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Out of Africa Comes Artist Patty Vander Sande Inspired by the Power of Nature Where She Grew Up

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Former Zambia resident and artist, Patty Vander Sande, would heartily concur with freelance writer, Brian Jackman who wrote: “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same."

Up until the age of 14, Sugar Grove, IL artist, Patty Vander Sande, called Zambia, in central Africa, her home. Growing up there with her missionary parents, along with subsequent return trips, greatly influences her artwork today.

“Whenever we’d drive into the bush, we’d never know what kinds of animals we’d encounter,” Patty said. “However, for the most part they would avoid contact with humans.”

Except when a bull elephant once charged her vehicle, and inspired an incredibly powerful, mixed media painting -- see below.

Patty vividly recalls the day she was a passenger riding through the bush when they came across a herd of elephants crossing the road. They stopped their vehicle and waited. However, as they began inching forward again along the road, they didn’t realize the bull elephant was still on the other side and was now separated from the rest of his herd.

“The elephant emerged from the side of the road and immediately confronted us,” Patty said. “Quickly our driver shifted into reverse, driving backwards as the charging elephant continued pursuing us. I remember the billowing clouds of dust rising up all around us and yet I managed to keep taking photos.”

"Majestic's Survival" 24 x 30 on stretched canvas

Mixed Media: Base layer "Fumage" painting with smoke, acrylic and graphite;

(Scroll down for more of Patty's artwork)

Then as suddenly as the charge started, it came to a halt. The elephant stopped in his tracks and retreated.

“Later we learned that if an elephant charges with its trunk up, it is a mock charge,” Patty said. “However, when I finally checked my photos from that moment, I saw his trunk was down and rolled under. We learned that position means he meant business!”

Although Patty has no formal art education, she’s enjoyed art since childhood. She’s also used her natural talent as art therapy for herself when confronted with steep difficulties. Her career as a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) keeps her busy, but she regularly takes art classes, attends open studios, and continues creating new pieces in her spare time.

“I want viewers to be moved by my artwork and to pay attention to the feelings it evokes for them,” she said.

Her favorite subjects to draw are wildlife -- everything from butterflies to elephants.

“Zambia has an amazing variety of butterflies and other wildlife including 19 different species of antelope!” she explained. “There are also giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, lions, hippos, crocodiles, rhinos and leopards. I’ve seen them all in the wild.”

As an artist, Patty doubted herself only after she completed a dedicated series of pieces. She asked herself: “Will I like the next as much, will it be as good, and what will my next pieces be about?”

However, she's since learned how to handle artistic insecurity when it arises offering this insight to others. “I think that instead of self-doubt about the artwork you create, it’s better to shift into a playful attitude – to have fun and just explore,” Patty advises. “That’s really the key to moving forward and creating something new.”

Contact Patty for information about her artwork at 630.802.0015

"Cheetah's Inseyeght"; 16 x 20 on stretched canvas; Mixed media: Base layer "fumage" painting with smoke. Acrylic layers with finishing touches of gloss gel, iridescent and interference acrylics. Artist's Statement: "Navigating the challenges of emotional, psychological, financial survival with the responsibility to guide and nurture as a parent."

"Mysteries in Bloom"; 24 x 30 on stretched canvas; Acrylic and mixed media with multi-layers and various techniques with final accents in soft gel gloss.

"Play" 12 x 16 acrylic on canvas board. Artist's Statement: "Taking time out to play, create, explore. This piece was mostly created playing with a wine cork for effect."

"Vulnerable Majestic"; 24 x 30 on stretched canvas; Mixed media: base layer "fumage" -- painting with smoke and acrylic. Artist's Statement: "Elephant poaching: tragic, unjust, horrific and enraging."


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