Thursday, December 11, 2014

Remembering Artist Gary R Sanchez

Morning Coffee; Oil Pastel and Watercolor Crayon on Gessoed Paper

I'm feeling sad today. Two nights ago I learned that one of my continuing ed. art teachers, Gary Sanchez, passed away suddenly on Thanksgiving from a heart attack. It's hard to believe--I was just about to choose which of his classes I was going to take next year. He was only 53. Kind, generous, and a remarkably gifted teacher; he will be sorely missed by so many.

I took both watercolor and oil pastel classes from Gary. Watercolor was not a new medium to me, but oil pastel certainly was. In fact, I wasn't even sure I would like it very much--I only took the class because I knew he was a good teacher and I thought I should expand my horizons. What I didn't expect is that I would enjoy oil pastel so much it would become one of my main drawing/painting mediums. 

The above painting was one of my first homework assignments in that same class. Looking at it now I'm reminded of the fun our class had together, and Gary was funny, constantly keeping us entertained. I realize now that was a great way to keep us relaxed and light: we would sketch while Gary chatted, worked on his own pictures, and somehow managed to walk around the room giving us individual pep talks all at the same time. I can still hear him using the terms "hot dog"and "hamburger" in place of "portrait" and "landscape" to describe which way we should turn our paper (the same way he described it for the children's classes he taught, which of course was the perfect way for me to learn), or reminding us that Van Gogh ate his paints--a demonstration of how passionate we should be about our materials! (Or hungry.) Gary's website is still up and I encourage you to visit while it's there:

Some of the reasons Gary helped me to love oil pastels include:
  • There are no limits: I can use my fingers to paint. I'm also a ceramic artist, and being able to use my hands and fingers as tools on the paper fits me to a T.
  • Oil pastel color is rich. The colors blend like butter.
  • You can use a wide variety of interesting backgrounds, from sand paper to canvas, so it never gets dull.
  • It's a fast medium with quick results--and I'm a very impatient artist.
  • Oil pastels are a good choice for creating sell-able, frame-able work. And who doesn't want to go professional one day?
  • You don't need a lot of excess "stuff" to work with oil pastel--especially if you paint with your fingers! But seriously, they are a minimalist's dream: a selection of colors, something to draw upon, a few paper towels.
  • And you don't need to break the bank to get started. Even a cheap set is good--much better than you'd think. Great for the budget-minded.
  • It's a a very expressive medium--you can draw straight from the heart, right away--no experience needed. Really.
  • It's also a very forgiving medium--if you don't like the results you can pretty much just scrape it away and start over. Better yet, you can look for "happy accidents" and work with those in new and creative ways. It all turns out fine.
  • Oil pastels can be used in so many different ways: on their own, in collage or mixed media, applied thick and strong, or thinned with either water or solvent for a "watercolor" look. The possibilities are endless.
Going over this list makes me want to get out my paper and Sennelier pastels (the terribly expensive ones!) and draw something special. I often think the very best way we can honor our teachers and mentors, past and present, is to never give up on our dreams, no matter what. I'm so glad I got to be one of Gary's students, and I'm so glad I let him know when I could how much I appreciated his art and teaching. May his legacy live on.

Tip of the Day: My art journals are full of Gary's advice and tips, but one of my favorites is from the first watercolor class I took from him. We were each given a picture of a sunflower to paint. When we were finished (and praised--Gary always made sure we got tons of positive feedback before he offered any other type of critique) he said, "Okay, now that you've painted one sunflower, don't stop. Never paint just one. Paint a hundred. Paint a thousand sunflowers. Become an expert!" It's good advice for any type of creative pursuit: e.g., don't just write one poem or screenplay, write a hundred, write a thousand! Become an expert--and never give up. See you next time.


Pam said...

What a beautiful blog post, Val. I am sure Gary is smiling down on you from above, and appreciates you remembering him in this way. Your morning coffee painting is lovely, just lovely xx

Lisa Handley said...

An inspiring, encouraging teacher whose guidance resonates with us is such a wonderful blessing in our lives. Your post is a lovely way to honor someone who was obviously one of those gifts in your life. Sending a warm hug...

Valerie Storey said...

Thank you, ladies--I appreciate these kind comments so much! Art and writing are my two great passions, but so often art ends up taking second-place in my life. These last few weeks have been something of a wake-up call to find ways to make changes so I can work on both creative pursuits equally, maybe even putting the art first. I've been lucky to have wonderful teachers and I don't want their efforts to teach me go to waste. Thanks again for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Hi. We were in College together... although at that time he wasn't an Art major ...but he was a great guy. Always has a smile... Gone before his time...

Valerie Storey said...

Yes, always smiling! Gary was such an inspiration--every time I start a new drawing or painting I think of all the good advice he shared. I especially miss the way he gave those who were his students the confidence to step out of our comfort zones and just go for it. Sadly missed. Thank you so much for stopping by to comment--much appreciated.

Marlene McDaris said...

We were so sad to hear about Gary. My husband and I took him into our home and family when he was a student at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He wanted to go bass fishing and my husband, who was a passionate bass fisherman and member of the Universal City Bass Club, took him fishing. Mike sponsored his membership into the club and they partnered up for several years. He became a big brother figure to our son and paid Justin's airfare to go to the Texas State Fair while my husband was deployed during Desert Shield /Desert Storm. He was part of our family, celebrated holidays with us and we were so privileged when he gave us an original charcoal drawing of a Native American child that he drew. He will be missed by our whole family.

Marlene and Mike McDaris
Cibolo, TX