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Sandra Binney and her wide-ranging art style

PUBLISHED: 12:12 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:13 24 April 2017

Sandra Binney in her studio (Photo by Nicola Alan Photography)

Sandra Binney in her studio (Photo by Nicola Alan Photography)


Animal, vegetable or mineral, everything is fair game for the artistic eye of the modest Sandra Binney. A hairdresser by trade, she meets Sandra Smith

The female subject is slim, attractive, dark haired. Her physical beauty, elegantly captured, is, however, little more than a superficial aspect of this character’s allure. Immersion in her own thoughts, being at one with the moment, closed eyes holding in immeasurable emotions whilst blocking out potential distractions are the underlying power of this painting. I admire delicate brush strokes whose one dimensional limitations are no barrier to portraying layers of underlying passion, and hover between envy at such tangible self absorption and desire to share such a compelling moment.

Getting inside the head of an artist is a much relished prequel to writing their profile. Yet right now In the Zone (could there be a more apt title?) tempts me to explore what’s going on inside the head of this subject.

“At a workshop I was encouraged to try and paint women. I saw an image which inspired me. Afterwards I took In the Zone to a local framer where someone bought it without the painting being framed.”

Sandra Binney meets my enthusiasm with coy surprise. Perhaps because she doesn’t have a meaty back story to this image or even the personal connection I’d anticipated. No matter. Given that the 52-year-old creates such intensity via a mere exercise, a challenge, confirms an instinctive artistic flair. Quietly flattered by my comments, modesty forbids her from mirroring my excitement.

“One of the most challenging things is accepting when people say they like your work. It feels awkward. I don’t like show offs but it must be nice if you can just say, ‘Thanks very much’.”

The StretchThe Stretch

Sandra’s portrait work extends to oriental subjects reproduced from photographs, an engaging contrast of soft facial contemplation and detailed, traditional clothing against abstract backdrops. The subject idea originated at a workshop prompting a love of portraiture and desire to make each painting her own. There are young ballerinas, too, each a mesmerising mix of muscle tone, grace and exquisite tutus in a faultlessly bland setting.

But there’s no pigeon holing this artist. Wild animals, birds in flight, close up landscapes and seascapes which hint of Turner all feature in a wide ranging portfolio. “For animals I nearly always start with their eyes. They are a focal point and I like to get the emotion. I continue to work underneath the eyes and flow down to the nose. Sometimes I start with a background and more recently I’ve been trying to be more minimalist. For a while I started with grey – fascinating; it’s just a case of trying something different.”

We chuckle at the comic-like form of a Welsh Mountain sheep she was invited to see prior to shearing, “Like a skinhead with a great big Brillo pad for a body,” before she reveals her yearning to develop abstraction.

“I’d love to be more abstract; it feels a bit more grown up but I feel I have to first become a better painter. Landscapes are easier for abstract work. There are so many things to learn. I also enjoy the spontaneity of life drawing, you can just go for it. I use pencil, graphite or charcoal and I’ve done a couple in pastels which is quite liberating, just doing highlights and leaving the rest to the imagination.”

Despite a love of drawing and painting which dates back to childhood, Sandra “was only good enough” to study Art at CSE Level. A career as a draughtswoman appealed but with no openings for females she instead chose hairdressing, a skill she continues to employ. After having a family she embarked upon a European funded, two year part time local graphic design course aimed at retraining mature adults. This set her career path for the next few years.

Afternoon light by Sandra BinneyAfternoon light by Sandra Binney

“I worked for a graphic design company then on the advertising side for a newspaper. It was really satisfying and I worked with nice people. When the newspaper moved in 2006 everyone was made redundant and I did some freelance work at home. Then I was asked to go along to a life class. Hairdressing and graphics were both creative but I was soon hooked on drawing - I loved the challenge. I also liked to paint donkeys and dogs. I put a picture into a competition and it sold. I thought it was a fluke! Afterwards I took a few paintings to Beaulieu Fine Arts Gallery which went in the window and sold.”

Although concentrating on acrylics - and appreciating the opportunity they afford to paint over layers if things didn’t go according to plan - Sandra was soon tempted to experiment with other mediums.

“I love the spontaneity and looseness of watercolour,” she states. “And I’m quite liking acrylic inks or mixing inks and collage.”

On currently favoured MDF board this artist uses whatever comes to hand to make a mark, though brushes are most popular. Long, thin, fine ones (a few of which are expensive) produce the finish she requires for animals though amongst her collection is a signwriter’s brush whose bristles have been cut back.

Sandra’s studio is a log cabin at the bottom of her garden. This thickly insulated, two storey construction is, by her own admission, “a real mess – my excuse is, I’m an artist! My husband is quite tidy. When he brings me a cup of tea he usually walks straight out again. If he stays and sits down I realise I must have tidied up. But he’s good with the business side. I struggle with this, it doesn’t come naturally.”

In The ZoneIn The Zone

Family members provide other input. When titles aren’t presenting themselves to the artist she isn’t shy in asking others, including her Facebook followers, one of whom suggested Broken Silence. Sandra suggests she is ‘boring’ with her colours. But don’t allow her reserve to fool you. This image celebrates the many tones and shades reflecting the natural environment in which she lives. And more. Via an appealing looseness the onlooker is led on a forest journey only to stumble upon a lone stag. Stillness and intensity of expression reveal a breathtaking scene. Light filtering through the trees almost provokes a need to shield the eyes yet take a moment to absorb the posture and majesty of this magnificent animal.

From her Langley home Sandra is just a couple of miles from Lepe Beach where walks offer ongoing inspiration and sketches or photography provide the basis for future paintings. Here Watermark Open Studios of which she is a member will exhibit at an Easter Fair, April 14-18. Indeed, mixing with other artists is an important part of her routine. Occasional workshops are on her agenda along with Tuesday afternoon classes in Lyndhurst; woodland walks with her dogs often provide stimulating light and scenes.

Greetings cards (60 designs), silk scarves and cushions featuring many spellbinding images not only reveal the artist’s skill but also a determination to showcase her work through a variety of mediums whilst reaching out to the public. Although continuing to navigate the crossroads of self analysis and ambition, creativity drives this artist. Sandra Binney has captured breathtakingly beautiful images. I eagerly anticipate more, whatever her subject.


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