Sea To Sky

The theme of the very first painting project I was assigned in college was: “doorways.” That’s it. Nothing more to go on. It was eye opening to witness everyone in the class interpret the theme very differently. What I wound up creating was a series of landscape paintings on canvases literally shaped like a door. My logic was that, for the viewer the scene I painted on the canvas felt like looking through a doorway into another space. This theme is something that I’ve been aware of ever since and carried forward with my work.

What artists have inspired you?

Nowadays I really enjoy studying the works of Emily Carr (her forests) and E.J. Hughes (his colour accuracy). Robert Genn’s work has a graphic design quality that I like a lot. While Lawren Harris’ ability to simplify complex terrain into these glorious vistas that use lighting to elevate the landscape into a celebration of spiritual worship is quite inspiring.

But when I was a youth, I was all about Tom Thomson. That’s where I picked up the trick of using fun colours as a base underneath the painting that are left to poke through at the edges of trees and larger shapes.

Why do you use these shapes in the rocks and overall landscape?

Because they’re the shapes that you see in the natural landscape. I’ve found that when you outline the larger shapes in a landscape you wind up with a lot of rounded off rectangles and triangles, so I’m just painting what I see. I’m also more comfortable drawing with a pencil than painting with a brush, so my paintings tend to have some heavy line work at times.

Sandra Harris with her newest painting.

Do you work on multiple paintings at once?

No and yes. I will prep multiple paintings at once (ie: select an image to paint, build the stretcher, stretch the canvas, prime the canvas). However, when I get going, I tend to focus on a single painting to completion or until it reaches a point where I need to let it sit for a while so that I can reassess it with fresh eyes.

Sandra Harris with a commission painting.

Do you always sign your work?

Yes. I always scratch my name into the wet paint with a ballpoint pen at one of the bottom corners. I try to make it present but not distracting for the viewer while they’re looking at the painting. Sorry, I know that it can be hard to see sometimes!

I also sign my work on the back.