Painting is a Family Affair
Sandhu Singh was born and raised in Chandigarh, India, a city designed by Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier, with architecture that is renowned the world over. At age 21, Sandhu made a life-altering move to Canada. Today, he feels like a drifter between I am in India I miss Canada and when I am in Canada I miss India. I live in a no man’s land!” An only child, Sandhu spent his youth daydreaming – fascinated by art, though he didn’t paint. He says, “I was a doodler and a and colouring a mango with crayons when I was 7 was the only thing I did until three decades later.” He attended boarding school in India, and because of relocating to Canada. Though he wasn’t a top student, Sandhu made up for it in street smarts which helped him to grow up fast have been many… he admits to having PTSD and openly credits painting as a healing therapy.
For the love of…
In his early 20s, Sandhu moved to Victoria, exciting time exploring new surroundings, but I also had my struggles adapting to an unknown culture, with a lack of funds. I often picked fresh fruit from garbage cans because I couldn’t afford to buy them. The initial transition was tough, doing menial jobs to make ends meet – mostly as a cook in a variety of restaurants.” in 1991. “I was a dishwasher, struggling to save my money, but fell in love with a $500 piece of art. I had to pay in monthly installments (and probably went a bit hungry), but it still hangs front and center in my living room.” Eventually, he saved enough money to upgrade his education, and graduated from the University of Victoria with a bachelor of Science degree. “My friend Julie encouraged me to go back to school. A good move because I met my wife and I spent quite a bit of time at home. My wife suggested I learn to paint since I admired it so much. In 2007 she registered me in a 2-hour, once-a-week class at the local recreation center, where I learned to dabble in watercolour. Emily was the one who introduced me into the art world. My co-workers encouraged me to keep painting, but it was my family who looked at my bad paintings and kept saying: that is lovely!”
Sandhu became a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists of Victoria and began exploring the Victoria art scene. He entered juried shows, and started earning recognition. One of the major decisions he made was not to make giclee prints. “I wanted to produce only original art regardless how many requests I got. I feel that decision shaped my journey.” After winning a major award in 2011– Best in told not to show his work in cafés or fairs. He listened to the suggestion and, since then, has displayed his work exclusively in Art Galleries.
At home, at work
From a large studio in his basement, loud music resounds when Sandhu is in the painting groove. Anything from Ray Charles to Indian ghazals. “Pink Floyd when I do cityscapes! I like that buzz, the noise, the chaos. I am a completely abstract type of person but I still manage to get things done.” Small sketches thumbtacked to the wall often become big paintings. Throughout the studio are posted reminders and art quotes; reference photos; favourite paintings that remind Sandhu of his growth as a person and an artist. In his youth, Sandhu spent a lot of time ‘hanging around’ the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Chandigarh. “Painting fascinated me. I admired Sobha Singh who painted large portraits and Amrita Sher Gill. I admire many old and living artists, Edward Seago, Andrew Wyeth, Richard Schmid, John
me how to paint, and is not only my guru but also a dear friend. Some artists are very good at telling a tale, or evoking memories, or capturing light or using bold tonal values.” Many of Sandhu’s recent paintings of India stem from personal recollections. “My “Bazaar” painting brings back the memories runs smoothly even in chaos! I particularly like lone Here in Canada, there is always inspiring subject matter. “I love cityscapes… Victoria, Vancouver, or even New York. And boats and west coast scenes are peaceful and a part of my leisure time with family. I paint plein air as much as possible.”
One man’s rubbish
Sandhu’s technique is about keeping it simple – big brushes for bigger shapes and small brushes for smaller shapes; wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry techniques. “However, to achieve a half decent painting one must use all available. Rarely I use texture. Sometimes I splatter paint because I do not like stiff looking paintings. I avoid going over my painting, and use minimum brush strokes.” Tools of choice include Saunders watercolour paper and Escoda sable and synthetic paint brushes sizes 8-16, and a squirrel mop brush. Pigments are Winsor and Newton, or Daniel
Smith or Holbein watercolour tubes. Most important is using a lot of water, so his paints can the shapes. For Sandhu, the hardest part of using watercolour – his preferred medium – is the vulnerability, not being able to go back Visualization is key to the painting process – Sandhu paints in his head long before picking up a brush. He starts by sketching loosely from a photo or his imagination, then spends time looking at it to make sure the composition is correct. Next comes a plan of action, deciding where to start and what kind of atmosphere to create. Big keeping the background completely abstract. Then, he works on the foreground, and middle ground at the end. Following this simple formula, he goes from big weak washes to paint straight from the tube. It all depends on subject matter. easel for few hours to a few days making sure with my brain! Throughout the painting process I own meaning. I create illusions in my painting by indicating things… that part is hard to explain. It is intuition. Finally, I ask my family, especially looks. They are getting extremely honest with
Previous Page, Awnings, watercolour, 20” x 28” This Page, left, Granville Boat Yard, watercolour, 8.25” x 14”
This Page: left, Acceptance in Chaos, watercolour, 20” x 28” Previous Page: left, Monsoon in Big Apple, watercolour, 20” x 13” right, Manhattan, watercolour, 20” x 13”
Previous Page: left, Night Moves, watercolour, 13” x 20” This Page: left, Cadboro Bay Sailors, watercolour, 20” x 28”
above left, Oldest Chinatown, Victoria, BC, watercolour, 13” x 10”
above right, Wet Vancouver, watercolour, 20” x 28”