about the magic of creating something beautiful in a variety of ways. There is pure delight and satisfaction in the learning journey itself!!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your art journey or inspiration so far to inspire others?
Our heart already knows the one thing that we need to be doing on any singular, sensational day. Listening to what your heart is telling you and taking action IS the master plan.
Choose from whom you would like to learn. That really mattered to me.
Take risks and put lots of mileage on your brushes. That’s how you keep learning.
Discipline the procrastination monster. Just DO it! The joy will take over and help you soar.
Lastly, I’d like to share some advice from Canadian artist, Robert Genn, that inspired me. He said, “If you want to be an artist, try being artistic. I’ve come to realize that it’s the life breath of our business. In other words, don’t just paint the boat, paint the most expressive boaty-boat you can drag out of your reference or your imagination.”