It was my pleasure to interview artist Sandra Hildreth at her home studio/gallery in Saranac Lake, with walls adorned by luxurious framed oil paintings and watercolors of the Adirondack mountains, lakes, rivers and waterfalls.
All of her landscape or waterscapes are of specific places that she has visited, often by hiking, paddling, or skiing to the location. While sitting at a beautiful wood table in the heart of her home, I couldn’t take my eyes off “Snow Squalls,” (pictured here) a winter scene that has been accepted to the 86th Annual National Juried Art Exhibition (Cooperstown, New York, July 9-August 13, 2021.)
Sandra also has paintings on exhibit at locations throughout the Adirondacks and New England this summer including the “Seldom Seen” exhibit at Adirondack Artists Guild through June 27, 2021. She will also be participating in plein air painting events in Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Malone.
Art has played a role in Sandra’s entire life. Her mother collected early American art and was a portrait photographer. Her father refinished wood furniture, including the dining room table I was sitting at. Sandra was also inspired by her parent’s books of Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth’s renowned paintings, and she is a huge admirer of American artists. Sandra later graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Art and a Teaching Certificate, from Western Kentucky University. and then came to Potsdam, where she began a more than 30 year teaching career.
During that time, while guiding and encouraging students, her own art was in the background. Later, when her children were grown and she had more time, she began hiking throughout the Blue Line with her local chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club.
Sandra began her open air painting early on, bringing watercolors and brushes to use on hiking breaks, and then evolved into full scale plein air oil painting with an easel and oil paints she carried along with her gear. She discovered that while hiking up and down a mountain was fun, what she really wanted was to get to know these locations more intimately— to smell the smells, feel the breeze, take in the warmth of the sun or the coolness of the shadows. By spending hours in one spot, Sandra was able to hear the birds, the sound of water ripping around rocks, the wind moving through trees, and so on, and while observing life at one location over many hours, she creates memories of the location that go beyond an individual painting.
Sandra’s paintings are also part of her tremendous gift of storytelling. Sandra writes about places she paints, and shares her love of the Adirondacks through her text. Her current exhibit, “Seldom Seen,” at the Adirondack Artist Guild, includes a program guide with directions to the locations featured in the paintings, so that others can have the same experience.
Sandra clearly paints for enjoyment, but she is also successful commercially., and has been a participant in a number of juried exhibitions. Sandra works primarily in plein air, but also finishes paintings in her home studio.
When I asked, “What gives you the most satisfaction in your work? ” it wasn’t difficult for her to answer: “To produce a really good painting that communicates my positive experience at the place.”
For more information about where to see her art as well as a virtual gallery and contact information go to: https://www.sandrahildreth.com/
Photos provided by Sandra Hildreth
Editor’s note: Sandra is an occasional contributor to the Adirondack Almanack. Click here to see her past articles.