Finding Time and Inspiration, With Artist Sallie Strand

Artist Sallie Strand in her Rocky Neck gallery.  Photographed by Michael J. Lee

Artist Sallie Strand in her Rocky Neck gallery. Photographed by Michael J. Lee

Written by Jenna Talbott | Photographed by Michael J. Lee

“I don’t have time to paint every day—there’s so much that goes into being an artist that isn’t painting!” says artist Sallie Strand when I ask her how immersive her process is. As a sometimes-painter myself, I’m forever interested in artists’ creative process and how it fits in with, well, life. I’m not surprised to hear that Sallie works to make time to paint amidst the constant swirl of “marketing, dropping off, picking up, applying to shows, updating your website, and so on.” And come summer, Sallie devotes the later half of her week to the Sallie Strand Gallery in Gloucester’s Rocky Neck Art Colony, the oldest continually operating artists colony in the United States. I get this: community, in addition to the never-ending quest for inspiration, is worth the sacrifice in studio time. “Rocky Neck colony is great—the light in Gloucester is incredible!” exclaims Sallie. “And on slow days we sit outside our galleries and chat.”

Though it seems there’s hardly a slow day. I spoke to Sallie as the summer season was just getting going: one weekend Sallie was preparing for the opening of a nationally juried show at the Providence Art Club, and a few days later she was traveling to NYC as part of a 6-artist group show ‘Where Color Lightly Treads’ at LichtundFire gallery. Yet she remains devoted to her studio time, spent at her live/work space in Lincoln Studios in Waltham.

“You can’t wait for inspiration to hit,” she says. “Even if I’m not in the mood, I force myself to get in the studio and generally I get quickly absorbed in the process.”

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Trained first as a pastry chef, then a dietitian, (“What a coincidence that I have a culinary degree and used to be a pastry chef like Brittney!” she notes over email) Sallie finds similarities between baking and painting. She often uses kitchen utensils to create textures through layering, mark-making, and scraping. “I love textures, peeling paint decay, the clouds in the sky, the sunset, flowers, movement…all this plays into my work.” And her summers in Rocky Neck certainly inspire. Nestled in Gloucester’s inner harbor, Rocky Neck’s vibe and renowned light quality has drawn such artists as Winslow Homer , Edward Hopper and Nell Blaine. “I believe we absorb the environment we are in. When I paint, I go into the zone and whatever is in the subconscious emerges. Place creeps into my paintings even when I’m not physically there,” she says.

Sallie welcomes visitors at Sallie Strand Gallery, 77 Rocky Neck Ave, Gloucester, Thursday through Sunday, from 12–5pm. Her work can also be seen as part of the National Association of Women Artists group show, Extremes and In-Betweens, opening August 1 at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center. Sallie and many participating artists will be at the opening reception on August 3. Hopefully I’ll be there, too, for a dose of inspiration to keep in my back pocket for my next “studio day.”