Today, painter Sandi Hammerstrom Oliverio has the great fortune of working in the medium she most loves, while living in a place that provides seemingly endless inspiration, but that was not always the case. She first began her career in art as a graphic designer and illustrator. While creating in the business realm held its own inspiration, Sandi longed to get back to her first love of painting. She also spent some time living in other states too, but felt a pull to return to Michigan. She once heard someone say, “My roots go deep,” and realized that really embodied her feelings about living in her home state.
To develop her skills, Sandi took classes with some local artists, in addition to studying for an Associate’s Degree in Graphics and Illustration at Oakland Community College. While her career began by employing those commercial art skills, she eventually returned to her love of painting. She opened a shop in Plymouth, Michigan, where she could sell hand-painted furniture, murals and other home decor, which included her paintings. The comfort of having a brush back in her hand and the inspiration from a lifetime of statewide experiences has evolved into her current online venture. MyMichiganMemories features vivid oil paintings of some of the state’s most beloved scenes from lighthouses to waterfalls and widely ranging locales from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula. A look through her work will likely evoke many a fond memory for those who love this state.
BMN: How old were you when you created your first painting and what was it of?
SANDI: I believe, if I recall correctly, my first painting was of a colorful Parrot. I think I was 8 years old. I have done art work all of my life in many different genres, including drawing and weaving. For several years I did portraits in ebony pencil.
BMN: Of all the art forms, what is it about painting that speaks to you most?
SANDI: Painting has always been my first love. The brush or palette knife allows me to put on canvas the theme and color as I see them and the beauty they evoke in my soul. Sometimes, the brush or knife move so quickly in strokes across the canvas, I am in awe that it almost feels directed outside of my own persuasion.
BMN: How would you describe your artistic style?
SANDI: My style is best described as Realistic/Impressionism. While I always wanted to paint as the famous Impressionists, I had another Michigan artist give me the advice to “Let go and just paint in the style that comes from within.”
BMN: Who are the artists whose work you most admire?
SANDI: Of course, having just made reference to the Impressionists, I have extreme admiration for the works of Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh, as well as Lansing, Michigan Impressionistic artist, Tom Nelson.
BMN: Do you have a favorite place in Michigan where you find inspiration?
SANDI: I have always been drawn to the waters surrounding our state. The beauty of the western side of Michigan and the empowering expanse of Lake Superior and the surrounding untouched nature of the U.P., excite me to capture them on canvas. We are so blessed to live in a state surrounded by such natural beauty.
BMN: What advice do you have for artists seeking to make their living through their art?
SANDI: Making a living as an artist can be a very challenging venture. There were many times when I would lose hope. But, I kept handy the quote of Henry Ford that said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t …either way you’re right.” When I discovered my niche, then things began to come together. If you love painting florals, keep painting them. Perhaps explore a little different brush than you typically use, or go to palette knife painting…or try a different medium. But just keep painting what you love and it will come through in your work. Though most artists hate doing so, the next step is, you must market your work! It does take time, but if you don’t make the effort you may as well stack your work in a closet. With the Internet and social media, artists today have a much wider venue to be discovered in than ever before. Don’t ever give up.