Rosie Sandifer is an artist of unquestionable talent and versatility. Persistence, determination, and hard work are hallmarks of her character. I’ve appreciated and respected Sandifer’s work since the beginning of my fine art career. She was a sculptor I admired, an award winning one, but I had no idea she was also an accomplished painter. She pretty much always painted, I came to discover, having received instruction from Bettina Steinke, Ray Froman, Jan Herring, and Frank Mason.
But, in 1975 when she came face-to-face with Edgar Degas’s, “Fourteen Year Old Ballerina” at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art in New York, she was transfixed. It was then that she decided to lay down the brushes for a while and begin sculpting. Now, after many years, brushes and paint are once again her primary instruments of creative expression, and the subjects of choice have changed. She now primarily gives her attention to landscape painting, much of that en plein air.
With this new focus, she hasn’t missed a beat. Her paintings have been winning awards and her collectors and galleries continue to embrace her talent and abilities, both as sculptor as well as a painter.
You’ll realize pretty quickly from this interview that those qualities of character mentioned above are still as prevalent as ever. After years of being a successful professional, she hasn’t tired, nor has her drive to learn slackened. It’s with pleasure that I share this interview with you.
I did not know this, but throughout your career you have been both sculptor and painter; what has been the greatest challenge when switching between one and the other? The greatest challenge in switching between painting and sculpture during my career was having to wind up one of them for the other. At times I was ready to start paintings for an upcoming show, but was not finished with the original clay that I was working on. That often came to my advantage. I would switch to begin several of the paintings. Usually I keep several going at once. As I worked on them I could also keep studying my clay. Freeing my mind of the clay for a bit, I could see it better. It worked the other way around also. I never stopped painting as I sculpted.
Are your collectors typically buyers of sculpture or painting? What motivates their choices? Luckily my collectors are of both painting and sculpture. If you are an art lover, you must have both two and three dimensional works of art. One person commented that in viewing my paintings they feel they are sitting beside me seeing what I see while I paint. That is my kind of communication. Another collector said they do not know which they like best, their sculptures or their paintings of mine. It makes me feel whole to have been able to give them both.
You are multi-talented, choosing to work in oil, pastel, pencil, watercolor, clay, and bronze; do you feel there is a continuity of style among all these? Yes I think there is a continuity of style in all of the mediums I have used…acrylic, oil, pastel, graphite, watercolor, and clay for bronze. The same challenge of designing patterns of values and color while accentuating certain lines whether it be on clay, paper, board, or canvas is the goal.
Your paintings and sculpture have a similar degree of finish, neither is overworked; did that come naturally or is that something you consciously developed? I consciously developed a non-overworked degree of finish for both my paintings and my sculpture because that is what I prefer to see in both mediums. Luckily I found classical training at Froman’s Painting School and at the Art Student’s League. I still scrape down areas of my painting and begin again when needed. I work booking early deadlines so that I have time to live with and adjust my product if it is not what I intended.
“There have been three essential components in my artistic growth: discipline, drive, and direction”
You have a tremendous work ethic, what drives you to create? My tremendous work ethic is driven by the fact that I love what I do and want to be able to reach all of my personal goals while I am here. I was required to give a convincing speech in high school. It involved not wasting time in order to be able to accomplish all that you have in mind. Maybe I am the only one I convinced. Another factor is that I was reared in church life, a thing I count a blessing. The stories and lessons we were taught were filled with value and self discipline. One thing I was told at the first of my career was to go into my studio every day, whether you want to or not in order to develop a routine. Stay there and do nothing or make yourself create something, good or bad. As time progresses no one can keep you out of there, unless it is to go to your outdoor studio.
Where does creativity come from, and how can it be developed? Scientists say that there is an overdeveloped region in the brain which fuels creativity. We were given music lessons early in life. After practicing my lessons I loved creating my own music….sounds of spring in high keyed notes, changing to the rumble of storms coming in, the crackling of lightening, and the pounding of rain. Why or where does this instinct come from? I think a certain amount of freedom to do it your way encourages creativity. Necessity to find the answer, to figure out the problem feeds creative drive.
How does one develop their unique form of expression? Developing one’s unique form of expression stems from study and preferences of art that speaks to you. That expression applied over and over again eventually becomes your recognizable painter’s fingerprint.
What is it that distinguishes one artist’s work from another? Is it equally difficult to find one’s individuality as a sculptor and painter? I believe it is the distinctive use of design, color, brush strokes, and technique with the ability to make a statement which distinguishes an artist’s work in both painting and sculpture. All of these elements combined become repetitive in an artist’s work until the works become recognizable as those of the artist. I think that distinction carries over from their painting to their sculpture naturally. I recognize most of the artists’ pieces that I know and admire without a signature. Cassatt, Degas, Sorolla, Beaux, Levitan, Twachtman, Bonheur, Sargent, Fechin, and Klimt are some who created their own look.
What’s your definition of art? My definition of art is that which lifts, engages, and let’s us absorb moments of sheer pleasure. Like an out of body experience, art is my out of mind experience.
“The most important element in my work is recognizing the beauty of the human form and the beauty in nature. My challenge is to express my vision of beauty. I believe it is my responsibility as an artist to use my talent, combined with a strong work ethic, to communicate this vision“
Do you believe art is in the eye of the beholder? Yes I believe that art is in the eye of the beholder. Each person has his own opinion formed by what he is seeking from the artwork. Is it technical and esthetic quality, or is it the view the person sees from his house, or the view which is a reminder of his youth or farm? Is it a certain collection such as western, contemporary, or classical he is seeking? These categories and more are ways art is judged and chosen by the beholder. The person’s opinion is formed by his experience, education, and training in art. The more involved one becomes with art, the more certain his taste becomes.
How do you know when a painting/sculpture is finished? When the artwork says whatever the artist is trying to convey with the thought, it is done.
How has sculpting informed your painting, and vice versa? Painting has informed my sculpture of drawing, form, and design. From drawing and painting for years before sculpting, I was able to transfer into sculpting my clay originals rather smoothly. It was the engineering with which I had to hone up. Sculpting and its installation process, often on a grand scale, insists on design with constant pre planning. It has encouraged more pre thought and planning in my paintings. Sculpture has informed my painting of texture, volume, and exaggeration…knowing when it is said…or ready for mold with no further changes is the task.
You began as a painter, how did sculpture come about? Trained professionally as a painter, I began sculpting some years later to see if I could draw all the way around, three dimensionally. Sculpture certainly can be a most powerful statement with its bold physical presence. The sculpture which led me to put down my paint brushes to sculpt is Degas’ “Fourteen Year Old Ballerina”. During a long flight layover on my way to paint landscape in Spain, I spent my time at the Met in NYC. After viewing a Monet haystack and lily pad paintings exhibit I left the large room and ran head on into that marvelous bronze sculpture. It spoke to me profoundly, giving me chills. There she stood in her quiet elegance with the stiff netting of a tutu around her hips and a satin ribbon holding her hair behind her head. The shiny metal surface gave off a warm golden brown glow. I felt an immediate need and determination to sculpt.
What marketing strategies do you employ for selling paintings and sculpture? Do they differ? What has been your most successful strategy? It has been successful for me to market my work through working with galleries, promoters, and various shows throughout my career. My gallery association started with a shoe I hung with about twenty paintings of various mediums at a friend’s real estate office. After selling half of the show there, I headed for Taos, NM from Lubbock, TX. I walked through several galleries looking for one where I liked the work. As I browsed through one of them enjoying the artwork, the owner approached me to ask if I were an artist and if I had any originals with me. When I answered yes I was asked to bring in some samples, which I did. The owner asked me to leave everything with them. They began to sell my work. From there other gallery owners and show organizers saw my work when visiting Taos and invited me to send them work also. My website and social media such as Facebook show only paintings. Instead of switching to also sculpting, I now switch from inside to outside.
You have discontinued creating sculpture in favor of painting, what prompted that decision? The process of bronze sculpture has done me in. It takes many steps involving many people to produce each piece in an edition. From the initial five steps: 1-the positive original to 2-the negative mold to 3-the positive wax to 4-the negative ceramic shell to 5-the positive raw bronze, there is more to follow. The metal finishing, the patina and sealer, the base, shipping and with large pieces there is the installation. There even is landscape preparation in some projects. I loved the challenge of engineering, working with landscape designers, and the option of expressing myself three dimensionally, but I believe that I have said all that I need to say and have learned all I need to learn through sculpting.
How much of your current painting is done en plein air? What colors are typically found on your palette? Probably half of my painting is plein air today and half is studio work. I keep show and travel deadlines to meet and work between them. The process of outside to inside keeps my studio work more fresh. The colors on my palette are basically a warm and a cool of the three primary colors plus Payne’s Gray, raw and burnt sienna.
What one thing has had the greatest influence on you becoming an artist? The one thing that most influenced me to become a career artist was visiting with Santa Fe’s most famous female painter, Bettina Steinke. She told me that if I could paint portraits that I could make a living with my art . By this time I had successfully completed two rather tight 6’ x 4’ acrylic portraits as well as two more smaller ones. To prepare for my career I luckily found a portrait painting school run by Raymond Froman, a professional painter in Dallas, TX. He taught in Cloudcroft, NM during summers to escape the TX heat and to enjoy the cooler mountain temps and landscape. We painted three portraits from life a day and watched his daily demo, which seemed like magic. He painted in the style of Sargent, Sorrolla, and Zorns, all of whom he talked about constantly.
How did your wonderful and beautiful book, “Rosie Sandifer, Language of Art”, come about? My book Rosie Sandifer, the Language of Art, came about as I had been advised by other professional artists to always have 4 x 5 transparencies made of my work to use in various catalog publications. It is full of paintings and drawings of portraits, figures, genre, and landscape in graphite, pastel, watercolor, and oil done in plein air, from life, and studio. The sculpture is multi-colored patina for bronze and in stainless steel. The work covers a little over 30 years of my work.
After growing up and rearing my two children to university level while working on my career in TX, I left a failed marriage in 1989 and moved to CO to join other artists and to live in the mountains where I had always wanted to live. Richard Schmid and Nancy Gutzik moved to Fort Collins around the same time. I painted heads and figures with them and landscapes with Clyde Aspevig, Wayne Wolfe, and other friends. After five years I moved to Champaign-Urbana, Il to live with my husband, who I met at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum ‘s Birds in Art Show. He agreed that we would move west when he retired. By that time my collection of 4 x 5 transparencies had grown to hundreds. I had been encouraged to produce a book, but did not now how to proceed. It was my photographer, John Vokoun of Firedragon Color in Santa Fe, NM who re-connected me to Fresco Fine Art Publishers, who I had worked with on a project some years before. Since I am painting landscape non-stop, I am now organizing a catalog collection of landscapes painted since the book was published in 2007.
Is there one piece of art that you are most proud of? Why? The one piece that I am especially proud of is the Roughneck monument installed in front of Texas A & M’s petroleum engineering building in 1991. It portrays part of the drilling process, a man throwing chain around a pipe, which has become mechanized. Therefore, the sculpture represents an historic aspect of the drilling process.
What are your goals for the next 12 months? My goals for the next 12 months include tackling larger landscape paintings from the plein air sketches I recently made on a three week painting excursion in AZ, WY, and CO painting with other artists and visiting with friends along the way. I hiked to great heights to get some of the material. It was a wonderful traveling, and I intend to do more of it. Also I will be improving my computer and photography skills, which take constant learning.
Thanks, Rosie, for submitting to this interview. Your thoughtful insights have been very informative and appreciated. You have already accomplished much in your career, I expect that to continue as you enter this new phase.
John Pototschnik is an Art Renewal Center Associate Living Master
To view his art and bio, please click HERE