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Lost in space: Sandra Bottinelli travels to inspired places in her new backyard studio.
Sketch Pad

Sandra Bottinelli
Art that surrounds the senses
by Kathy Anderson

Sandra Bottinelli pursues her passion for painting at home in Northeast Portland. The New Jersey native has lived in southern Florida, Michigan and Spain, and names Van Gogh, Peter Paul Rubens and Dr. Seuss among her favorite artists. She graciously gives us a glimpse into her life as an artist …

Coming to her senses
For Sandra Bottinelli, inspiration comes from the emotions or feelings she gets from a specific sight, sound, scent, taste or touch.

"The inspiration is different for each painting," she said. "But it all comes from the experience of what we call our life.

"Justifying Dinner"

"It's true that most of the time the meaning of a painting is realized after it is done. Even if I have a certain idea in my head, when I finish, walk away for a while, then come back to the painting, often it tells me what it's about. And I learn something about myself, or something I was not sure about is confirmed."

Among her own work, Sandra's favorite pieces are "Justifying Dinner" and her latest, "Losing Innocent" -- in that order.

"Usually, the last painting I do is my favorite," she said. "But in this case, 'Justifying Dinner' holds its place as No. 1.

"I'm still not exactly sure where 'Justifying Dinner' came from, but I had the picture in my head before I started. 'Losing Innocent' was inspired by a visit to the Prado last November where I saw Rubens' paintings. 'Confronting the Act' was a desperate attempt to release some confusion, fear and anxiety that had been building for some time. It worked."

When life lacks inspiration, Sandra doesn't blame painter's block. "I prefer to believe I'm not supposed to be painting anything at that moment," she said. "I don't go searching for inspiration, I wait until something hits me. Usually no more than a month goes by before a new idea presents itself."

In the beginning
Sandra's first piece of artwork was a two-inch Play-Doh Easter basket filled with tiny eggs. She thinks she ate it -- she remembers liking the taste of Play-Doh.

"I kept myself busy by drawing, coloring, painting and playing with clay," she said. "Or I would build something. I once built an amusement park in the basement and charged neighborhood kids an entry fee. I was always putting on shows and plays -- anything creative was good."

In high school, her medium of choice was oil pastels. Although admitting to an obsession with perfection ("A problem that will soon kill me if I don't learn to chill out!"), Sandra went through a stage of painting she calls fast and messy.

"Expressionistic in a sense," she said. "And I love some of the things I came up with ("House on Hill," "Girl and Her Horse"). These were fun paintings because I didn't think about them much -- that is, they were feeling-paintings."

Struck with a desire to learn something new, Sandra began work on "Parting" and "Justifying Dinner."

"They're more like math problems with art attached to them," she said. "I love math so it's a good combination for me."

But once in a while Sandra goes back to the expressionistic, freer-flowing style -- and uses what she learned from the mathematical paintings.

"You have to learn the rules before you can break them," she said. "It's a great quote, and in my experience, definitely true."

A good place to hang: "Losing Innocent" and "Justifying Dinner" at Berbati's.

Show business
Her first showing was at the Belmont Street Fair in 1996.

"It was very fun and exciting," she said. "I received lots of comments -- which is always nice."

But her favorite place to show is on Glisan St., outside, during First Thursday -- where more and more artists are turning up.

"It's nice being able to talk to people about my work as they stroll by or stop to look," she said. "I believe it's a lot less intimidating for them, and myself, than the typical gallery atmosphere. That's not to say I wouldn't like to be in a gallery -- but I'd have to make sure the air wasn't too stuffy."

Last month Sandra showed 10 pieces at Berbati's. On April 22 she'll participate in a benefit at downtown Portland's Benson Hotel. Her paintings will be accompanied by live jazz music. Half the profits go to the Alzheimer's Association.

Sandra in outer space
Start with a back yard and a kit for a basic 10-foot-by-16-foot shed. Add windows, skylight, insulation, electricity, heat and sheetrock. What do you get? Sandra's new studio.

"It's small, it's perfect and it's mine!" she said.

Check out Sandra's paintings on her Web site. Reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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