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SALLY TISKA RICE

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Sean Hutcheon

Artist In A Beautiful Direction

Harryet Candee: Sally, when I visited you in your studio I saw that you were working on a large, yellow-toned drawing. Can you tell us about this composition and how it relates to your other works of art?

Sally Tiska Rice: This particular piece is on Arches 300 lb. cold press paper, 29”x 42”. Gorgeous paper! I have painted large, for example, an acrylic painting titled, Mount Snow. This is a triptych on gallery stretched canvases. The three canvases were clamped together and painted as if it were one large work. The center canvas, 30”x 40”, along with the two outer canvases, 24”x30” makes it a total size of 7.3’x 2.5’.

The painting that you saw is a work in progress, and the largest watercolor for me thus far. A couple contacted me in regards to a previous painting that I painted, Birch Leaves, and requested a larger, similar one. Large enough to go behind a couch. Laughing….. A few days later, ironically, a friend sent me a link for a terrific sale on Kilimanjaro, 300 lb. cold pressed watercolor paper. My husband Mark, was talking with Kyle, a friend, about the large paper and told him how much I was looking forward to the mystery of creating large watercolor works. Soon after, Kyle arrived with a box of Arches 300 lb. cold press paper 29”x 42”. The paper was such a thoughtful gift. I couldn’t wait to get started on these two works. One on each of the larger sheet sizes— a mini series, per se.

As far as my composition, I lay out the shapes, paying attention to creating various sizes with a standard number two pencil in hopes that it draws interest to the viewer. The goal is to keep the main interest in the one third area. This technique is attempted in most of my work with the exception of portrait commissions.

I noticed while looking at your art, that you call rendering with pencil, ‘painting’. Can you tell us why you describe it this way?

STR: I believe that you are referring to my pencil painting, A Story To Tell. I refer to this as a painting because I use the same or similar techniques with graphite pencils or pastels as I do with wet mediums. Using a variety of graphite pencils ranging from very hard to very soft. Holding the pencil in different angles helps with tightness and looseness. I am working with layers, and multiple blending tools. Blending tools include both clean and older coated paper blender sticks, fingers and different types of erasers that are used to smear softly and not to erase. All of these techniques are mindfully blended and layered. It is more of a painting than of a loose sketch.

What does it mean to be an artist in today’s world? By putting forth your work to be viewed, is that daring for you?

STR: I have a shy side and although I painted ink borders on stationery for Crane Stationery, it was mostly behind the scenes. Exceptions to this, was demonstrations at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City and at the Stationery Factory. It was part of my employment, so I just did it. I always had a passion for creating. After painting for eight hours at Crane, I would go to my studio and paint some more. This was very freeing and allowed me to nurture my own creativity. I am always planning to paint different things. Whatever I am looking at in my mind, I am painting the scene.

What were some of your childhood memories relating to art and creativity?

STR: My late parents were very creative. Both had always had projects going. Mom was fantastic at knitting and gardening . She made all of her children beautiful sweaters, hats and mittens. I also remember creating with her terrariums with multiple houseplants. Dad made Halloween costumes, tied flies for trout fishing, created three dimensional sculptures and many practical boxes and containers from metal. He was working regularly on blueprints in the evening after I was put to bed. I would sneak downstairs to see what he was doing, and he would give me a pencil and a glass of milk. When I got sleepy, he would zoom me back upstairs for the night. So many fantastic memories!

How would you describe some of the ways art has been a soul supportive therapy for you?

STR: Wow, where do I start! As an awkward, tall, shy teenager, I felt a belonging in the art rooms at Pittsfield High. I think these art rooms shielded me in a huge way from peer pressure.

I had a fourth spine surgery last April, and creating art even in small ways. It helped to get my mind off of the pain.

Art is therapeutic and healing on all levels. I get lost in time when being creative and can easily forget my worries, pain, even when to eat. A big part of recovery for me, was pencil paintings and then moving on to watercolor mainly because of the materials were very lightweight and portable. I find using these materials makes it easy to stop and start a project when needed.

Your studio doors are always open while you are there. I get the impression you welcome visitors all the time? How do you get work done if that’s the case?

STR: My first away from home working studio was on North Street in Pittsfield. It was an amazing group of talented artists that were always working with the doors open and kindly critiqued one another’s artwork. Sharing many tips and ideas was really fun. Through the years the artists changed and many of the new artists there worked with closed doors. I missed the warmth of working together and due to my health, I was having a hard time climbing up the steep stairs to my little space. A couple of the artists in this previous group moved into the Clock Tower. It has free handicap parking and a elevator. My husband and I met with the building owner and building manager. It worked with my budget because the utilities were included. I feel blessed to have this small super bright studio in the historic Clock Tower building. The building is open nine to five pm and clients can easily park and visit. Usually there are several Clock Tower artists working in their new spaces.

I love having my door open where I encourage and share ideas about supplies and techniques. It’s a friendly group, and we all cheer each other on. Having the door open makes me feel connected.

What are some responsibilities that go along with being a part of the Clock Tower artist group?

STR: The group although new has had multiple meetings, planning agendas and advertising for events. We all pitch in in some way such as lead- ing and organizing meetings. Others with advertising imagery. There are creators and controllers of social media platforms for the group. I have signed up to be the connection or contact person with our local Pittsfield First Friday Arts Walk committee. In this task I reach out to the other Clock Tower Artists monthly, requesting new images of their work and updated contact information that I send to the art walk committee in one email file. I am a strong believer of working with and being a part of the community. I also think that having some consistent monthly events and open hours gives the community and tourists something that they can count on. Also, our new work helps to intrigue and welcome visitors. known as an artist by friends and colleagues, moving to my studio space to Pittsfield was to get my work out of the kitchen and into the public eye. Giggling…. and I still have works in progress in the kitchen.

What were your experiences as you transitioned your way into the Clock Tower?

STR: Before moving to the Clock Tower, several years ago, when the First Fridays Arts Walk had started I had a fantastic opportunity from a local business store owner to fill a small empty store front to show my art work for the summer. This was a great networking experience allowing me to meet many artists along with the opportunity to be juried into a North Street art group . Although I presently live in Peru, Massachusetts, I was born and raised near the edge of a large wooded park in Pittsfield, MA. I loved my childhood near the woods and being close to nature was important to me and my family.

I feel inspired by the scenery of the mountains, lakes and trees but, Pittsfield is the heart of the Berkshires, and even though at that point I was Continued on next page...

Is there anyone behind the scenes that you are particularly grateful to for their total supportiveness in your artistic endeavors?

STR: I am a faithful person and my gratitude is here firstly.

I have strong support from my husband, Mark who encouraged me to find a studio space. He is mechanically talented and was easily able to respond to my ideas and dreams of such needed items, like the fixtures and the layout of the studio space. Mark made it happen. The first two spaces involved lots of cleaning, sanding and painting, each with a hanging system and gallery-style walls. He has done this not once, but this is my third studio space outside my home. My daughter SarahJane has encouraged me to do my artwork since she was a child. I would drop her off at dance school and then paint with the girls or volunteer on the Berkshire Carousel before picking her up to go home. Even though she is grown and has moved out of state, she still shows up to support me at events and open studios. I am also super grateful to family and friends that share my work on social media posts and show up for me.

Who was always there as an art mentor for you?

STR: There isn’t just one person that comes to mind. I mentioned my parents in a previous question but in addition to them, I have older siblings and cousins that have that artist flare. I have enjoyed painting and creating with all of them. I can recall painting with my cousin Sharon. I sat on a blanket in her yard as a small child. I remember when I was a teenager, my team of teachers included Carl Fritz who was dramatic, funny and sometimes tough. Another teacher, Nicholas LePore, would question my sense of adventure and award me when he thought the design worked. I took classes at Berkshire Community College, and of those, I credit the influence of color combination to Dwight O’Neil. A close family friend,

David Babcock, a builder and artist himself, introduced me to Walter Cudnohufsky. Walt is a wonderful landscape architect who paints with watercolor. He is not only an amazing art teacher, but has been an influence with life lessons. My cousin Joanie Tiska Kennedy is an established artist in North Carolina. I had a great time visiting her where she gave me a tour of her studio as well as some galleries that feature her work.

Do you have a particular vision you want fulfill?

STR: I think that there’s already a plan created for each of us, and we are just here going with the flow. I try to proceed as thoughtfully and productively as I can. Having been told that I should pick one style and one medium and stick to it in order to find my place, I find that is too strict and binding for me. A big part of creating should be to go with your emotions and do what is right at the time. You will find my work can be realistic, tight, loose, and sometimes even on the edge of abstract fantasy. Within this wide spectrum, I have worked with many mediums going with what moves me at the time. Continued on next page...

The goal is to spread happiness through my artwork. Not to lose sight of the fact that sincerity, passion, and consistency you have for your art in actuality, steers the interest of art buyers towards you.

In terms of selling your art, what importance do you place on that part of being an artist?

STR: Collectors have an emotional bond with the work that they buy. Usually, it’s mentioned that they enjoy a certain painting because it’s connected to a particular memory. Possibly, a place they have visited or reminds them of a loved one in a sentimental way. During conversations with a client ordering commissions of loved ones, I try to make a connection and learn what he or she enjoys as hobbies, music. I try to bring into the painting not only their physical appearance but also their personality.

Are you an active gallery and museum goer?

STR: Absolutely, I love to go to fellow artists re- ceptions. They offer networking and you get to meet some terrific people. I like to take a quick video, with permission, and share it on social media to promote the shows.

How absorbed are you in being a part of the big picture– art world scene and news of what well known, on the rise artists are creating? Do you read magazines such Art News just to keep up with the Jones’s of the art world?

STR: My current collection of art magazines are Plein Air Artist, Watercolor Artist and of course The Artful Mind. I have been listening to podcasts on YouTube while I paint from Eric Rhoads. He shares events, tips and features some fabulous artists.

What follows for you now in terms of what you would like to do with your newly found freedom?

STR: Well, I love to travel. I think it would be outstanding to attend some large art events around the world. Not only to learn from the demonstra- tions, but to experience painting with those I admire.

What feeds your imagination and makes you smile?

STR: I am definitely inspired by the beautiful Berkshire scenery. We live in one of the best places in the world and are blessed with the ever changing four seasons. I really take in the beauty of simple things: sunrise, sunset, droplets, reflection and shadows.

I love having studio visitors and talking about the work on the walls with them however, my shy side has me smiling and blushing a bit. It makes me happy when visitors discuss their feelings and interpret the images they see.

Thank you, Sally! Z http://www.sallytiskarice.com sallytiskarice@verizon.net