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-ingUnfortunately, 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 DancersI 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
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287 Comments
  1. BabsLouie 2 years ago

    Love the multi-colored pebbles! The colors are fantastic and yet seem so organic. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Kimberly 2 years ago

    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!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  3. Meenakshi Goel 2 years ago

    Indeed, an inspiring & exciting journey Sandra❤ Best wishes!!

  4. Vicki Rowley 2 years ago

    Sooo, I will repeat my comment that I love your work and your approach. . .

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I can never hear that enough, lol. Good luck with the giveaway!

  5. Sharon Farley 2 years ago

    Watercolour has to be the most versatile medium out there and it can make a picture so vibrant and full of life, even in the darker hues.

  6. Pat M. 2 years ago

    Sandra, your work is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your art journey!

  7. Cheryl Wright 2 years ago

    Your art journey is fascinating. I’m going to subscribe to your blog and follow you on Instagram.

  8. Sherril Bieberly 2 years ago

    Love your paintings. There is such a richness to them

  9. Becky Winters 2 years ago

    Love your imaginative ways of finding new and unexpected ways to have fun with your art! You are never boring and your art brings a smile to my face!

  10. Ratna 2 years ago

    Thanks Love your work Pl enter me for the giveaway would love to have the paper

  11. Thomas Blanchard 2 years ago

    Lovely work and journey to watercolor! Thanks for the giveaway.

  12. Pili Diaz 2 years ago

    I like your aproch to exp. and diff. styles of painting. This group gives us the opportunity to learn more of the person behind their art.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. It is interesting to learn more about the people one meets online. One of the reasons I love groups like this. Good luck with the giveaway!

  13. Sandra Gilbert 2 years ago

    I love your style and how you always push yourself. You are amazing.

  14. Paula Dickerhoff 2 years ago

    I’ve followed you a long time and I love your work. I’m also one who goes from one medium to another and watercolor is a favorite!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. We have known each other for a few years, haven’t we. How time flies. Good luck with the giveaway!

  15. Sandra Hedicke Clark 2 years ago

    Love your work! I began working in watercolor about 5 years ago (I was a printmaker in college), and have absolutely fallen in love with the medium. Cheers!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I know some people are intimidated by watercolor. They don’t know what they are missing! Good luck with the giveaway!

  16. Kyra VIcory 2 years ago

    Lovely work! The sheep are adorable, and I love how she did the sky!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  17. Lori Bradford 2 years ago

    I was thrilled so see you as the featured artist! Great exposure and it’s just a matter of time before you write your first art book!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I am working on a book to go with my Fun & Easy Landscapes. Writing books is so structured, though. Really hard for me to put up with, lol. Good luck with the giveaway!

  18. Roxana Pat Saez 2 years ago

    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. 💛

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      I can’t say enough about Charlie’s good deeds. He does an amazing job with this community. Good luck with the giveaway!

  19. Teri Casper 2 years ago

    This is so interesting because I have been one of those that has followed your various ‘aka’ personalities. And loved them all. Now I really get to know the ‘real’ you.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. We have known each other for a long time. Didn’t we meet on one of the Yahoo Groups? Good luck with the giveaway!

  20. Nay Aung 2 years ago

    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 ).

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. There will definitely be more sheep, lol. I’ve enjoyed all your beautiful work. You have a wonderful loose style. Good luck with the giveaway!

  21. jessica chaves 2 years ago

    Oooh, I love the sheep especially. And yes, I prefer smaller sheets of paper. Thanks.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. Those sheep came from a tangle pattern that I created called Use. It makes the sheep very easy to draw. I tend to ‘use’ it a lot. Good luck with the giveaway!

  22. Janet Schmeling-Kyle 2 years ago

    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.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I’m very honored that Charlie had me as guest and so glad I decided to join this community. It has such interesting people and wonderful artists. Good luck with the giveaway!

  23. Beth Holmes 2 years ago

    Love your work! Thanks for a chance to win.

  24. Chris 2 years ago

    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.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. More and more, I’m leaning toward paintings like that, that come entirely form my imagination. For now, anyway. Good luck with the giveaway!

  25. Louise Tramontano 2 years ago

    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.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  26. a.filmer 2 years ago

    Beautiful paintings, and great granulation. Please include me in the give-away.

  27. Agatha 2 years ago

    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!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  28. Susie F 2 years ago

    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.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  29. Cappy Sue 2 years ago

    Love your work and learning how your work evolved. What a great idea to share. Thank you for the fun read and giveaway.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I had fun writing the post, and going through my artwork to decide which ones to share. Good luck with the giveaway!

  30. Laura (PA Pict) 2 years ago

    I love you art work but, even more so, I love your attitude towards your creativity and the evolution of your artwork. Both are inspirational. Thank you for the blog post and for the giveaway.

  31. finalucci 2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing these interviews I always find them inspiring! Please enter me in the giveaway!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I love that Charlie has come up with this way for us to learn more about each other. Good luck with the giveaway!

  32. Glenn 2 years ago

    Love the negative painting technique of the dancers.

  33. jotsfromasmallapt 2 years ago

    Goodness! Such enthusiasm for…life in multi-faceted colour. You are inspiring.

  34. Maria Chuy Soto 2 years ago

    Beautiful, I love your work

  35. karen 2 years ago

    Rich and creative work! Thanks for sharing ..

  36. Lisa 2 years ago

    I am a crazy art supply collector too! I may die broke, but I’ll have a new pen in my hand. 😂

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. Lol! I think it’s an unexplored addiction. Art supply-itis. Good luck with the giveaway!

  37. April Laramey 2 years ago

    I am a stark amateur, but I would LOVE to get my hands on that paper. And now I’ve discovered your blog and the doodlewash forums!! Score either way!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. If you haven’t already joined, you should. It’s a fun place to hang out. Good luck with the giveaway!

  38. Linda B 2 years ago

    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.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  39. Andree Anderson 2 years ago

    Love your work! Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for sharing!

  40. scribblersdip 2 years ago

    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 🙂

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you for the amazing compliment! Good luck with the giveaway!

  41. Angie Bumgarner 2 years ago

    Thanks for the post. I have such a difficult time focusing on one medium or subject long enough to truly master anything.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  42. June Hadaway 2 years ago

    Beautiful work and message. I have enjoyed reading your posts on Doodlewash as well. You are one talented lady. Thank you for sharing your artwork and your paper.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I’ve enjoyed seeing your the pages of your journal one by one. Good luck with the giveaway!

  43. Kaye Boggs 2 years ago

    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.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  44. Mama Cormier 2 years ago

    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

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I should use Zentangle and watercolor together more often. I love the look. Good luck with the giveaway!

  45. C Hintz Studio 2 years ago

    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

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  46. Linda Olsson 2 years ago

    Thank you for the oppurtunity, would Love to try that paper ❤️ love your work 👍🏻

  47. Jakki G 2 years ago

    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!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      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!

  48. AD 2 years ago

    I love the sheep illustration! So whimsical! I have heard so much good stuff about Stonehenge paper and would love to try it myself!

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. Those sheep were drawn using a tangle pattern I created called Use. It makes them very easy to draw, so I ‘use’ it a lot. Good luck with the giveaway!

  49. Barbara 2 years ago

    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

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I’ve been blessed to have so many people find my blog. It amazes me that people do with all the internet to search through. Good luck with the giveaway!

  50. susie 2 years ago

    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.

    • Sandra Strait 2 years ago

      Thank you. I can’t say enough about the good things that Charlie does with this community. He’s really made a fantastic site for like-minded people. Good luck with the giveaway!

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