This Artist Returns Time and Again to the Gulf of Mexico

Remember the days when your parents would take you out on “character-building” trips? Long trudges, rainy days in the museum … Well, Paris-born artist Sandrine Hermand-Grisel is the vindication of beleaguered parents worldwide, having come across her inspiration for this series of coastal paintings on one of these cultural visits, visits which she grew to love. She saw in Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer Above the Mist” a man in his Perfect Place, and one day stumbled across a perfect place of her own. Hope springs eternal for us all, guys.

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The shoreline of Anna Maria, a barrier island swaddled by the Gulf of Mexico, plays muse to Sandrine’s subtle paintings that catch perfectly the play of space and light across the dunes and waves. Originally a student of International Law, the artistic calling came knocking in 1997; she has since been working predominantly in the field of photography ever since, holding the 2005 Prix Kodak de la Critique Photographique, and founding the website All About Photo back in 2013.

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We caught up with Sandrine to fine out more about her artistic idyll…

The Plus: So, what is it about this beach?
Sandrine Hermand-Grisel:
In my case, because of its sheer beauty that never ceases to engage my mind or my eye. Also because of my love for its vastness and its ever changing nature. The surprise I meet every time I crest the dune and see it laid out before me, waiting for me to see its splendour, or every time the wind makes the grass lay down flat or the sea turns colourless under an opaque sky, or the way the colour changes so quickly at the end of the day.

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TP: Perfect places are hard to come across – is this the only one for you, or have there been others since?


S H-G:
I am usually content everywhere, but this is the place where I know I will always want to come back to. 



TP: What is is about Friedrich’s painting that you really associate with Santa Maria?


S H-G:
I feel like the character in that painting who has just come upon an amazing sight, and is satisfied to just gaze out at the land and let the scene wash over him. That is what I experienced when I walked out onto the beach for the first time on Anna Maria Island. Luckily I had my camera with me, and I started documenting the changing light.

I realized then that every day I must go out and record these changes, because the skies were fleeting. More fleeting than anything I could capture with brush and canvas.


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TP: What is the motivation behind your use of circular borders?


S H-G:
The circular canvas is an artistic choice. By using the round shape, it is as if I am showing a glimpse of my paradise using a long view or a spy glass.



TP: Light is notoriously difficult to capture – how do you do it?


S H-G:
Honestly I don’t know. I always have my camera with me, and I note the way the light plays off objects and scenes. When I see the light begin to glow or change colour or rake across the land, I head outdoors – if I’m not out there already – looking, seeing, seeking.

For these landscapes, which really are like my personal sketches of the sea and sky, I took pictures when the natural light was beautiful or beckoning. There’s not necessarily a trick to that. It’s just being present and observant…and having my camera at the ready!



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TP: What do you work from to make the pieces? Photographs perhaps, or your own imagination, or on-site?


S H-G:
All 3. When I’m on site, I am capturing the photographs and being inspired by my surroundings and the quiet solitude of working and making pictures. My imagination comes into play when I return to my studio and transform the photographs into memories of my day, into textured paintings, into telescopic views of the sea and the sky and their impressions on my psyche. 



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TP: Why do you think this beach has provided repeated inspiration for so any images?


S H-G:
The frequency of my visits offers me so many different experiences of the sea and the sky. The different times of day, too, provide me with endless opportunities to make distinct and diverse pictures even within the same 24-hour period. It’s amazing, and exhilarating. 



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TP: What is next for you, artistically?


S H-G:
I’ve got a secret project that I’m not quite ready to reveal to the public yet, but I will share that it’s a mixed media project. Something very different for me than a traditional print or a two-dimensional painting. You’ll just have to wait a bit longer

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Sandrine submitted her work to The Plus Paper by reaching out to editorial@thepluspaper.com. If you’ve got a project, we’d love to hear from you too!

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