Wildlife Is a Way of Life for Sandra Haynes
The unusual nature of Sandra Haynes’ childhood is best evidenced by her baby blanket: a bobcat hide from an animal her mother found raiding the family hen house. As a little girl, Haynes’ first pets were domesticated, non-descented skunks (“They were pretty easy-going except in the winter when we left them to their semi-hibernation, undisturbed, as they were usually pretty cranky by then”) and a pet fox that she befriended by standing in a clearing, very still, and proffering biscuits.
By the age of four, she had learned to move slowly, talk softly, and keep her eye contact brief.
“I was raised in Molalla, a timber town on the west side or Oregon,” the wildlife artist says.
“Being around wild animals was just part of my life as Dad and some of his brothers — all woodsmen — spent a lot of time in the heavy timber teaching me everything about the life of its inhabitants.”
Her favorite uncle, a government trapper, frequently brought an unknown animal to Sandra, then about eight. He enjoyed quizzing her on what it could be and how it would live:
“He would ask me to tell him about it based on its fur color pattern, where it lived in the forest based on its anatomy, what it ate after examining its teeth, jaws, and claws, whether it was nocturnal, and was it likely to live mostly alone or in a group or herd.”
Later, a mountain man friend taught her how to sneak up on herds of 350 cow/calf elk pairs while remaining in their plain sight. Haynes also learned how to climb the sides of a cliff to feed apples to wild Big Horn Sheep rams.
Hunting Wildlife with a Camera
Yes, it was an unusual childhood, and it’s not surprising that Sandra — who started drawing at the age of three — grew into a wildlife artist, capturing deer, elk, bears, cougar, moose and more in oil paint, pastel, graphite, watercolor, and scratchboard. Now residing in Heppner, OR, Haynes travels throughout the Pacific Northwest — especially its most remote spots — to photograph the animals she eventually turns into artwork.
“Hunting wild animals to photograph outside of animal parks is a difficult and far-from-guaranteed adventure, and is the reason why most artists who do their own photo reference gathering go to game parks or farms,” Haynes says, explaining that while she does visit animal parks, a photographer friend and she take the time now and then to go into the wild and do things the hard way. Accompanying them is Zora, Haynes’ Doberman bodyguard who more than once has kept her mistress from harm.
“One time my photographer friend and I were close to a herd of wild horses. We decided to walk to the other side of a pond when much to our surprise, the entire herd of about 12 horses decided to follow us.”
When two especially aggressive stallions sidled too close, Haynes and her friend bent to pick up rocks to chuck when Zora streaked past them and scattered the herd in a rush.
“After that, she went back to her playing without a glance at me or them. She knew she had done her job and did not expect a praise-filled fuss. But that showed me she had what it takes to protect me in any circumstances.”
Jumping into Scratchboard
Haynes’ medium of choice is scratchboard, a technique she first encountered 16 years ago when an artist friend gave her a small board and told her to get something sharp and scratch out an image.
“That was the end of my training.”
She persevered, found she loved the fine, etched lines that brought out details, and went on to enter shows and win awards with her work. A short list of shows includes the Phippen Western Art Show in Prescott, AZ; the Western Heritage Art Show in Great Falls, MT; Montana Charlie Russell Days; the Oldfield Art Show in Puyallup, WA; and the Western Art Show and Auction in Ellensburg, WA.
Haynes is a member of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, and has published a series of scratchboard instructional books, as well as stories on her adventures as a wildlife artist.
In the Studio or Out in the Wild
It’s hard to tell where she is happiest — in the studio or out in the wild — but in both places she feels very much at home. The child who loved to draw, immersed in the world of wildlife and the woods, has grown into a mountain woman herself, one who shares, through her art and through her wisdom, the beauty of the world she knows.
“Art, to be good, only has to touch you in someway,” Haynes says. “Maybe it reminds you of someplace you have been or would like to be, or it makes you smile.
“For me, creating a piece that makes that connection is what it is all about.”
Sandra Haynes is the Featured Art Event from Monday, September 23, through Saturday, October 19 at Wenaha Gallery. She will be at the gallery Saturday, October 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a special Autumn Art Show, also featuring bead weaver Alison Oman and Yakima acrylic painter Paul Henderson.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.