Oak Harbor artist Sandy Byers makes credit card work for her

Posted in More Stories, Visual Art

Sept. 3, 2014

Thirty-two professional artists from across the US and British Columbia will converge on Port Angeles on Monday, Sept. 8 to take part in “Paint the Peninsula,” a weeklong juried plein air painting competition—the only event of its caliber in Washington State.

Among the artists’ varied backgrounds and genres of painting expertise, one particular artist stands out, and she’s from right here on Whidbey Island.

Sandy Byers, a retired software developer turned full-time painter, spends half her time painting in her Oak Harbor studio; the other half she’s outdoors, painting en plein air. Oils and pastels are her mediums of choice. What differentiates Byers from the other 31 competing artists is her choice of painting tools. Byers does most of her plein air painting with a credit card!

“It happened quite by accident,” Byers explained. “Last year during the “Paint the Peninsula” event my husband and I went on a day hike to Marymere Falls, outside of Port Angeles near Lake Crescent. I wanted to paint the falls, but when we arrived at our destination I realized that I’d left my painting panels in the car. My husband offered to hike back to the car and retrieve them for me, which he did. It wasn’t until he’d left that I realized I’d also left my brushes in the car. I didn’t have the heart to ask him to make a second trek, so I started brainstorming what else I might use as a painting tool. I often use a credit card to scrape paint off my palette and I think that’s what sparked the idea.”

Sandy Byers painting at Salt Creek (photo courtesy of the artist)

Sandy Byers painting at Salt Creek (photo courtesy of the artist)

A traditionally trained painter, Byers’ painting style was of a realistic nature; she used brushes to capture fine detail in the people, animals, landscapes and still life images she painted.

“With the credit card, I didn’t have that option,” she said. “So instead of trying to create an exact copy of Marymere Falls, I painted my impression of what I was seeing.”

“It was a very different process,” she added, “and one of the most fun and exhilarating creative experiences I’ve had. When I paint in my studio, I typically paint a few strokes, move back and view how they appear on the canvas, then paint some more. I know exactly the direction I want to go in. When painting with a credit card, it’s more like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. I work up close and focus on one shape and color, then move on to the next one without always knowing how they will work together. Then I stand back and say, ‘Oh! So that’s what it looks like!’”

That initial credit card painting of the falls became a turning point for Byers. She called the painting “Abundance at Marymere” and entered it in the inaugural “Paint the Peninsula” competition in 2013—an open event. She took home the Juror’s Award!

“That was a very significant event for me,” said Byers. “’Paint the Peninsula’ was the first plein air competition I’d ever entered and the results inspired me to do more plein air painting—with a credit card. The card and a palette knife are now the only tools I use for my outdoor work.”

"Abundance" oil painting by Sandy Byers (photo courtesy of the artist)

“Abundance” oil painting by Sandy Byers (photo courtesy of the artist)

Together with her husband Byers purchased a 17’ trailer—large enough for the two of them and her easels and art supplies—and enjoys traveling through the Northwest and beyond, discovering beautiful locations where she can paint outdoors. The Olympic Peninsula and the Oregon Coast, with their abundant natural beauty and water scenes, are favorite places. She meets plenty of interesting people who pause to watch her work, and she has many stories to tell.

“Paint the Peninsula 2014” will take place on the Olympic Peninsula from Monday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 14. During that time, 160 original plein air paintings will be created. New paintings will be hung in the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center each day throughout the week for public viewing and purchase.

The Green Crow Open Air Festival—A Community Celebration & Exhibit will take place on Sunday, Sept. 14 at Webster’s Woods Art Park in Port Angeles, featuring free family art activities.

For more information, visit www.paintthepeninsula.org.

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