The beginning of the month is always a favorite time for me as I love to introduce a new style maven to all of my lovely readers. For October, I have the great pleasure of featuring a talented woman by the name of Sandra Sallin. Sandra writes a lively blog by the name of Apart from my Art that she started at the ripe age of 72. Yes, that’s right, Sandra started a new venture in her life at the age of 72! And let me tell you, it isn’t easy to sit down one day and decide to write a blog. Well, maybe it’s easy to come up with the idea to start a blog, but there are so many intricate details behind the scenes that need to be considered, running the gamut from web hosting to blog design to posting content. I know from experience as these past few weeks my blog has suffered from a variety of technical bugs that need to be sorted out and fixed. Let me be the first to tell you blogging isn’t for the faint of heart. And then there’s this whole business of putting yourself out there for the world to see, and have an opinion about. Thankfully, none of this deterred Sandra, a bright, inquisitive woman with a can-do spirit and heart of gold who decided to tackle learning all sorts of new skills as she entered into the world of online blogging in 2012. At first, Sandra explains, she started blogging as a way to expand her life. Many of her friends were either moving away or having their knees replaced. She loved reading blogs and decided to make the transition from reader to author. In the beginning she thought she would write about movies, recipes, and books she liked. But then she started writing about her life experiences and her readers responses surprised her. She never realized she’d lived a rather remarkable life. Sandra then shifted gears, and began writing about her life experiences and family history. One of her posts was about her mother who left Russia with rags on her feet It was honored as one of the one hundred “Voices of the Year,” by BlogHer. Impressive? Yes. And all because this talented woman decided to start a new adventure in her life. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Although, I have a hard time of describing anyone as vital and energetic as Sandra as “old.” They say age is just a number – and I quite agree. So are you ready to dig in deep and learn a little more about Sandra Sallin – artist, blogger, and adventure seeker? I know I am.
Sandra, are you over or under the age of forty? Are you serious? I’m Grandma Blogger. I’ll be 75 this November. Want to throw me a party?
What ignited the spark in you to become an artist? Or was this something you loved doing from a young age?
Even when I was a child, I drew, painted, cross-stitched, cut out, embroidered, knit while lying on the floor listening to the radio! My middle sister was also an artist. When she was 14 and I was 7 I saw her completing a drawing homework assignment. She drew an apple, a piece of driftwood and a watch. It was done so perfectly that I was intimidated and decided I would never become an artist. So, instead I turned to music and performance. I wrote about this creative crisis on my blog here.
Can you remember the first piece that you painted? What makes it memorable?
I was a sophomore at UCLA in the painting department. It was 1967. My first oil painting was of a plant in a clay pot sitting on a patterned cloth. I loved the pattern on that cloth and in fact I still have it today. Vincent Price saw my painting and wanted to purchase it for his collection. Actually, he wanted my second painting also. This was a big deal for a beginning Fine Arts student. There was a certain amount of envy among my classmates who were more than a little annoyed that Mr. Price had selected my work instead of theirs. But you know what? I wouldn’t sell him my paintings. I was so new at this, that I didn’t know if I’d ever paint anything as good again. I wanted to keep them and I did. My first painting sits in my daughter’s house.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
It’s a visual: Is your hand a clenched fist or open. Be free. Be open. Look for new experiences. See everything as an opportunity so new people and experiences can land on your outstretched hand.
You have led a remarkable life, and have such a variety of interests. Can you share a fun story about your life?
I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve shaken Steve Job’s hand, partied with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, cruised the Mediterranean with Albert Finney and Yvette Mimieux while my husband was directing a feature film. I’ve visited museums from The Hague to St. Petersburg and taken cooking classes with Guilliano Bugialli in Tuscany, Barbara Kafka in New York City, and Jacques Pepin in his home in Conneticut. But probably the most unusual experience I ever had was being kissed by wolves in Idaho! A close friend of ours was creating a now-famous film about wolves for the Discovery Channel, called “Living with Wolves.” He invited us to his 25 acre compound up in the Sawtooth Mountains where he had raised a pack of wolves from puppies. I actually was able to touch, feel and be licked by them. You have no idea what wolf breath smells like when they’ve just had a meal of raw chicken. You might enjoy reading my experience here.
Do you have a motto?
“It’s not as if it’s engraved in sand!” My husband and I were having an energetic discussion. Looking my husband straight in the eye, I proclaimed the above to validate my position. There was a long pause and my husband replied, “You’ve buttered your bread, now sleep in it.” I’m the family Ms. Malapropism.
How do you define success?
A life filled with a loving family and health. Being able to do something you love everyday. And it doesn’t hurt if your talents are also recognized.
What is it like running your own business?
People think that being an artist, all you have to do is walk into your studio and paint. If you want to be a professional artist there is a lot more business involved. You need to enter shows, write resumes, type slide labels, write letters, keep track of your works – where they’re shown, and where they are and who owns them. All this assumes that you know how to type. Well, I didn’t. So every night after dinner, I would go to our typewriter and practice “Madge’s Typing Class.” Notice I’m saying typewriter. Anyone remember what those were? I was bemoaning all of the business aspects of being an artist to a friend of mine. He informed me that there was a new thing out there – a Mac computer! That did it. I bought one and it changed my life. God bless Steve Jobs! I’ve been using a computer since 1985 and I can’t imagine being without one.
Ocean, lake or pool?
Are you serious! A pool heated to just the right temperature. It would also be nice if it was one of those infinity pools that overlooked a view of the city.
What role does an artist have in society?
I’d like to say bring beauty, creativity and wonder into people’s lives.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Probably Jan Vermeer or Jan Van Huysum. I would love to learn their painting secrets.
What do you think of first impressions?
I’m a sucker. I meet people and think the best of them. I’m like a big puppy. I’m always so curious about people, how they got to be what they are? What do they do? Even what color lipstick they are wearing. (Lana by Nars) I’m just fascinated by what makes people tick and always, well almost always, give them the benefit of the doubt. Let me give you an example. One day I returned home to find a strange car parked on my driveway. I asked who they were look for. They said they were looking for “Joe.” I told them that there was no “Joe” here. They must have gotten the wrong address. As they prepared to drive away I even cautioned them not to drive out over the lower section of our steep driveway so it wouldn’t scrape their car! It turns out they were burglars who were trying to get into our house!!! I notified the police when I saw a window screen pried open Swarms of police and detectives arrived in no time. They told me that they sounded like the same criminals who were operating in our area and they had been looking for them for months! We’ve since beefed up security on our house. When my husband returned home and I told him what happened he quietly said, “Well, you were very helpful. I’m surprised you didn’t offer those criminals milk and cookies while you were at it.”
If you were conducting this interview, what question would you ask?
I’d probably ask the same question that so many of my collectors and others who have seen my artwork ask me: How do you paint such exquisite detail and how long does it take you to complete a painting? One of my paintings can take me months. I have a unique and complicated process, I have panels made that are wrapped in canvas. I then gesso and sand the canvases until they feel like glass. This requires about 25 layers of gesso and that many day days to prepare each one. I then paint I’d say one leaf or petal a day. When preparing my palette, I never use plain white. It’s always mixed with pinks, or blue, or golds. That gives the white petals a richness and a depth that a single color could never provide. Even my black is not a single color. I use a number of colors to achieve a deep, rich black.
What jobs have you held besides that of an artist?
As a teenager I sold towels at May Co. then sold hip stylish clothes at Santa Monica beach. After I got married, I was “discovered” by a casting agent at a Christmas party. She asked if I’d like to be in a commercial. I said, “Why not?” And that was the beginning of a pretty successful commercial acting career which I enjoyed until the birth of our first child. You can read more here. A few years after I had become a successful artist I was asked to teach a class at UCLA entitled “Getting Known, Being Shown. How to become a professional artist.” I taught the class for about ten years and it was always one of their most popular courses.
Is the artistic life lonely? If so, how do you counteract that?
Yes, it is. When my children were young I used to say that the perimeters of my life were that you were either “on my easel, in my carpool or in my bed.” I felt my world was one of the reasons I started blogging. Meeting people from all over the world. Since I’ve started blogging I’ve met so many bright, talented and fun women. I love the comradeship of this blogging world. Recently on a trip to San Francisco I was able to have lunch with you, Lisa Carnochan of Amid Privilege, Elizabeth Kirkpatrick of The Vintage Contessa, and Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life. Was there enough time? No, we will do it again.
What three words describe your current life?
Health, grandchildren, and blogging.
There you have it ladies. Another wonderful interview by a talented style maven. Please check out Sandra’s blog Apart from My Art. Sandra, thank you for taking the time to let us get to know you a little better. And, I’m up for our next lunch date anytime.