Exhibition Review: Sandra Openshaw at Tea Amantes

Sandra Openshaw returns with a second exhibition at Tea Amantes cafe and gallery. David Simper caught the service 61 bus to check out the show opening and see how things had moved on since his review of the first exhibition.

Sandra Openshaw’s work is a set of finely honed images of great pictorial quality using a range of materials, including charcoal, pastel, watercolour and ink. Subjects include picturesque buildings from foreign locations, animals and flowers. One might say that these are traditional subjects, but they are executed with aplomb and love. The colour palette is carefully selected so that these are bright images but never garish. I use these materials myself, apart from the ink, and cannot get even close to the technique and the detail achieved here. The fur effect on the animals’ coats is a mystery to me.

Sandra is a self-taught artist from Doncaster, South Yorkshire. During lockdown, she dedicated her time to honing her drawing skills, clearly to good effect. Her work focuses on fine art with a preference for realism over abstraction. A sample of the results is pictured.

I asked Sandra how she had chosen to move her work forward since the last time I’d seen her.

“I’ve got to draw or paint something that inspires me,” she explained. “People have said ‘can you draw this?’ and I’ve said yes I can, but I don’t feel particularly inspired to do it. I’ve moved on this year from my pastels, which I’m competent with now, I can draw most animals.

“People ask me to draw their dogs and cats. Fine, but I want to draw something different, more expressive, not as tight, in a looser style. So, I’ve gone for watercolour, branching out into watercolour ink, which is more vibrant – still the same principle but watercolour dries 40% lighter, ink doesn’t, it keeps its vibrancy. I’m attracted to that.

“I don’t like abstract, it’s got to look like what it is I’m drawing, but I don’t want it to be as tight as usual – like this cat – it’s brush stroke for brush stroke, the fur and the eyes and everything. Watercolour is expressive and you can get ‘happy accidents’,” she laughed. “You get something different every time. I couldn’t paint the same picture twice, whereas I could with pastel – it’s that unpredictability about it and the looseness that I’m trying to strive for this time.”

Thanks to Sandra for this insight into her working process. I can confirm the descriptions of how watercolour paints behave. We didn’t get onto Sandra’s use of masking fluid and salt to achieve a range of detail and attractive effects in her paintings.

Thanks once more to the Tea Amantes team for the drinks and nibbles – this venue always has a welcoming ambience.

With my photos and interview in the bag, it was time to scarper across town to just catch the service 61 bus home (the stop is the closest to our house, and only £1).

The exhibition continues until 28th July 2024 and is well worth a view if you’re around Albert Road/Coronation Street. Enjoy beverages and cake while you’re there.


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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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