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All Things Ampersand

Featured Artist: Shalese Sands

… create what you want, not what everyone else wants.  Why create something if it’s not what you love?  Isn’t that the reason you started doing art in the first place?”

Scratchboard artist, Shalese Sands, says she has been drawing since she could hold a pencil.  I’ve always wanted to be an artist.   While she currently works at a full-time job other than her art, her dream is that of becoming a full-time artist.


Shalese is always struck by the support of patrons.  She cites the emotional response to her work.  “I’ve had people tear up after seeing the commission of their pet who has passed away.  As well, I’ve seen the joy on a collector’s face when making a first-time art purchase.  Both are humbling responses and they make the work worth it.”

Shalese’s creative process reflects her love of animals.  She feels that her passion for creating wildlife and equine art that has innately been with her.  She has tried other subject matter but feels her real voice lies in artwork about animals.  Her work was initially based on horses, working in this theme for many years.  However, after a trip to Yellowstone in 2009, she started doing much more wildlife. Her pieces reflect both this love of animals and her intense focus on detail.  She describes herself as “picky.”  Each piece clearly shows her need for accuracy in anatomy, color, and more.

Although her artwork is based on the beauty of the animal kingdom, she hopes that each piece resonates and triggers an emotional response from the viewer.  She hopes that through her artwork people can see the beauty and sublime qualities in nature.  She explains, “There are no hidden meanings or ulterior motives behind my work.  I want people to see something beautiful, something that affects them enough that they can’t stop thinking about it.”

Media and Process

Shalese Sands works on Ampersand Scratchbord.  After hearing from her several of her peers that the Ampersand Scratchbord was superior, Shalese began using the archival prepared panel in 2013.  Near the same time, she began to grow tired of preparing her own panels.  She felt her time could be better used creating artwork.  So along with changing to Scratchbord, she began working on Ampersand Gessobord for her acrylics at about the same time.

The artist says her favorite surface is Ampersand Scratchbord.  “The boards are very high quality.”  She states that she has not used or seen anything else for scratchboard art that is comparable in class.  She prefers Gessobord for her paintings.  She states, “Both Scratchbord and Gessobord are superior in quality and affordable.  So a good question:  Why wouldn’t you use it?”

Upon completing the artwork, Shalese seals her artwork with Krylon’s UV Resistant Satin Varnish, a spray varnish.  She likes the way it deepens the blacks, seems to make the whites pop more, and gives the whole piece a quality sheen that isn’t too glossy.  Once varnished, she prefers to frame her paintings in a large, black frame, generally with a silver or linen filet.  She states, “It sets off the piece nicely and brings everything together professionally.”


The world of art offers the artist the opportunity to experiment and create.  Shalese says, “The best advice I’ve been given is to create what I want, not what I think everyone else wants. “  Unless it’s a commission, she feels an artist should follow his passion, and this will lead to better artwork.

Her visions and efforts have led her to success and recognition.  A year ago, she was juried in as a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists.  A majority of the leading worldwide animal artists hold membership in the organization and she says she is highly honored to be included.

Shalese has a few favorite pieces, two of which are currently at the top of her list.  “Soul Fire” is an acrylic painting created from a safari to Tanzania in September of 2016.  The 18” x 24” piece, painted on Ampersand Gessobord, is based on a favorite male lion seen on this trip

The second painting that stands out with Shalese is a 12” x 16” scratchboard.  “Spotlight” is a piece created from a local horse show.  Time, talent, and technical excellence come together in a successful piece.

Shalese continues to work hard.  For the past four years, she has attended the Out West Art Show in Great Falls, MT, held in March.  Other special events are on her horizon.  Stay tuned for updates.

Shalese graduated from Northwestern College in St. Paul in 2011 with a B.A. in Studio Art and hopes to make wildlife/equine art her full time profession. See Shalese’s work at http://shalesesands.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/shalesesands and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/shalesesands/


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