GUEST ARTIST: “The Element of Surprise” by Sandra Strait

Hi, I’m Sandra Strait, aka molossus, aka rooibas, aka myfeetshowit, from Fairview, Oregon. When I first got into social media I thought it would help if I had a different name for the various forums that I was in.  It didn’t.  To this day, I have ‘new’ friends who suddenly realize they’ve known me for years. I’ve also been accused of stealing my own artwork several times.

Before I continue, I want to let you know I’m holding a giveaway of Stonehenge Aqua paper for the people who comment on this post.  Details are at the end of this post!

I’ve never had a formal education in art, just my 10,000+ hours of practice. I started out with school notebook paper and a cheap Bic pen as soon as I could hold one.  Over the years, the paper got finer and the pens got fancier and I started using other mediums as well.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Sandra Strait - Rockin' the Mixed Media-Watercolor, Micron & Gellyroll on Aquarius II - Doodlewash

When I was drawing, people would say that my work looked like a painting.  When I did oil painting, I was told that my paintings looked drawn.  When I did Artist Trading Cards, using marker and acrylics, I was told they looked like miniature oil paintings.  You may sense a trend here.

It’s possible that my slightly different way of doing things started when I was a child.  My father was a zookeeper.  In those days, the zoo didn’t have a nursery so, if a mother abandoned her babies, a zoo employee would take them home to raise.  While all the other children in my neighborhood had cats and dogs for pets, I had lions and tigers.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Sandra Strait - Sunset in Rust and Teal-Cobalt Teal, Quin Rust, New Gamboge on Gemini Coldpress - Doodlewash

I’m a firm believer that there really aren’t any ‘bad’ art supplies.  We’ve all seen amazing works of art done by someone using toothpicks or the cheapest pens and paints.  When I try out a new product I try to destroy it.  That is, I push past what I know to be good technique until I see the limitations in the product.  Then I try to learn how to use that product to the best of its limitations and …wait, there’s more… then I try to think of ways that I can use the tool in unexpected ways.  Mind you, I’m more likely to push a cheap tool to total destruction than an expensive one.  I’m a bit strange, not crazy!

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Sandra Strait - House Sparrow - Doodlewash

About five years ago, my mother became very ill and I was spending long hours at the hospital with her. I started doing Zentangle, a method that uses patterns, and only needs a pen or pencil and a three-inch piece of paper.  I fell in love with the technique because I could surprise myself as much as the viewer.  I’d start drawing my patterns, and then decide what the drawing would be – sort of like finding animal shapes in the clouds.

Leaves A'Fall-ing

Unfortunately, I loved tangling so much that I messed up my wrist, drawing constantly, and that’s when I started using watercolor.  When I first began, I was using my non-dominant hand (I’m slightly ambidextrous) and by the time my wrist was better, I’d abandoned my old love, Zentangle, and taken up full time with watercolor.  I do have to confess – I’m a terrible cheat.  I frequently return to my old loves – Zentangle, ballpoint pen drawing, and mixed media, but I always come back to watercolor.

Titian Haired Dancers

I still try to surprise myself.  Not as much by starting without a result in mind, but by constantly changing the products that I use and the style I paint in. Last year, I painted a bird every week.  This year I’m alternating between the quality of light and stylized paintings in the vein of Eyvind Earle and Zoltan Szabo.  Right now, I don’t care for painting people, but tomorrow I may wake up and decide I’m going to paint people in court costume from the French Revolution.  I just never know, and I love that.

Because I use so many color schemes and try so many brands, I’m constantly creating DIY palettes.  I could just buy the cheap plastic ones, but where is the fun in that? I scour the bargain and second-hand stores and yard sales for old tins.  I convert ice trays and mini-ramekins and egg plates.

I have a blog, ‘Life Imitates Doodles’ where I share my work, post art supply reviews, and tutorials, and hold art supply giveaways. Three times a week I post a list of links to art and crafting tutorials, giveaways and reviews. If any of you post art-related reviews or giveaways on your blogs or in social media feel free to let me know and I’ll add them to my list.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Sandra Strait - Standing Water-watercolor on Strathmore Aquarius II - Doodlewash

Though I’ve been a member of the World Watercolor Group for some time, I’ve only been a member of Doodlewash for a short time.  It’s been a delight jumping in, meeting fellow artists and discussing my favorite subjects – art and art supplies.

Thank you, Charlie, for all your hard work in setting up this community for your fellow artists.

GIVEAWAY has ended! Thanks for Entering!

Sandra Strait
Life Imitates Doodles Blog
Doodlewash Gallery

Recommended10 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists

286 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “The Element of Surprise” by Sandra Strait

  1. Hi! I really enjoyed this post! I haven’t been going at art as long as you have. I am now discovering my artistic self……………… I have been struggling with putting structure to how i do art on a daily basis but it doesn’t see to work with structure. The more i structure, the less i do. Everything else in my life is structured and ordered, can’t seem to order this one so i just do what i feel like doing! It’s encouraging to see i’m not the only one!

    I’ll be glad to be part of the giveaway draw, I keep hearing about Stonehenge paper! Fingers crossed!

    1. Thank you. I find that nothing kills my desire to create than trying to force it. One of the reasons I’ve never tried to make a living at it. It’s a paradox. The more you try to do, the less you want to. Decide you aren’t going to do anything and the art just pours out. If I decide to do a challenge like a painting every day, I limit what that requires. Smaller paintings, only allowing myself 1/2 hour or less to paint, limiting myself to 3 or 4 colors. Then I accept that the paintings might not be so good. But I figure that 5 ‘bad’ paintings is just practice for 1 ‘good’ one.
      Good luck with the giveaway!

    1. Thank you. I do like mixing patterns with my watercolors. I actually created those sheep using a Zentangle-style pattern that I came up with called ‘Use’. I tend to use it a lot. Good luck with the giveaway!

  2. Want to thank Doodlewashed “Charlie ” for uniting artist from around the world. I find daily inspiration viewing the beautiful artwork and reading from guest. Makes me excited to paint and create. 💛

  3. You have different style for each painting Sandra!It is amazing 🙂 In my opinion,you have strong sense of patterns and design,may be due to zentangle :).BTW,you had a very wonderful childhood and I do admire your practicing hours ! ( Not for giveaway Sandra,for your friendship 🙂 ) I look forward to your future creations of patterns and design ( of course the sheep also ).

  4. Hi, just popping in to say that your guest appearance really caught my eye with your style and colors. Very different which I like a lot. Your words regarding pushing supplies to the limit was refreshing to say the least and being self taught hit home. Zen Tangles are the bomb and how you create the finished product is amazing. Glad Charlie had you as a guest.

  5. Wow, I love your work. The swirling sky and textures on that first painting brings smiles to my face. I love all the different styles your painting show. Amazing work.

  6. Good morning, I am in love with your small cottage. I can imagine it by the sea and spending the summer there painting. So alive, I really admire your work. Please enter me in the giveaway. Haven’t tried Stonehenge yet.

    1. Thank you. That cottage was one I photographed when in Clovelly, Devon, England, which is small seaside village. No cars are allowed in Clovelly. You have to park a way above, and either walk down, ride donkeys or ride in a horse-drawn cart. A place of enchantment! Good luck with the giveaway!

  7. Loved reading about your journey! I have a similar way of thinking about “bad” art supplies, sometimes they’re the only way someone can practice their medium of preferrence and there’s no point in disencouraging these people! I’ve seen wonderful artworks created with cheap materials too. And I thought it was so funny that you’d been accused of stealing your own work, hah!

    I’d like to enter the giveaway, since Stonehenge Paper is not at all avaliable in Brazil. Thanks for the opportunity!

    1. Thank you. It’s too bad that people don’t retain that child-like feeling toward creativity, where you are happy with whatever you have and just start drawing, or whatever. We’d all be better artists if we did. Good luck with the giveaway!

  8. Finding out your background with all the different mediums you do was a great discovery. You are one very talented and busy lady. I love M, W and Sat. It’s the first thing I open on my iPad. Thanks for all the work you put into those.

    1. Thank you. I love doing those link lists. They’re a very good excuse to spend time on the internet reading things of interest to me. And then I get to share them with everyone. It doesn’t get much better than that. Good luck with the giveaway!

  9. Your paintings have a distinctive “mood” is this due to granulation of watercolor pigments chosen and or the ink lines of the drawing? Very expressive and interesting to look at.

    1. Thank you. The granulation comes from a number of factors. Sometimes it is the paint. One that use a lot – especially for those dark stormy skies – is Daniel’s Smith’s Lunar Blue. It not only granulates but changes color according to how much water you are using, going from almost black to a robin’s egg blue in places. The other factor is the paper. I’m always using a different kind, but I go back to Strathmore Aquarius II (and it has to be the Aquarius II, because the other Strathmore papers don’t have the same texture). It’s a synthetic/cotton blend, only 80# but it hardly buckles at all even with really wet washes. I also use lots of ‘rough’ paper, as with the bird. Good luck with the giveaway!

  10. Absolutely stunning post and work! I love your approach and attitude – and how fascinating – lions and tigers for temporary companion pets! Fascinating – and although this may not seem related to what I just said, there is such a delightful fluidity in your work – and a playfulness – and yet, beyond that immediate layer, there is something more – an essence that is captured, but released – and it defies words. What a refreshing eye opener this day – delightful!

    And no, I’m not interested in the give-away – but that’s a lovely idea and very generous – nothing like playing it forward 🙂

    1. There’s a saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’ But there’s a competency that comes from knowing a little bit about many things. I often feel that if I’m getting too good at something, I’m getting stale. Good luck with the giveaway!

  11. I like your attitude about painting and subject matter. I think anyone can paint and develop their own style. Years ago when I started painting there were rules about not using any tools in painting paintinNo wonder people didn’t take up painting and draw from the heart. Now it seems that rules were meant to be broken. Amen to that. I do believe in using good paint and using good paper now that I’ve progressed as a painter, but like to deviate occasionally to painting on Yupo and clayboard, and I love to play with splattering. acrylics, collage and appendages. If my number comes up I’d love to share in your bounty of paper giveaway too. I might just learn something new.

    1. Thank you. You sound like one creative person! I think rules are helpful to guide and give some structure. But they should just be the trampoline that helps you soar, and the net you fall into when you miss your goal. Too often, they are used like ropes that bind you. Good luck with the giveaway!

  12. I love how you combined your love of zentangle with watercolour in the first photo. I love both art forms as well and need to do more of both. Thank you for sharing your work with us and so generously giving away some of your art paper. Carol

  13. Sandra, your watercolors are like what I try to do, but your work is free and easy. The constant motion in “the country scene with sheep” is wonderful! Your creative applications turned it from a quiet pastoral into rich activity. The rock and leaves I’m drawn to because of the penwork. Have you thought of doing a video tutorial; I, for one, would be fascinated to watch you through some of your techniques. Thank you for sharing with us here.

    Please include my name, Cynthia Hintz, in the Stonehenge Aqua giveaway drawing. Thanks

    1. Thank you. I’ve avoided video. I hate the sound of my voice in a recording. Gives me the heebie jeebies, lol.
      I don’t really have a good place to make them. My studio is the living room, and hubby would be annoyed if he had to turn off the TV. Good luck with the giveaway!

  14. Thank you for sharing your story and your art. I know you through LifeImitatesDoodles tri-weekly newsletter (which has lead me to some wonderful links!) so seeing your paintings is very interesting. I am at the very beginning of my watercolour adventure and I have learned two things – good paper and good paints make a whole lot of difference! I was lucky enough to be given a huge number of Daniel Smith watercolors – I’d love to have good paper to learn on! Thanks for the opportunity!

    1. Thank you. You are correct about good paper and good paints. They make painting easier. That said, I like playing with the other stuff sometimes. It makes you pay more attention to composition, color mixing and so forth. But it’s a paradox. ‘Student’ paper should really only be used by someone with experience, instead of the people it is marketed for, lol. Good luck with the giveaway!

  15. Hi, I already follow you on Life Imitates Doodles and look forward to seeing what you are up to each day. Thank you for thinking of us regarding the Stonehenge paper – here’s hoping I can be lucky in a draw for once!
    Best Regards

  16. Wow, what lovely things you do! I appreciate the ‘no formal education’ and being self taught. Seems that way you really develop your own style and talents. And thanks to Charlie for introducing us to you, I just signed up for your emails.
    Stonehenge paper, oo la la!
    Thank you for the give-away.

  17. Beautiful work! Especially love the whimsical sheep! Your use of bright colors is fun in that one especially. I have never tried Stonehenge paper, so I am interested in seeing how it compares to the paper and watercolor board I have tried. Crossing fingers for a chance to sample it! Take care.

  18. Beautiful work and I really enjoyed reading about your art journey! I too enjoy trying new mediums and new ways to use them! I would love to try the paper you are giving away; it’s one that I haven’t tried yet.

  19. Loved your discussion of how you grow into watercolor painting. I am fairly new at this wonderful art experience. Enjoying retirement and learning new things. I too have enjoyed Zentangle, and finding animals and faces in the clouds. Love how that right side of our brain works. Your art is beautiful and I hope I get to that free flowing style someday. Thank you Sandra, for sharing your gift of watercolor painting with us and your generous offer of gifting some Stonehenge Aqua paper. Will check out your website.

    1. Thank you! More and more, I’ve been painting from my imagination. It really helps with the free flowing style because you paint what you know rather than what you think you see. I recommend it highly for practice, if nothing else. Good luck with the giveaway!

  20. So much fun and variety. That’s what I am loving about watercolor. It is so much fun to see and experiment with new techniques, colors, styles, etc.

  21. Hi Sandra, how generous not only the giveaway but also sharing your story with us. I love bold colours and the different styles you show here. But strangely enough, my favourite one of yours is the little house – although its colours are not as bold.
    Love your work, thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you. One of the reasons that Zentangle is so popular is that patterns have a real power to them. People like my tangled work, and they like my watercolors, but when I combine the two, I always get the most response.
      Good luck with the giveaway!

  22. Sandra, I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you a little more. I love your work, your passion and your curiosity! Thank you for sharing all of it with us through this blog and in the groups and forums at Doodlewash! ❤️

  23. Hey Sandra! Great artist spotlight. I have to say, I love your bird in blue the best. Although the sheep as the first pic was hilarious. You so captured they’re adorableness. It must have been amazing to raise zoo animals! Officially enter me into your giveaway please, I’d love to try some of that paper! I’m so like you, love to try new product! Hugs.

    1. Thank you. Those sheep are something I came up with as a tangle pattern, and then recently used for my Fun & Easy Landscapes. I think they’ve been one of the most popular step-outs I’ve ever done. Hard to beat a crazy sheep,lol! Good luck with the giveaway!

  24. Sandra! I was so surprised when I saw you name as the guest artist! Love your work especially the Zentangle aspect. I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years and always enjoy seeing what you are doing and sharing with the rest of the world. You rock!

  25. I enjoyed reading about your art journey, and the different types of art you pursue. Variety adds to the enjoyment, I think. How nice of you to share some of your watercolor paper. I’ve not yet tried Stonehenge, so I thank you for the opportunity to win some. I’m off to check out your blog!

    1. Thank you. I always feel when I win or get a large haul of goodies for a giveaway that I should share the luck.
      It benefits the company, benefits the readers and it’s good karma for me. Good luck with the giveaway!

  26. MOre comments than any other! Your work is eclectic – and I love the patterns on the sheep – the zentangle influence I guess? Thanks for friending me – and since I’m not yet home from my adventure I’m really not bothered if I win (nice though it would be!).

  27. Sandra – loved all your paintings with the beautiful colors, both soft and bold, and all the textures in your rock painting. I think I will give that a “go”. Enjoyed reading about your painting journey!

  28. Hi Sandra! When I started looking at your paintings all I was saying to myself was, wow, beautiful! I love your style, it’s all your own. And I really enjoyed reading about your artistic journey. Thanks for sharing it with us, and also thanks for being so generous with a chance to win some paper, too! Hugs from me in Florida. There’s a bad hurricane headed our way, so please everybody who reads this, say a prayer for us all.

  29. Next week is my birthday! Here’s hoping. Your blog here was so interesting and entertaining. Can’t wait to flip over to your blog and check it out…B!

    1. Thank you. Don’t be afraid to experiment. I figure 5 paintings that don’t work out so well, equals one painting that is excellent – it takes your mind a while to figure things out. Good luck with the giveaway!

    1. Thank you. If you ever have any questions about watercolor don’t hesitate to ask. I’m certainly not the expert in watercolor excellence, but I’ve made all the mistakes. I might be able to help you with yours. Good luck with the giveaway!

  30. When I started spending a lot of time taking care of beloved elders, I spent most of my time darning socks. I have family living in the Pacific Northwest, so there is an unending supply of socks. But last year I realized I wanted more to show from my time, so I decided to concentrate on art that I would keep and look at.

  31. What a great post! I really enjoyed seeing your art and reading about your journey. Your joy for life shows in your paintings. Thank you for sharing your bounty with others, whether it be your art, your story, or extra supplies. That’s what is really nice about this community- the kindness and generosity.

  32. Enjoyed the ballerinas and especially the sheep. Bird was nice – the little house was mysterious and right out of a fairy tale. Was looking for some z entangle- you made it interesting. Also curious as to why Residents of Taiwan, South Korea, Portugal, Italy, Austria, China, Russia, Hong Kong, Greece, France, Japan, Spain, and Czech Republic can’t participate. Something about mailing? Curious also about how oil painting could look like drawing – Interesting Blog. All the best to you.

    1. Thank you! That house was one that I photographed in Clovelly, Devon, England. It’s a little place by the sea where cars aren’t allowed. You have to walk in or ride donkeys or go in a horse-drawn cart. The whole village is a bit like a fairy tale. I did have a little Zentangle in the painting with the sheep, but I figured since this was a watercolor site I’d focus more on that. I didn’t realize how many of the people here are also into Zentangle or I might have rethought that. When the World Watercolor Month giveaways were going, the prize contributors had the restriction for those countries. It isn’t just the mailing, but also the laws about giveaways. I decided to go the route of better safe than sorry. I used to oil painting using tiny brushes. I’d paint a whole 18 x 24 painting with a 00 round, using it like it was a pencil. It gave it a distinctive look. People liked it, but always said it looked like a drawing – in essence because I did draw it. Strangely enough, I didn’t stay with oil painting for very long, lol.

  33. Sandra, I had such fun reading this article and looking at your delightful art. You are so inventive, and I both laughed and “oohed” throughout. Even your alternate names are funny. You try many styles, it’s as if you see the world anew in each artwork. And I think it’s really hilarious that you’ve stolen your own art. You’re proof that the 10,000 hours of practice make the artist. Thank you for the suggestion about Zentangles, something I’m going to do the next time I have to wait. And I’m always waiting.

  34. Thanks for an interesting article Sandra. I too love the sheep but was intrigued with the idea of using coloured gell pens to enhance watercolours. I plan to give that a try. I do use micron pens to add a little something. Would love to try the Stonehenge paper. (I used to live up the road from its name sake.) Which has no relevance to the discussion. My sympathy to all who are struggling with the floods, here on the prairies we are so dry we have mass evacuations from forest fires. Sigh, loving thoughts to you all.

    1. Thank you! Here in Oregon we’re having massive fires as well. The last few days we’ve had ash falling everywhere, and evacuations within 15 miles of us. 30,000+ acres burning. The fire was started by kids who were throwing smoke bombs off a cliff along a nature trail. *sigh* Good luck with the giveaway!

    1. Thank you. I took a photo of that house in a seaside village in Clovelly, Devon, England. You can’t drive into the village. You have to park about 15 minutes away and walk or ride donkeys or ride in a horse-drawn cart to get the rest of the way. An enchanted place. Good luck with the giveaway!

  35. I think I used to know you as molossus – I was into tangling for a while. Anyway, your watercolors are lovely, with quite a distinctive style. Count me in on the giveaway. Thanks.

    1. Sharon, Congratulations! You are the winner of the Stonehenge Aqua paper! You have 72 hours to respond with your mailing information – you can send it too me via private message at Doodlewash or at my email LifeImitatesDoodles [at] gmail [dot] com.

  36. Hi Sandra, love your work, especially the unique atmosphere you create in each piece! Hope you’re doing okay down in Oregon, I know we’re feeling the effects of the wildfires in Seattle (everything is covered in ash!) and you’re very close to some terrible fires. I’m hoping for the rain to come soon so we get back to a mossy northwest, and for the safety of our firefighters and citizen 🙂 Thanks for doing the giveaway!!