In an old sail loft in Cataumet, the sunlight beams in through the windows, illuminating various works of art. Charcoal drawings line the counter, framed pastel portraits lean against the walls, and a current project sits on the easel. This is where you can find Sandra Hadley completing her masterpieces, tucked inside the Cataumet Arts Center. It is her oasis, where she can dream up a new piece or series, challenge herself with new subject matter and soak in her quiet surroundings.
Hadley has been called to art ever since she could remember, whether it was drawing, painting, sketching or coloring. She went on to earn a BFA from Boston University and continued her studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. She has spent time working in oils as well as pastels, but in recent years, it is charcoal that has sparked her interest. “It presents the subject in a different way than what we’re used to seeing,” she says. “Light has always been very important to me. In some respects, it’s almost sculpting with light. A kneaded eraser is just as important to me as a stick of charcoal.”
In a world filled with color, Hadley invites us to slow down and see beyond it. Her work with charcoal emphasizes tone, light and line. Rather than eliminating color, Hadley views charcoal as experiencing it differently using tones and values. “When you take away color, there are elements that you focus on that you might otherwise overlook,” she reflects. In her portraits, Hadley goes beneath the surface to capture the true essence of a person. In each thoughtful stroke, she captures the emotions and feelings of a person in an unexpected moment or expression. “It’s those unguarded moments that I think, in some respects, are truer to the individual,” she says. For viewers, the art transmits a feeling of curiosity and empathy. In her portraits of nature, it is about capturing the essence of the colors without actually seeing them.
To capture such complex tones, her creative process is quite classical, beginning with the major form of the subject, then layering in tones and value relationships to establish structure. She works from dark to light and saves the darkest and lightest tones for last.
For Hadley, inspiration comes in unexpected moments and prompts new challenges to create diversified subject matter. A few years ago, on a cold January afternoon, a trip with a friend to Peterson Farm in Quissett led to an entire portrait series. “We stumbled across the most wonderfully rotund wooly black faced sheep,” she says. “I turned the corner and laughed, took a series of photographs, and sat down to see what I could do with the sheep. I’ve completed seven of them now and have many more I’d like to finish.” Her sheep portraits, down to the detailed curls of their wool, are striking. Moments like this pique her curiosity and create a new challenge. “Sometimes it could be the warmth of the sun gently caressing the fragile petals of a flower. Or an unexpected expression on someone’s face or a pose. I never know where it’s going to come from,” she relates.
In each of her works, a sense of wonder and discovery fills the viewer- wonder at what lies beyond an expression, and the discovery of features otherwise overlooked.
Sandry Hadley is represented at the Gallery on Main in Falmouth, or visit her website sandrajhadley.com to view her portfolio or make an inquiry.
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