Artist Sandi Lear

People We Love

Sandi Lear, Dancing with Light and Dark

by Lynn Cline

Lisa Rodgers, owner of Santa Fe’s The Longworth Gallery, says of artist Sandi Lear, “The cup is half empty, or the cup is half full. We all know the saying. Sandi’s cup is always overflowing.” Lear’s compelling story explains why Rodgers holds this view.

After a 15-year career as a paramedic, Australian native Sandi Lear was ready to start work as a physician’s assistant with a Master of Medical Science when her life veered in a different direction.

Lear explains, “In 2009, I woke one morning to find the glistening of droplets on the leaves of the trees outside my room to be diamond bright, unable to look at them. Being medically trained, I had an idea as to the cause and rightly diagnosed a stroke.” She continues, “[The stroke] drew my eye to intense darks and glistening, mirror-bright lights. The shapes and contours of vegetation, landscapes, people and animals became planes of dark and patterns of light — fascinating and enthralling. Always loving photography. I started enhancing contrast more and more in my photography. Visiting the ocean, I was creating luminous shades of greens and aquas; shadows of fish became daubs of dark umber. It occurred to me that, as in life, there is no light without dark.”

And so, Lear found herself unexpectedly leaving her previous life behind to become an accolade with Mission Arts Annual Awards.

Sandi Lear's Pathfinder
Sandi Lear, "Pathfinder," watercolor, 18 x 24 inches

“Shortly after this stroke, my husband of twenty-nine years decided to go and find himself, and I to pursue my studies. During this time, I met the man who was to change my life.” Lear explains, “My new partner zeroed in on my fascination and delight in the intense shapes and color around me, and because of my love of photography, he thought I was artistic. One rainy day, he dared me to draw a still life he had set up, and blow me down if it didn’t actually look like it was meant to!”

Lear began painting with a beginner’s box of watercolors. “Watching the ebb and flow of the colors on the surface, how they mingled with each other like polite debutantes, or pushed and bullied as a football scrum, and then danced and swirled with the grace of ballroom dancers offered an endless fascination, an immersion — how could one control such a thing of beauty, and why would one wish to?” she asks.

Sandi Lear's First Light
Sandi Lear's watercolor titled First Light was painted to raise funds for the charity Living with Wolves.

The artist’s lyrical, expressive paintings breathe life into her subject matter, whether it is wolves, lions, seascapes, landscapes or even the flare of a flamenco dancer’s skirt. Lear’s passion is palpable, and she wants to share that. “I feel artists have a very strong and compelling voice to speak to the hearts of millions of people,” she says. “If we can draw similitude between ourselves and the animals, places, people who need our help, then yes, I have hope that we, as a species, can save those remaining on the planet, and indeed [save] our planet.”

To support the causes she cares about, Lear puts her paintings to work, raising funds and awareness for Living with Wolves, among other groups. She is also a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation. Her work is in public and private collections around the world. The Longworth Gallery represents Lear and exhibits her work in Santa Fe, where Lear comes several times a year to paint.

“Santa Fe and New Mexico are among my most favorite places in the world, and I’ve seen a lot of it,” she says. “Of course, the light is well known and adored by artists. I am no different — watercolor skies everywhere you look. The organic nature of watercolor sings in harmony with the landscape.” A perfect place for a watercolorist.

Lynn Cline

Lynn Cline is the author of The Maverick Cookbook: Iconic Recipes & Tales from New Mexico. She has written for The New York TimesBon Appétít and numerous other publications. She also hosts Cline’s Corner, a weekly radio show on KSFR 101.1 FM.


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