Sandy Fisher has been receiving her share of kudos recently. The central Illinois artist was notified her transparent watercolor entitled “Bountiful” was accepted into the Mississippi Watercolor Society Grand National Exhibition and the Missouri Watercolor Society Annual Competition. The same painting also received first place in the Illinois Art League fall show this year.

The applause comes five years after Fisher decided to pursue the formidable task of painting full time. “My writing job fell through at that time, and I poured myself into my art. If I had to depend on art for a living, however, I would be doing something else because it’s difficult to make a living as an artist. There are a lot of very talented artists out there, and not all that many art buyers,” she said.

Fisher grew up in Peoria and graduated from ICC. She married and started a family, working as an interior decorator and then a freelance writer. “I returned to school at Bradley University majoring in art, but life and family got in the way, and I didn’t complete a degree. I’d been drawing and painting, and even developed a small business doing home portraits for realtors. I began working with watercolor and decided to continue my training through professional workshops. To date, I’ve participated in 11 week-long workshops with nationally known artists,” she said.

Like many artists, Fisher specializes—in her case, watercolor painting. “I worked in several different mediums when I was in school and afterwards. I became fascinated with the transparency of watercolor and have worked in watercolor and watermedia for the last seven years.”

She explained her work usually isn’t random. “On a day-to-day basis, I paint as much as I can. I usually work in a series focused on a theme. It takes several months to a year or more to complete a series. During my series, I take time out to paint experimentally as well. I enjoy painting spontaneously and experimenting with various techniques.”

Teaching is also a big part of her life, with her students spanning from teenagers to seniors. “I teach watercolor classes at Wonders of Wildlife; my next session begins in January. I will teach several Saturday workshops covering different concepts. I’ve also taught watercolor classes at the Peoria Art Guild in their adult education program, as well as in the high school mentorship program,” Fisher said.

Although teaching is fulfilling for Fisher, she said most of her time is spent painting. “I enjoy teaching and encouraging others to follow their artistic inclinations, and I get a charge out of seeing my students grow artistically. But as much as I like teaching, I’m careful to preserve time for my own work. Painting is very time consuming and requires a great deal of energy and concentration. In watercolor, there are many failures because it’s not a very forgiving medium. That can be frustrating and discouraging at times, but it’s also a medium charged with excitement and delightful surprises. And I like the challenge of working in a difficult medium.”

Her dedication to painting includes submissions to local and national art shows, as well as participating in arts organizations. “I’ve been accepted into national-level watercolor shows, which has been happening regularly. I’ve also earned Signature Membership in the Illinois Watercolor Society and won a top award in their annual show the last two years. I’ve entered work in the Illinois Art League shows for about five years, and I received Best of Show last spring in the Illinois Art League show. That was an honor because I believe there are a lot of fine artists in that organization.”

Fisher served on the Illinois Art League board for one year and has performed various duties for the organization. “I currently chair a judge selection committee and am part of a strategic planning committee. I think the IAL is an important support organization for artists in this community.”

In addition to submitting her art for competition, she exhibits in area venues. “My work is exhibited in several galleries including the Peoria Art Guild, ArtsPartners, Exhibit A Gallery, and Wonders of Wildlife. I’ve sold through the Guild, through various art shows and gallery exhibits, and through my own personal contacts. I don’t put a tremendous amount of effort into marketing my work, however. I reserve my energy for doing what I love, which is painting,” she said.

Fisher said she developed that love as a small child. “I’ve always had a natural inclination to create. My family isn’t particularly artistic, though I have one uncle who’s an artist. I think it’s just been a natural path for me because of the way I’m wired.”

She said from her vantage point as an artist, she believes central Illinois has a thriving arts community. “I think cooperation and networking among artists is very good. I’ve personally found support through other artists. And as I’ve said, I also believe there’s a lot of talent in this area.”

Fisher said there is a discrepancy between the number of artistic events offered and attendance, however. “There’s a lot more going on than most of the public knows about. I think there’s indifference because of a lack of exposure to the arts and because there are so many other demands on everyone’s time. The community can better support the arts by making it a point to come out for arts events like gallery openings, the IAL arts shows twice a year, the IAL art fair at the Metro Center, and the Guild’s show on the riverfront. The artist’s road can be a lonely one. We really do need the support and encouragement of the community.”

A pet project of Fisher’s—part of her desire to link the public with art—is to make a connection between fine arts and the church. “Inspired by Arts Place and the gallery wall at the First United Methodist Church, I’ve been instrumental in starting an art ministry at Northwoods Community Church. We currently have a gallery wall where local artists can exhibit their work. The program is new, and we’re hoping to move forward to further the arts in Peoria and enhance the relationship between the artist and the church,” she said.

Fisher said if it’s up to her, the future won’t look much different from the present. “I intend to just keep painting. I want to improve as a technician and as a communicator with my work, and I want to continue competing on a national level. Most importantly, I want to continue to enjoy the process of growing as an artist and make the most of opportunities to express myself.” AA!