MARSHALL - Willmar artist Shalese Sands said that she's always loved animals and drawing since she was little.
"I guess merging my two loves was inevitable," Sands said.
Artwork by Sands will be featured Thursday through June 27 at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council's gallery. An artist reception will be from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, with folk music by Jerry Saetveit on the violin and whistle, Andy Renneker on the fiddle and banjo and Maggie Harp on the guitar from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Pictured is Shalese Sands’ “Teton Splendor.” Sands, who is from Willmar, received a “Commended” in the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year in the international category back in 2012, and she had placed in the top 50 in 2013 of America’s Parks Through the Beauty of Art.
Sands received a SMAC Individual Artist grant in 2012 to grow her professional portfolio. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in studio art from Northwestern College in St. Paul in 2011, hoping to make wildlife/equine art her full-time job.
Equine art is also part of Sands' artist portfolio. She said she's always loved horses and that's pretty much the only animal she drew for years.
"I had always liked wildlife art but was too obsessed with horses to do much in that category," she said. "I'd have to say that they're definitely my favorite animal, though. They are the epitome of beauty in my opinion, so it's difficult to not want to draw them."
Sands draws and paints a wide variety of subjects, but she'd have to say that bears are the most difficult for her to create.
"I'm not sure why, but the proportions of their face and body have always been difficult for me to grasp," Sands said.
Sands said she loves going out and photographing and watching her subjects when she can. A family vacation to Yellowstone National Park in 2009 allowed her to get up close to a large bull elk, something she's never done before but always wanted to experience, she said in her artist statement.
"A lot of these animals, like the elk and grizzly, were ones I had never seen in real life before, much less in the wild. Just being around animals like that inspire me, she said.
Sands said her first big career highlight was getting "Commended" in the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year in the international category back in 2012.
"It was my first time entering the contest, so I didn't expect much," she said. "I also placed in the top 50 in 2013 of America's Parks through the Beauty of Art, and my painting went on tour across the country for the year." This year, Sands was invited to take part in the Western Masters Art Show in Great Falls, Mont., at which she did very well. "I'm a very driven individual, so I can't wait to see what else I can accomplish."
There have been so many artists that have influenced and inspired Sands. But, she said, her top three favorite artists would be Carl Brenders, Daniel Smith and Robert Bateman.
"Each of them have very realistic work and incredible qualities in each of their pieces," she said. "My goal is to be as good as they are someday. I'd recommend looking at their work if you want to be wowed."
Sands said she wants people to see the beauty she hopes to portray in each animal.
"Sometimes it's the little things that people miss, and I hope to be able to slow them down in order to take in those small but beautiful details," she said.
If you really want to paint or draw, the sky's the limit, Sands said.
"Nobody starts out great, and if you have a passion for it, then don't give up on yourself. The most important thing is to love what you do, and the rest will follow through," she said.