Nature Through the Eyes of an Artist

Sandra Cowing is a talented water color artist who expresses her love for nature through her creativity. She also gives us an intimate view into her process as an artist.

I had a vision in my mind of a foggy day and I took a risk and tried this new process of blending. I was just trying to get the feel of the forest on paper. This was an early painting and began to believe, “I can do this.” I am very inspired by old growth forests. The white pine is one of my favorites and there are several in my yard.


I love birds and house wrens are one of my favorites since they are so loud for being so small. When I go outside, I always know when they are nesting because they make all kinds of noise. House wrens are very dedicated parents going back and forth, feeding their young.

Last year, we had a female turkey that was at our bird feeder all winter long and we named her “Helen”. Helen disappeared in April and we never saw her again. She was a solo female, which is unusual. Solo females can be ostracized by the flock or the entire flock might have been killed. Also, she might have found a Tom in the spring and started her own flock. That is what I hope for. But we have coyotes around here, so she may have been eaten by a predator. At times “Helen” would come and peck at the window while I was painting.

This is my grandson, Ollie, who is four. We took a family vacation to the North Shore of Lake Superior and he is one of those kids who thrives in nature.


This was one of my first attempts at painting the North Shore of Lake Superior. I love the water and lighting in this painting. It is very difficult to paint light.
I have been only painting for a year and I am still learning.
I paint almost every day, at least an hour. But if I really get into something, I’ll work a half day. It gets so intense that I just need a break from that.


When I visited the Grand Canyon, the depth and immensity was overwhelming. I was somewhat successful expressing that in this painting. This is an early work, and I am learning skills with every piece I do: The water, the color, making greens that look natural.


The iris is from a photo that I took from my garden. It is an iris that I inherited with this property. This is a botanical accurate  painting. I like the elegance of an iris and they have so many complicated and lively petals.

Old Naturalist:  This painting feels like Sandra went into the physical form of the iris and brought it out to the paper.


The pumpkins were an assignment in a class and we were learning how to blend colors. We used only red, yellow, blue and yellow ochre. The shapes are basic, so I could concentrate on value (light and dark) which makes the painting seem more three dimensional.


My cow I tried to paint realistically. The process of sketching and painting might have taken as much as 24 hours.
Old Naturalist: Why would you paint a cow?
My last name is Cowing and that was my inspiration. I did the painting with Sonja Hutchinson, she is water color artist in the area. She helped me with composition and other techniques. I learn best by doing my own thing and then get support when I need help.


The heron was an interesting process that I did. I put color on the background and laid saran wrap over it. Went to bed and woke up the next morning, took off the Saran Wrap and I saw the head of an egret or heron. I asked myself, “How can I paint that?” I love this creative process and added in the details.


This piece with the egrets was an experiment I was doing of having very “loose paint” and dripped it down from the top of the page, then “masked” out the egrets using Frisket. It is a Chinese style of water color that I had read about.


This is another experimental piece in which I used salt. I wet the paper, added color, then put on the salt. Afterwards,  I saw these flowers and enhanced them with shadows.


This painting is of my Uncle Rex’s place. I am going to give this painting to him. I really like how the water turned out because it was a rainy/drizzly day. My uncle has lived on this land all of his life and it is as off-the-grid as you can get. They live off the land, stock the pond with fish and have a huge garden.


My work brings me such joy. I love the creativity of it and learning the chemistry of paints. All paints use different minerals, so they blend differently. Learning the science behind it is very interesting to me. Also, I enjoy working on skills, so that I can make the ideas I have in my head on paper. It is my passion and even before I retired, I said to myself, “I really want to do this”.  I am working with others who, also, have recently retired and I am finding “my people”.

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4 Responses to Nature Through the Eyes of an Artist

  1. Nancy Saslow says:

    I love Sandra’s style of painting, it captures the essence and beauty of the subject with bringing light, form and color together in flowing simplicity.

    Please keep painting, you truly have a gift!

    Thanks for sharing it.

  2. barbara goodman-fischtrom says:

    lovely and inspiring, what a gift to have and to share, thank you, Barbara

  3. Anne Crowe says:

    Wow I am totally impressed w Sandra’s work. All those years teaching together and I didn’t have a clue she was an artist!

  4. Dale D Antonson says:

    A wonderful posting of an incredible talent. Thank you Sandra.

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