WITH MANON SANDER
Where are you painting from and what have you been doing to keep busy?
I'm painting frequently in my studio but prefer to paint outdoors, en plein air, because painting outside from life is such a multi-sensory experience. To keep busy, I'm really doing not much differently than when there's no pandemic disrupting life as we know it. Most days I spend painting, hours at a time. I usually teach a weekly painting class, which I still do but in a modified, safe-for-all version using Zoom and all kinds of technology to provide my students with an interactive class with lots of feedback. It was a little fluid for a while but it works really well now.
I'm going through my idea folders to paint paintings of places that made me stop in my tracks when I saw them but never got around to actually painting them. I'm in constant contact with a handful of painter friends to throw thoughts and ideas around and to keep one another motivated and laughing. In the fall, I have a couple of events, which will hopefully take place, that I'm painting new pieces for. I've started playing with gouache and I’ve cleaned up some drawers in my bathroom, which I had been majorly procrastinating on.
How did you find inspiration from your surroundings for it?
The inspiration for "The Eye of the Storm" was literally swirling around me, just as I depicted it in the painting. Bombarded by the news of a vicious and highly infectious virus, people getting sick and dying right and left, the worry about my family members potentially getting sick and me not being able to be there for them, business coming to a standstill, the government and experts poking around in the dark with a stick, the enormous scale of this tragic catastrophe with no end in sight... all of this came raining down on me constantly, never relenting.
I felt like that storm of bad things happening had picked me up and whipped me around, and in a moment of reflection, I came to the conclusion that I needed to be an active part in stopping that feeling. The only way I know how to accomplish that is by creating, and so I sequestered myself in the studio and painted. Like magic, my mind calmed down, and as usually when I paint, I was 100% in the moment, stopping all these thoughts from whipping my emotions around. It felt like I was in the eye of the storm, all calm while it's howling all around me. That's how the idea for the painting was born.
What is one positive that has come from this experience for you?
In the beginning, it looked like my artistic life would come to a screeching halt with all my events, classes, painting trips, paint outs and shows cancelled or indefinitely postponed. But so many good things started to happen that it's hard to mention only one, and so please excuse me if I'll mention several ones: Of course Bill and Mary Sue Weinaug came up with the great idea of the Great American Paint In, and I got such a boost of motivation out of being amongst the first little group of artists Bill approached with the idea.
More and more good things started to happen soon after. Some paint out organizers took the shows online. I'm so grateful to them as well as to art lovers and collectors who would actually buy art, not just at the online shows but also on social media. The support from people to keep us artists going was absolutely heartwarming. I was asked to teach online classes, which was never on my horizon before, so I learned how to do this and love it because now I can keep people who don't live nearby inspired to paint.
I have gotten closer to some of my artist friends because we had more time to talk to one another. I had the opportunity to further my own skills by having time to play and experiment. And out of nowhere opportunities arose that I had only been dreaming off. The universe at work, I guess... Very important was the necessity to contemplate why I make art. It became very clear to me that I'm not painting for the accolades, for the galleries, for the shows, but simply because I have to. Not even a pandemic could pry that need to create from me.
What is one of your favorite pieces in the collection from a fellow artist?
I can't believe the quality of pieces in this collection. It's very difficult to pick a favorite, but I have to say that Tony D'Amico's "Seaview at Sunrise" just grabbed me when I saw it the first time. It's so hopeful and truly makes me feel like there's always a silver lining, no matter how dire the situation. And, of course, it is also masterfully executed.
Learn more about Manon's artwork and story here.