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“Sandra, can you draw?”

Detail of painting Surabaja by Sandra Sallin@1982

Detail of painting Surabaja by Sandra Sallin

My art gallery dealer, Marti Koplin : “Sandra, can you draw?”

Sandy: “Uh, I don’t know. I haven’t drawn in a long time. I’m going to have to experiment.

My art gallery dealer: “Well, I’m curating a special exhibition here at the gallery of drawings by some of the nation’s best artists. I’d like to include you in the show.”

This would be a ground breaking show. There had never before been a group show solely devoted to drawings, in a commercial gallery. It was a big deal and I definitely wanted to be included.

But, I hadn’t drawn since college. I never liked drawing because I loved color. I loved painting –– squeezing out gorgeous shades of oil paint onto my palette. Mixing together unique colors. Color. But, drawing? Not so sure.

Detail from Alor Star @1982 Sandra Sallin

Detail from painting Alor Star by Sandra Sallin

When I was studying art at UCLA , one of the prerequisite classes was advanced drawing. My professor was Robert Irwin. His fame was in ascendence.  I mean he was a big deal. At the time, I thought of him as a cool dude who loved going to the horse races. His art was just part of his coolness.

I really wasn’t interested in drawing; all I wanted to do was paint. So, I asked him if I could paint instead. His answer? “If you can prove to me that you can draw, I’ll let you paint your heart out.”

What did I draw? My hand. I simply sat there, pencil in hand, and drew my left hand. Finished. Showed it to Mr. Irwin. He studied it and said, “Not bad.” But, there was a student looking over his shoulder who said, “Hey, she’s drawn six fingers!” He looked at it again and said, “ OK, if I can look at this drawing of your hand that has six fingers and think it’s not bad, then you can paint what ever you want.!” Which is what I did. No black, white or grey for me. Color!

Pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener and graphite

 But now, I had this opportunity to be part of a major, high profile drawing show at my excellent gallery. I was stoked. This is what is called high motivation.  After the meeting with my art dealer, I drove downtown to PaperSource, a resource for any kind of paper. I was on a mission to find the absolutely perfect paper for my new creations.  It  had to be the perfect shade of white, not too warm, not too cool.The surface could not be too hard, too slick or too soft. After touching, rubbing and testing many sample papers, I decided on Strathmore Bristol Smooth Three Ply.

OK , next were the pencils. At UCLA, we usually just used a standard Berol Drafting pencil. It was a familiar blood red brown pencil with a soft lead. Ah, but for a “real drawing”, I wanted more. I purchased mechanical pencils with all the different hardness levels and a mechanical pencil sharpener. I loved the feeling of sharpening the mechanical pencils. There was a very satisfying sound to the grinding of the lead and it gave me time to think.

Collage of drawing pencilsWhat  to draw? I loved flowers and thought roses would be an inspiring beginning. Roses. But, where? Of course, the world famous Huntington Rose Gardens. I dashed out to Pasadena, camera in hand, to record images that would get me started.

My first drawing was a Single Rose.

Drawing of Single Rose@1991 Sandra Sallin

My next drawing was  Two Roses,

Two_Roses Drawing by Sandra Sallin

Hmmmm? I’m loving this. So, how about  Five Roses

Five Roses drawing by Sandra Sallin

Enough is never enough. I was on a roll. Then, another rose drawing, Iceberg.

Drawing Iceberg Rose by Sandra Sallin

I loved the sensuous feel of the graphite on the paper. I loved the shading. I didn’t want to stop drawing.

These four works were exhibited in the Koplin Gallery’s First Drawing Show. It was a huge success and there was much critical acclaim. David Rodes, UCLA Professor of English, and Director of the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts spoke at the gallery about the various drawings. He looked at my work said that they were “metonymous”. Metonymous? I was thrilled, but didn’t  know what it meant. Of course, I looked it up. It’s origins were Greek and meant that the object was symbolic of something so much more. OK, I can live with that, especially from Professor Rodes!

Following the show he acquired one of my drawings for the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts. Not bad for an artist who hated drawing, hadn’t drawn in years but was now bewitched by this new medium.

It all started with a six-fingered hand and led to drawings like this, Prelude thirty eight inches high by forty five inches wide.

We’re talking metonymous!

Drawing by Sandra Sallin, Prelude II

All images appearing on “Sandra, can you draw?” are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!



  • cam - I *love* your pencil drawings! Whenever I shoot flowers or plants, I always think about what you would draw, how you get that lit from within sort of feeling… I can’t quite match you, but you do inspire me.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you Cam. I can’t photograph the way you do. So we’re even.ReplyCancel

  • Leora - You *can* draw! And wow.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Leora, it was quite an eye opener to me.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - You are so talented.

    I have a question – when did this drawing moment happen? By the way, I wrote my senior thesis at Princeton on Metaphor and Metonymy. Another sign that you and I were meant to be friends;).ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Had to look at my bio. That first drawing show was in 1991! I mean really, how many people know the word Metonymy??? Small world. Meant to be!ReplyCancel

  • Carla Fischer - wonderful and i learned a new word! i remember saying to you at the show: you can really draw! i had now idea and now i say to you: you can really write!!! sensuous like your drawings and paintings…and funny! i laughed out loud…ReplyCancel

  • Bonnie Fuller - Fantastic! Yes you can draw! A delightful read and and beautiful images.
    Cannot wait to see and read what is next.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Bonnie. Glad you enjoyed it. I’m interested to see what I come up with next also.ReplyCancel

  • wilma engel - again and again, you amaze me…had not a clue about your drawings..or that you studied with one of my heros, robert irwin…..he was lucky to have you as a student!
    have you seen him since your days at UCLA?ReplyCancel

    • sandra - I’ve only seem some of his shows. I think I saw his retrospective in La Jolla. He was quite the “cool dude” at UCLA.
      I guess I keep my light under a barrel. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Ben Fischer - Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • SilverFoxyBlog - Another talent, you are truly “A woman for all seasons”!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Judith. Glad you enjoyed it.ReplyCancel

  • Doreen Pendgracs - Absolutely beautiful art, Sandra! I have no talent for drawing. Mine is with words … and how to source the best chocolate! Thanks for dropping by my blog. Nice to ‘meet’ you!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - What a great idea for a blog. Love the idea of traveling looking for the best chocolate. Tried to leave a post on your blog but it said it was a duplicate. Do you have a lot of chocolate at home and how do you resist?ReplyCancel

  • Julie - So gorgeous! Of course, you already know what I think about your work! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Sharon Briskin - You continue to amaze me with your brilliant talent! I am sooooo inspired!! XoxoReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks for reading the post Sharon. You’re doing great work also. I was very impressed.ReplyCancel

  • Mom Mom's Apron - Even if I didn’t “know” you and saw your work in a gallery, I guarantee I would pick it out as my favorite among hundreds. It’s absolutely stunning and just my style.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Dawn for the compliments. I’m glad I’m your style.ReplyCancel

  • Sandra - Sandy! These drawings are so beautiful and your story so fun to read. I love how you describe the process of selecting the paper and pencils and how sharpening the pencils gives you time to think. Will you be drawing more? I sure hope so!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - I do adore drawing. I love the meditative process, the feel of the pencils on the paper and not having to clean up painting braushes. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Debra Eve - I love, love, love your work, Sandra!ReplyCancel

  • kathy peck leeds - It never would have occurred to me after seeing your paintings, that you couldn’t draw – just not possible. Your drawings are as beautiful and as carefully rendered as your other art, and so soft and strong at the same time. Beautiful!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - I know I draw with my brush, but really didn’t know if I could draw with a pencil. Seems kinda clueless of me. But once I started I didn’t want to stop.ReplyCancel

      • kathy peck leeds - Is Papersource still where you buy your paper, or any ideas where there’s a good selection of interesting papers for artists in LA?ReplyCancel

        • sandra - I’ve pretty much settled on the Strathmore paper that I mentioned in the post. I’ve gone to Pearl’s, McManus Morgan, Blick, anywhere. I’ve got a nice stash in my file drawers.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Stern - You never cease to amaze me. Your drawings are exquisite!!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - You’re a very talented lady in so many areas. You draw, paint, photograph and design jewelry, gardens and… the list goes on and on.ReplyCancel

  • Julie - Testing your comment system – version 1…logged in.ReplyCancel

  • Julie Chenell DeNeen - Testing your comment system logged out…version 2.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara - Oh wow – I’m just in awe of such talent and vision. Your drawings are so beautiful! Loved them all, but I think especially the tulips. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on my tulips – love yours in art form too!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks. There is something very challenging about growing and painting those beauties. I always thought I would have to go to Holland to see those gorgeous blooms, but now you’re telling me I can see them in Oregon! Who knew?ReplyCancel

  • E. Jane - I am amazed at your talent! So glad I found your blog.ReplyCancel

  • sandra - E.Jane, I’m thrilled you found it also! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Claudia Schmidt - Sandra – I have been trying to find your blog after seeing you on Bloppy Bloggers and finally figured out where you are! I am so in love with your artwork. The image on your masthead is absolutely beautiful, I’m going to look around the site and check out all the artwork. So glad I found it!ReplyCancel

  • Connie - Unbelievable talent! Love your blog. Found you on Instagram. I live in Hawaii.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Aloha! Thanks for coming over from Instagram and visiting!ReplyCancel

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