Paint­ing is a Fam­ily Af­fair

Arabella - - CLAUDE LANGEVIN - writ­ten by Lorie Lee Steiner

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”

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