Pursuing Her Passion
By Mick Zawislak

The blue color of the Atlantic Ocean may need something a little different to convey the image - a purple perhaps, with magenta overtones for the brown cliffs leading to the seaside.

These are the kind of decisions Libertyville artist Donna Sands has been contending with as an artist-in residence at Acadia National Park in Maine.

As of Sept. 1, Sands, a "color equivalent" artist who specializes in landscapes, has been creating and teaching as part of a national program at Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor.

Sands has lived in Libertyville for 18 years and has been in the arts field her entire adult life, working in advertising for more than a decade. Her passion for painting never dimmed, however, and in 2001 she decided to leave the corporate world and pursue her art full time.

It was after seeing documentary filmmaker Ken Burns introduce his National Parks series that she adjusted her goal."OK, I'm going to do (paint) all the national parks before I die," she decided. "I'm 55 so I may have to double up."

She learned of the artist-in-residence program at Acadia, which provides professionals with a chance to become part of a long tradition. According the National Park Service, artists were the first to record the beauty of the West on canvas and in pictures of waterfalls and wildlife in what would become Yellowstone National Park, the first in the nation.

In the mid-1800s, landscape painters went to Mount Desert Island, which inspired writers and others. Those who followed were known as rusticators because they lived with the local fishermen and farmers each summer. By 1880 there were 30 hotels on the island. While the number of visitors increased, the heart of the attraction remained.

"The park, with its dramatic cliffs stretching to the sea, balsam-scented forests and spring warbler serenades, offers artists a perfect setting to practice and pursue their craft," according to National Park Service literature.

"I will have all day to paint whatever I want," Sands said before her trip.

In the spring and fall the park provides housing to artists-in-residence for two- to four-week periods, but there is no stipend. Participants are responsible for their own food and transportation.

In return, artists like Sands are asked to donate a piece of work and participate in a public program, such as teaching grade-school students. Between four and six artists are selected each year, so Sands is in elite company.

Artists must submit six digital images, a resume and summary of their work, a statement about what they hope to accomplish, a description of their presentation and references.

"They look at your style. How unique is it? I'm a bit different because I'm a color equivalent," Sands said.

She packed 35 colors for her trip to the East Coast.

"In the Midwest, green is a rather predominate color," she said in an e-mail before she left.

"I want to say 'green' but not use green. I constantly search for new ways to show what I am seeing and feeling at the moment."

She returns to Illinois a day early, as she will be holding a solo exhibit "The Four Seasons," which runs through Thursday, Sept. 30, at the Old Town Art Center, 1763 N. North Park, Chicago.  

Record number of artists at CLC exhibition

January 18, 2009
BY BETH KRAMER ekramer@scn1.com

GRAYSLAKE - A rugged woods scene with purple tree trunks is now on display at the College of Lake County. The oil painting, "Woods xiv," is the work of a College of Lake County Community Gallery of Art member. Artist Donna Sands of Libertyville utilizes a new oil technique that captures nature using vibrant colors.

"I use exciting colors. I have a passion for art, a passion for painting and a passion for landscapes. You put it all together (and) I'm the happiest person," Sands said.

She has been painting for over 25 years and said the CLC gallery has a good reputation. "I love the College of Lake County. The gallery is beautiful it's a wonderful venue for showing work," Sands, 53, said.

She is among 104 Lake County artists showing work at the College of Lake County Community Gallery of Art. This is a record number of exhibitors, said curator Steve Jones.

"This is an annual exhibit. Compared to ones we've done in the past, this is the largest we've ever done," Jones said.

The Members Exhibition features a variety of artwork, including sculpture, photography, paintings, drawing and ceramics, Jones said. The exhibit runs through Feb. 22.

Most of the work is for sale and is offered at affordable prices, Jones said. He said he noticed an increase in artists selling their work at a lower price range. Prices start around $100 and go up from there, he said.

"I think what is appealing about this (exhibit) is the diversity in the artwork. It ranges from abstract to realist to everything in between-it's exciting to see," Jones said.

Scott McNeill of Vernon Hills is excited to see his photography at the exhibit. The photo he displayed last year sold and he hopes that his winter scene will sell this year, too.

His photo is in black and white and is priced at $160.

"From my perspective, that would fit very nice on any large wall. Some people like a winter scene all year round or like to change pictures all year round," McNeill said. "It's very satisfying when people like what you shoot."  

Record number of artists at CLC exhibition

January 18, 2009
BY BETH KRAMER ekramer@scn1.com

GRAYSLAKE - A rugged woods scene with purple tree trunks is now on display at the College of Lake County. The oil painting, "Woods xiv," is the work of a College of Lake County Community Gallery of Art member. Artist Donna Sands of Libertyville utilizes a new oil technique that captures nature using vibrant colors.

"I use exciting colors. I have a passion for art, a passion for painting and a passion for landscapes. You put it all together (and) I'm the happiest person," Sands said.

She has been painting for over 25 years and said the CLC gallery has a good reputation. "I love the College of Lake County. The gallery is beautiful it's a wonderful venue for showing work," Sands, 53, said.

She is among 104 Lake County artists showing work at the College of Lake County Community Gallery of Art. This is a record number of exhibitors, said curator Steve Jones.

"This is an annual exhibit. Compared to ones we've done in the past, this is the largest we've ever done," Jones said.

The Members Exhibition features a variety of artwork, including sculpture, photography, paintings, drawing and ceramics, Jones said. The exhibit runs through Feb. 22.

Most of the work is for sale and is offered at affordable prices, Jones said. He said he noticed an increase in artists selling their work at a lower price range. Prices start around $100 and go up from there, he said.

"I think what is appealing about this (exhibit) is the diversity in the artwork. It ranges from abstract to realist to everything in between-it's exciting to see," Jones said.

Scott McNeill of Vernon Hills is excited to see his photography at the exhibit. The photo he displayed last year sold and he hopes that his winter scene will sell this year, too.

His photo is in black and white and is priced at $160.

"From my perspective, that would fit very nice on any large wall. Some people like a winter scene all year round or like to change pictures all year round," McNeill said. "It's very satisfying when people like what you shoot."  

Libertyville artist conveys powerful images in her landscapes

August 4, 2006
Publication: News Sun, The (Waukegan, IL)
Section: LIFE
Page: 24

By: Kelly Mahoney   

Even though Libertyville artist Donna Sands loves her job, she still has to motivate herself.
"All I have to do is walk into my studio and there are at least three pieces waiting to be done," Sands said. "Then it's all consuming."
Sands has 26 years of painting experience under her belt, but for the past four years, she has exclusively painted landscapes, mostly in Lake County and Wisconsin. Sands said she loves the powerful images in nature.

"I love being out there," Sands said. "It is a time when all five senses are totally filled when I'm out in the field painting."
In order to teach others how to convey the balance of nature in art, Sands taught an outdoor painting class at the College of Lake County. Students met at various locations in Lake County to capture the scenery and receive critique.

"When you go on vacation and take photographs, they're very contrasty and people will take those and try to paint from them," Sands said. "When you get out in nature, it's not really like that out there."

As Sands' student learned, there are always new landscapes to discover. "I really love the river," Sands said. "When you can get on a bridge over it with the way the sunlight hits it .. The contrast with the two is just so much fun to play with on the canvas." Sands said she would like to paint a single location each season."The whole harmony of the landscape and how the trees meet the sky will be totally different," Sands said. There are specific goals Sands has in mind when creating her 150 art pieces per year. "The creative process is maintaining the harmony that's in nature and abstracting with color," Sands said. Even when drawing as a child, Sands said she was attracted to vibrant colors. "I would take that crayon and push it so hard because I wanted that intense block of color," Sands said. Sands paints 40 hours per week year round. "Basically, what I do is, I do rough sketches out in the field and from these rough sketches, I work up the big pieces at the studio in my home," Sands said. A sketch on a half sheet of watercolor paper takes about two and a half hours for Sands to complete, but the bigger pieces can several weeks. Sands said her part-time job at the Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art at CLC helps her stay connected to other artists." Meeting the artists and seeing the creativity and just being totally involved in the community of art (is what I like about my job)," Sands said. "Being in a creative environment just day to day is really important to me."

Even her two children, Johanna, 11, and Alexander, 16, get involved with her work. "My son is into electronics and the computer is his medium," Sands said. "My daughter is great at drawing. She's actually my best critic, especially when I'm trying to maintain the harmony she'll come down and tell me where the discord is. My daughter comes to outdoor shows with me sometimes and helps." When Sands first started selling her work at shows and galleries, she said it was an emotional experience. "It's like giving away your child and you want to grab it as it starts going away," Sands said. "I'm glad it's going to a good home, though."

For Sands' 12 students, the outdoor art was an experience in more than just painting. "You can absorb the environment you can really get the feel (when painting outdoors)," Sands said. "When you look back at the painting, you can smell what it was like. No matter how abstract you get, it's more representational of nature."

Donna Sands, Libertyville, has been painting professionally for five years and teaching for three. Donna Sands, Libertyville, has been painting professionally for five years and teaching for three.

All content © 2006- News Sun, The (Waukegan, IL) and may not be republished without permission.

The world, the way she sees it

BY MYRNA PETLICKI CONTRIBUTOR  
Published: July 1, 2004

Once in a great while, someone attending an art fair will stare at one of Donna Sands' oil paintings and say to the Libertyville artist, "Purple trees? Excuse me!" That doesn't bother Sands, who paints the world the way she sees it.


"I start with nature," Sands said. "I keep the harmony of nature -- the relationship of the sky to the trees, the trees to the land -- but I abstract the color." That is because Sands is a "color equivalent painter." She describes that as "using color to create a feeling or a mood. It's not necessarily what is there." She cites the example of the bark of the birch tree. "A lot of times it's a very pink, warm color. I will take that and push it even further. Other times you will find that my trees are purple. But it is creating the shadow, the darkness of dense wood." In "Northern Woods" the slender trunks of towering trees are painted in vivid tones that don't imitate nature and yet help convey the feeling of sun streaming through a forest. Purple storm clouds are brewing over an orange field in the evocative "Gate to Heaven." Splashes of red and purple find their way into the trees in "The Path Ahead."

Sands attributes her interest in creating art to the people who lived near her in Chicago's DePaul area, where she grew up. "What was fascinating about the neighborhood is that right after World War II, a lot of artists started migrating to this area because it was close enough to downtown and the galleries, yet it was affordable rent," she said. "On my block alone, there were four or five artists living." One of them was Seymour Rosofsky, a co-founder of the Old Town Art Fair. "At the age of 4, I used to walk up and down the block watching these artists pack up their stuff for the show," Sands said. "It was at that time that I decided I really wanted to be an artist."

Sands first did something about that desire while attending Immaculata High School for one year. It was her sophomore year, and she encountered a wonderful teacher "who drew me out of my shell," Sands said. At that time, Sands did realistic work using mainly acrylic paints. Sands studied commercial art in college and started a design business about 15 years ago, specializing in brochure and package design. In 2001, Sands closed her business. Since then, she has painted full time. "I have gone back to my calling," she said. To further develop her talent, Sands has taken classes with a couple of Woodstock artists. In addition, she paints on Door County's Washington Island for a week every year with three other women who are color equivalent painters. This fall, she will begin classes toward her master's degree in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. "I was told you need five years of pushing and getting your name out there, and showing your work. Then things start clicking for you," Sands said. "I'm in year three, and things are clicking." That includes a show, "The Midwest through the Eyes of a Color Equivalent Painter," that opens today (Thursday) at Uncommon Ground, a combination coffeehouse, cafe, performance venue and exhibit space at 1214 W. Grace St., Chicago. Sands is also exhibiting work at 15 juried art fairs this summer, including ones in Lincolnshire (Fourth of July weekend), Park Ridge (July 10-11), Wilmette (July 17-18), Geneva (July 24-25) and Chicago's Gold Coast Art Fair (Aug. 6-8).

Additionally, Sands, the mother of two children (Alexander, 15, and Johanna, 10), works part-time at the College of Lake County's gallery as assistant director of community events. For six years, the art-history buff did a volunteer program at a local school, showing the work of several artists, talking about it and helping students with a related project. The artist's goal is to get a gallery to represent her. In the meantime, her work is selling at summer art fairs, where Sands enjoys the positive reactions of the majority of viewers. She also has had pieces in a number of group shows. Sands noted that at a June art fair in Barrington a woman stood "beaming as she looked at my artwork." Sands said she enjoyed "watching her expression as she was viewing what I had created." As an added bonus, the woman asked Sands to bring four paintings to her house so she could see how they looked on her wall. That was great news for an artist in the middle of a five-year plan.

For information on upcoming shows where you can see Donna Sands' work, call her at (847) 549-8214.

Copyright 2004, Libertyville Review, Pioneer Press. All rights reserved. REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED.