Diane Spence and Richard Sandstrom will open their home gallery in Qualicum Beach on Dec. 8. (Emily Vance photo)

Drawing inspiration from everywhere – Qualicum Beach duo open home gallery

“It’s just rock’n’roll”: artists Richard Sandstrom and Diane Spence talk creativity, intuition

Where does art come from?

Some people are seemingly born with a paintbrush or guitar in hand. Others come to the pen, canvas, or wheel after decades, never having known that all along they harboured this unique ability within themselves.

The truth is, inspiration can come from everywhere and everything. It lives within us, but it is also a force greater than ourselves, and our inspiration is often found at the confluence of all the things that surround us.

At least, that’s what Qualicum Beach dynamic duo Richard Sandstrom and Diane Spence have found in their quest to exist in the intuitive, inspired state that artmaking requires – that it’s a combination of inner vision and outer inspiration.

The two will open their home gallery on Beach Road in Qualicum Beach on Dec. 8.

The gallery features Sandstrom’s acrylic and oil paintings, wearable sculpture-like jewelry as well as visual art made from rare and natural woods (including local maple and yellow cedar), some of which has been pigmented and inlaid with copper etchings.

READ MORE: ‘I Paint With Light Now’: Parksville digital artist on display at MAC

“Some of the work is recognizable and takes on a landscape feel… The other stuff is existential – in that it exists for its own sake – kind of an inner vision,” said Sandstrom.

Spence’s work is a combination of abstract painting and photography, showcasing the beauty of nature, with delicate macro-images of flowers and black and white inks in the Japanese style of sumi-e.

The two have a lot to share, and it’s not limited just to physical works of art.

As an art teacher in Spokane, Wash., Sandstrom taught many disciplines in his 30 year career – including drawing, painting, pottery, jewelry and sculpture. An avid lover of music, poetry, books and all types of art, he’s no stranger to drawing inspiration from the many genres of creative energy that exist in the world.

“I think all that has allowed me to get a feeling of what’s going on… The more you see, the more you connect. And the more you listen, the more you hear,” said Sandstrom.

“Poetry is so wonderful. Books. Reading anything, constantly. And good movies, good music, good food. It all goes into that, how you make something. You just sort of… you feel it.”

READ MORE: Parksville artist displays works inspired by a career in music

Speaking to Sandstrom, one gets the sense that the lines between all the mediums are blurring – a conversation about his wearable sculpture line quickly slides into a haiku about plums.

Then it turns into a meditation on his favourite Academy Award-winning films, and invariably lands on one of his favourite phrases – that “it’s all just rock’n’roll.”

“It comes from within. And everything we see belongs to us. Everything we hear, belongs to us… It’s fun. It’s not work,” said Sandstrom.

“But it’s also painful – it’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. Because sometimes you can get involved in something, you don’t want to quit. It’s a constant. You walk the knife-edge with balance, though. You don’t get too tipped over.”

Sandstrom plans all his pieces, making small sketches that turn into a full size drawing that gets replicated via carbon paper onto the canvas.

Spence’s work comes out a little bit differently. The two met in Palm Springs in the early 2000s, and the rest is history.

Spence, a nurse at St. Paul’s hospital for 30 years, mostly used her creativity in the kitchen up until the past decade. Now she’s an accomplished photographer and painter, preferring abstracts and unplanned pieces that often unfold in twists and turns on the canvas.

“He plans everything, and I don’t. I’m more of – it’s like you’re making spaghetti sauce. You just know what goes in there. It is all intuitive. This is where I want to know the basics – and they’re the basics of any painting. Colour, line, contrast, design, continuity. If you’re doing abstract, or you’re doing realism, it’s all the same,” said Spence.

READ MORE: Four generations of logging and mining stories in one Parksville show

“But putting that first stroke of paint on that canvas is where it starts.”

Spence says she often takes canvases and makes marks, going with where the colour, shade and intuition lead to create a fully realized piece. She’ll balance the marks out on the canvas and work as she goes.

“Working intuitively is difficult … but on the other hand it’s so rewarding. Every layer you come up with wonderful surprises!” said Spence.

“You can’t… you don’t want to possess it, just let that intuition go with you. Sometimes we over think it, and we ruin it. And sometimes there’s some people that do wonderful pieces of work, they just let that energy go. And it works out. It doesn’t work all the time, it’s very dangerous to do. But when it works, it works and it’s a fabulous piece. Then you feel that energy.”

Sandstrom and Spence’s gallery can be found at 545 Beach Rd. in Qualicum Beach. The grand opening is Dec. 8, after which the gallery will be open to the public on a permanent basis. More information and artwork can be found online at www.sandstrom-and-spence-studio.ca.

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