Sandra Pealer Submitted photo

PARIS — Sandra Pealer discovered the beauty of Maine during a trip to Monhegan Island in 2001. The landscapes and lighting were the perfect backdrops for her watercolors. Pealer and her husband soon moved to the Oxford Hills area in 2009 and became immersed with the Western Maine Arts Group.

An artist for more than 30 years, Pealer has won Best in Show awards at several exhibitions in West Virginia, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. Last month, two of her paintings, “Frosty Morning” and “Moonlit Lake,” were chosen for submission at Aqueous 2021, the West Virginia Watercolor Society’s National Juried Exhibition. One of her paintings was awarded Best in Show in that exhibition in 2016.

Her paintings are featured in private and public collections throughout the United States and Canada.

How did you get started as a painter? I have always created art, it seems. My mother was an artist, and my family encouraged me to pursue art. While in college I produced portraits for classmates and got started with oil paints. Later, when our children were born, I switched to watercolors as a way of keeping those babies safe from the oils. I had always been intrigued by watercolors, so at that time watercolors became my main medium.

What is it about the medium of watercolor that appeals to you? Watercolor appeals to me by the way it captures the light and also by its fluidity. Also, it is easily transported and can be cleaned up quickly, so it has a practical side which appealed to me.

Who are your biggest influences? My biggest influences now are painters like Dean Mitchell and Mary Whyte, both painters of interesting portraits and dynamic design. In the past, I was heavily influenced by book illustrators, N.C. Wyeth primarily. I also was impacted by a childhood picture book which was my mother’s and which came from the 1930s! It was a large book called “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson and it was beautifully illustrated by Juanita C. Bennett. It was filled with delightful large paintings in watercolor, which triggered my imagination. The cover was an unforgettable painting of a small boy in a white brimmed hat sitting in the sand surrounded by blue waters, a toy sailboat which he had launched and a sand bucket and shovel at his side. I loved that book because it showed me the possibilities of communicating with watercolors.

How do you choose your subjects for your paintings? I choose my painting subjects by having an emotional response to a particular scene or by how the light illuminates an ordinary object, transforming it. I am drawn to paintings of people, but also love to paint landscapes, particularly of water and gardens. Trees always command my attention in any landscape, so I most often give them a prime role and often choose a particular scene because of a dramatic tree.

Monhegan Island is known for its community of artists. What was that experience like to visit the island and paint? Painting time on Monhegan Island is always a special treat. I love that my whole day can be spent painting. No chores other than cooking meals! My husband and I collect books on the art of Monhegan Island and we especially love to visit the Lupine Gallery when we are there on the island.

Do you have a gallery? Where can people see your work? I am represented by Birds of a Feather Gallery in Rangeley and I show my paintings often at River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta. My paintings can also be seen at watercolor society competitions and I will be showing at the McLaughlin Gardens Gift Store Gallery in South Paris for the month of August.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young artist? To an aspiring young artist I would say paint what you love and your audience will come. Be a “maker” and keep on working and producing. Also, find good art societies to join and to get encouragement from.

What do you like to do in your free time? When I am not painting, you can find me in the vegetable or flower garden! If it’s winter, you will find me sewing, particularly quilts. Anytime of year I can be found reading good novels or working on genealogy.

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