Texan April Sanders comes from a line of maternal creatives; both her mother and grandmother are artists. “I grew up spending time with my grandmother and going to watercolor classes with her and all of her other grandma friends,” she says with a laugh. “I really just enjoyed learning from her.”
When April got older, her mother taught her about acrylics and abstract art — but painting was still just a hobby. “I didn’t study art in college. I just sort of did it for fun,” she says, explaining that she majored in kinesiology and had plans to be either a physical therapist or child-life specialist.
Though art played no role in April’s college education, in a strange way, it was her studies that led her back to creative pursuits. “[I met my husband] in college,” she says. “He went to medical school, and it just didn’t work out for both of us to be in school at the same time. So, during his training, I just worked part-time, just kind of fun jobs, and really took my hobby of painting and turned it more into a side hustle.”
The couple was in Charlottesville, VA, at the time, and it was during this four-year stint that April began her art career. “Charlottesville is super supportive of creatives and arts,” she explains. “It quickly went from a hobby and something that I was just honing my skills in to [me] selling my work. I had some solo exhibits within six months of living there, so a lot of who I am today as an artist and the success that I have, I owe to the community in Charlottesville [for] being so supportive and encouraging.”
Much of April’s early work consisted of houses she painted with watercolors. Though she doesn’t produce very many house paintings anymore, she enjoyed those, because each one had a solid completion point. “I really love those because it’s so rewarding for me to finish a painting and then have it look like someone’s home,” she says. “I know that might sound kind of silly, but a finished end result is very gratifying and rewarding. Whereas with abstract, you never really know when you’re done.”
These days, April is focused primarily on abstract pieces; she paints whenever she doesn’t have her hands full with her 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter. “It’s pretty much just painting during naptime and then bedtime after they go to bed,” she explains. “I’m usually working on several canvases at a time and just adding layers to each one. It’s a lot of bold color, and very instinctual expressions and mark-making. I use lots of fun color. It takes a certain audience to appreciate, but it’s definitely on the bolder side.”
April paints out of a spare bedroom in their home, which serves as her studio. She’ll work for an hour or so at a time, adding a few layers here and there, usually working on multiple pieces simultaneously. “I kind of sit on them for a couple of days. I try to come up with a plan in my head and then that plan rarely comes to fruition,” she explains with a laugh. “It’s just sort of whatever happens and comes out on the canvas with whatever colors I end up mixing … it just comes out instinctually and trumps my plan. I just kind of work on them over time; it depends on what kind of rhythm I’m in. I can get a few paintings done in a week or I can get a few paintings done over the course of a couple of months.”
April begins most of her pieces with acrylics on canvas; she slowly adds texture with oil pastels and graphite, but she enjoys exploring different surfaces as well. “I also like to paint on birch cradled wood and linen — I love to paint on linen canvases,” she exclaims. “I also love to do paintings on handmade, deckled-edge paper. Those have been really popular; you can frame them really beautifully.”
Unlike her house paintings, these abstract works require a more conscious ending. “I took a floral design class in Charlottesville,” she recalls, “and I’ll never forget, the instructor said [that] when you’re 80 percent done, you’re done. I kind of translate that [to] my abstracts because you can very easily overdo it and overwork a painting. It’s a fine line, finding that balance of when to stop and be done with an abstract painting.”
April seems to have mastered that fine line, drawing inspiration from nature, music, movies, and other artists to create pieces that can be found at various locations around the country and online. “[I started off] selling locally to people in Charlottesville,” she says. “Then I partnered with Well + Wonder Collective, which is an online Southern collective of female artists.” April and her mother sell pieces through a venue called Blue Hills, which is in Round Top, Texas, at an antique and art show that is held twice a year. Some of her additional works can be found at Kind Collective and Serena & Lily. April also has a piece that was turned into a print, which is available at Crate & Barrel.
After seven years of working as a professional artist, April says that she doesn’t have favorite pieces, per se, but there are certain ones that she remembers more fondly. “A mentor artist told my mom that you don’t have to love every painting that you create,” she says. “I thought [that] was funny because we put so much pressure on ourselves as artists to create something so beautiful, but I often end up not loving the finished product. [However], there are definitely a few that I really love, and it makes it that much more special when a client chooses that painting, and I know that they are able to enjoy it in their own home, and it’s impacting their family on a day-to-day.”
Learn more about April and explore her work at aprilsandersart.com. All photography provided.
And you can win a piece of April’s art valued at $1,800! To enter click here.
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