Finding Inspiration in the Details

A painting by Sally Strand on display in SUMA. – Photo by Raunie Bailey

This week at Art Insights, Sally Strand expressed the meaning behind her artwork as wanting to capture the small moments of life that are often overlooked.

Strand has been exhibiting professionally as an artist for over 35 years. She is the recipient of numerous top awards, including the PSA Master Pastelist distinction. Her solo exhibitions in galleries and museums include a variety of pastel and oil paintings.

During her lecture, she shared the different elements that have enriched her art process throughout the years. Here are a few things to take away from Strand’s artistic style and inspiration:

Your Surroundings Inspire

Before Strand started developing herself as an artist, she was a member of a singing group at a university in Arizona. Her singing group was very competitive, which allowed them to advance to the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.

As some may recall, the games were largely overshadowed by what has come to be known as the “Munich massacre.” During the games, a group of Palestinian terrorists invaded the Olympic Village and captured and killed nine Israelite athletes and coaches.

As a participant and attendee of these games, Strand was deeply affected by this tragic event. As a way to cope with her trauma, Strand began sketching in a notebook. Little did she know, this would become the beginning spark of her career as a visual artist.

To progress as an artist, she decided to attend art school in New York at the Arts Students League. Strand expressed that, “Although art school was wonderful, I personally felt like I learned and appreciated art more by visiting all of the art museums in New York.”

As a Colorado native, she voiced how strange and exciting it was to have a change of scenery. Previously, she gained inspiration for her art from the nature that surrounded her in mountainous Colorado. In the big city of New York, she started gaining artistic inspiration from lavish art museums.

Exposure Equals Success

As Strand spoke to a room mostly comprised of artists, she enforced the importance of having multiple income streams.

The major exposure tip Strand offered to her audience was to enter art competitions. Strand began to expose herself to the world as an artist after the very first competition she entered in Laguna Beach, California.

As a participant in this competition, she acquired several important skills she needed: trying to branch out into the art world. Strand learned skills such as how to present herself as an artist, how to speak about her art and how to collect a mailing list from those interested in her art.

Manipulate Artistic Elements to Make the Mundane Exciting

All of Strand’s pieces play with various artistic elements to direct the artwork toward a certain meaning.

One artistic element that Strand pays very close attention to within her artwork is light. One of Strand’s art pieces features a head of lettuce in a window sill, with the natural-light shining on it in an intriguing way. Strand mentioned that a friend of hers saw this piece and said, “I’ll never look at my vegetable drawer the same way again because of the way this is portrayed.”

For Strand, this was a very powerful statement to hear. She expressed how this simple statement validated why she was an artist. “Most people look but don’t see. By creating this piece, I allowed a viewer to perceive an ordinary object differently,” she said.

Strand also experiments with other artistic elements to make her work more intriguing such as size, reflection, space, duality and figure placement.

Students and the community can experience Strand’s artwork by visiting her gallery display in the Southern Utah Museum of Art. More of Strand’s work and artist information can be found at

Story by
Alyssa Brunson