June 26th, 2022

New Gallery MAR artist Sandra Pratt in her Colorado studio

Simplicity will always be underrated for the simple reason that it appears deceptively easy. Ironically, however, achieving simplicity in life or in art takes real time, effort, patience, and practice. Colorado artist Sandra Pratt has been practicing the art of simplicity her whole career.

Through her art, she explores the ways in which she can communicate a feeling or landscape with as few strokes of her palette knife as possible. In her oil paintings, she cuts through the noise to present the world in its purest sense, whether it takes the form of a snowy mountainside barn or a sweeping Western landscape. In this way, her work evokes a nostalgic, emotional response, reminding us of the profound beauty of simplicity.

In our first conversation with our new Gallery MAR artist, we chat about her journey through being a self-taught artist, how she finds inspiration in nature and movement, and the challenge of making simplicity look effortless.



Gallery MAR: How did you first know that you wanted to make art your profession?

Sandra Pratt: It’s kind of a boring thing: I was a young child and I always liked drawing. I used to be an art figure model, so I was around art a lot. I did that for quite a while, and then I started painting and drawing. I went to school for art for a little while, but then I left and started playing around with my palette knife and working out a sense of style and things that I really liked, and it took off from there. I’m still surprised that people respond so well to my work.


Sandra Pratt working on one of her oil paintings with her palette knife, as photographed by Cherry Creek Lifestyle


Gallery MAR: You started studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, but left to become a self-taught artist, what inspired that change?

Sandra Pratt: I was just willful and wanted to do it all on my own. I wanted to make a career out of being a self-taught artist, and so I found some galleries. It worked pretty well from when I was in my 20s and now, 20 years later, it’s worked out pretty well.


Gallery MAR: What do you find to be especially valuable about being a self-taught artist?

Sandra Pratt: There’s a lot of freedom in that you can make whatever you want. 


Sandra Pratt, “Plains of Grass,” oil, 8″ x 16″


Gallery MAR: How and when did you discover oil painting as your primary media?

Sandra Pratt: I always liked how thick oil paint was and the things that you can do with it. Watercolor is wonderful, but it’s more of a thinner paint. Oil paint is so interesting to work with when using a palette knife. It’s very, very fun… It’s kind of like decorating a cake in a way.


Gallery MAR: You describe your style as “intuitive painting.” What does that mean to you?

Sandra Pratt: I really like to see what I can do when I just show up in my studio, put my colors out, and just start playing around with some ideas. It’s about just going along with what I’m seeing. I want to see how simple I can make painting in one sitting. I don’t ever like going back into my work, or reworking a piece. I like painting everything all at once. It’s very exciting, and, like anything, you get momentum the more you do it. Sometimes I will make five paintings in a day. I know that sounds ridiculous, and it kind of is, but once you get on a good roll, that sixth painting is going to be the best one.


An inside look into Sandra Pratt’s studio, where she works on several pieces at once


Gallery MAR: Wow! You must be so prolific!

Sandra Pratt: Well sometimes! When I get the time to go into my studio, when I get my kids occupied, and I can focus so singularly, I can really get some good painting done for sure.


Gallery MAR: What inspires you most to create?

Sandra Pratt: I’m inspired by really bold, beautiful, simple things like birds chirping and sunrises. I can be  very basic in that way. I also love barns. I think they’re so interesting, and we’re lucky to have a lot of them around here in Colorado. I like to paint them and it’s sort of become my trademark: little red barns in a landscape.


Sandra Pratt, “Little Red Barn,” oil, 5″ x 4″ | Sandra Pratt, “Red Barn with Silo,” oil, 6″ x 8″


Gallery MAR: They have such a sweet, nostalgic quality to them.

Sandra Pratt: Thank you! That reminds me that I had a guy once say to me, “what I like most about your artwork is how it makes me feel.” I thought that was just fabulous. That’s what I find so interesting about art is how someone gets what I’m doing and really connects with it on such a level. It’s such an honor to meet with these collectors and see what they have to say about the work and hear their “why.”


Gallery MAR: The beautiful thing is that everybody has their own “why,” because art is so subjective! A word that you’ve been using a lot is the word “simple.” Why is simplicity important to you?

Sandra Pratt: I heard a quote in my yoga class once that I thought was so great. It said “just because something is simple doesn’t make it easy.” It’s kind of a hard journey to achieve simplicity in art. But once you’re there, and you can capture something all in one stroke, that is the goal. The real challenge is to make that look effortless.


Sandra Pratt holding one of her smaller floral works


Gallery MAR: That’s so true! The same could be said for most things. You reminded me of a similar saying by Mark Twain that goes, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” I love that quote because it shows how, ironically, simplicity and efficiency actually takes great time and effort.

Sandra Pratt: Exactly!


Gallery MAR: I understand that you’ve had your work displayed in a few museum shows — could you talk a little bit about those experiences?

Sandra Pratt: Those shows were earlier on in my career. To be honest, it’s more complicated than I prefer to do now, setting aside paintings for museum exhibitions and things like that. Now, I’m more focused on painting and getting my work seen by people who will love it.


Sandra Pratt’s work “Buildings” displayed at Gallery MAR


Gallery MAR: So now it seems that you feel more excited to be in a gallery setting. What do you love about having your work displayed in galleries?

Sandra Pratt: I love that my work gets to be seen by a lot more people. In a gallery like Gallery MAR, the work is out there in a nice, professional setting where people can walk in and really communicate with the art.


Gallery MAR: I love that! And that’s so true, what are you most excited about working with Gallery MAR?

Sandra Pratt: Well, I first discovered Gallery MAR on Instagram. Gallery MAR is so great at marketing, so we had been admiring each other’s work. I love when Maren makes her behind-the-scenes posts about being in the gallery. I think that it’s so great the way she presents herself and her gallery. It’s nice to see a gallery that’s progressive and knows where we’re headed.

Plus, I’m excited about being in Utah! I love Park City and collaborating with a new gallery is so exciting.


Sandra Pratt, “The Road Less Traveled,” oil, 20″ x 16″


Gallery MAR: You’re originally from Chicago, correct? What brings you out West?

Sandra Pratt: Well, the West is the best! For me, it’s the beauty of the mountains. I always think of the mountains as equalling the ocean in a way, because they’re both so vast and so big. I just love the beauty of Colorado.


Gallery MAR: What do you love in particular about living in the mountains?

Sandra Pratt: The air is so clean, and it’s so quiet. There is a lot of wildlife around us, too. We have moose and butterflies, and it’s all so lovely. There’s a running stream by our property. We have a National Forest right by our house. It’s just gorgeous. In a word: dreamy.


Sandra Pratt and her family hiking through the National Forest near her home in Colorado


Gallery MAR: You’ve talked a lot about yoga, how does your yoga practice play into your life and work?

Sandra Pratt: I used to be a yoga teacher a long time ago, and I always feel like that’s my grounding space. When my kids are driving me crazy, I can focus on my breathing and get centered. As cheesy as that sounds, it really does work, and I’m noticing it more and more. When I don’t get to do my yoga practice, everything else is kind of disjointed. When I have a good solid practice, things are a lot easier to deal with.The same is true of any kind of exercise. It’s so important because artists are such solitary individuals that we do need to go out occasionally and embrace what we can. So if I can do yoga every day, or walk through the forest or bike, I feel inspired.


Gallery MAR: What are you most inspired by or excited about in the studio right now?

Sandra Pratt: What’s been exciting me lately is finding simplicity in these little alley scenes that I’m working on. I guess it’s a series of village alley scenes in very simple colors, like grays and browns and ochres. 


Sandra Pratt, “Gray House,” oil, 9″ x 12″


Gallery MAR: You seem to gravitate towards a muted, limited color palette. What about that color palette speaks to you?

Sandra Pratt: I think it’s just my personal taste. My house is very much made up of all neutrals. I suppose I just like simple things that all fit together.



Written by Veronica Vale