Artistic expressions

By Pat Sunderland

Artistic expressions | Back Page

Photo by Pat Sunderland If you look closely, you can see how Sandra Williamson used a feather to "manipulate" the color on the top of an unfinished bread box. The hinged box is perfect for storing all types of items, and a beautiful addition to any room i

Sandra Williamson is a talented artist who expresses her creativity in a variety of ways, but none is more unique than her vinegar painted furniture and accessories.

The technique dates to the Industrial Revolution, she explains. With economic growth came wealth and the ability to afford beautiful inlaid wood furniture. Those without the financial means also wanted beautiful furnishings, so enterprising artists traveled from farm to farm and from village to village painting with the local products. These traveling artists transformed furniture of lesser woods using the apple cider vinegar or beer that was made on the farms, mixed with pigments dug from the ground. The stylized finishes looked quite real.

Sandra uses the same techniques to transform unfinished furniture, to make it look like an antique, or she can start with a well-loved family antique and either restore or transform it with a designer finish. Her techniques are easily applied to interior and exterior doors, walls and tiles, which can take on the appearance of stone or granite.

Lighting fixtures, light switch plates and other items can also be magically transformed.

Sandra was a real estate agent in Dallas when she first became interested in faux finishes. Every year, she enjoyed touring the Parade of Homes. One home in particular piqued her interest, and she learned the faux walls and woodwork had been done by the owner, who taught his techniques. She signed up for lessons and was so fascinated, she continued her education through the New York School of Design. She obtained a series of six videos, through which she learned how to replicate a variety of wood grains, from pine to beech. That information has proven useful over the years, but the final video was the one that really captivated Sandra.

That tape focused on folk painting, including vinegar painting. The instructions were easy to follow. Sandra uses about two cups of a good organic apple cider vinegar, adds an eighth teaspoon of dish soap, then sprinkles in a bit of pigment, depending on the intensity of the color. "You just have to fiddle around with it," Sandra said.

"Right away I started with tissue boxes and trays, then I just sort of blossomed out to pieces of furniture."

As with any painting project, preparation is the key to success. "Seventy percent of the work is in the prep," Sandra says. She doesn't mind the prep, but finds application of the vinegar paint the "artistically fun" part.

She manipulates the paint with various objects, including brushes, painter's putty, sponges, corks and plastic wrap, to combine textures and colors into beautiful works of art on wood and manmade wood substitutes.

"If you screw up you can just wipe it off with a sponge and do it again," she says. When all else fails, she starts with a fresh coat of underpaint.

Spray shellac serves as a fixative, making her furniture both useful and durable.

Sandra calls her business J. Brown Originals at the suggestion of a friend who knew her by her maiden name of Sandy Jean Brown.

Sandra is also a talented photographer who is a member of four local art clubs or associations and shows her work in galleries, hospitals, and the courthouse in Delta.

"My children turned me into a camera nut when they gave me a digital camera," Sandra says.

As a real estate agent, her photography experience consisted primarily of photographing clients' homes. After moving to Colorado, she became a photo maniac, shooting everything in sight, taking classes online for hours every week and traveling with her husband, getting up at the crack of dawn to get the light just right.

As with her faux finishes, she applied herself to fully understanding photographic techniques. For six years she studied online with Kelby

One. "At first, I knew nothing, but I took lesson after lesson taught by real artists."

She works in the latest versions of Photoshop, Nik Software, Topaz and Painter 12. While she starts with a photograph, the finished product is a true work of art.

She won first place in photography in the 2013 Delta Fine Arts show, Best of Show in the 2014 show, and placed first with a vineger painted cabinet in 2015. At the same show in May, she won two awards for photography, for a total of three awards out of the 13 given.

She paints landscapes, animals, children and pets. With a friend, Kathi Ganong, she offers pet portraits through the website,

Her passion for animals extends to animal rescue. A resident of Paonia, she devotes some time every week to the Black Canyon Animal Sancutary. She also teaches art classes at the Creamery with Suki Strong.

Like other artists who exhibited at the Creamery, Sandy is taking stock of her options. She also had photographs hanging at Around the Corner Gallery in Montrose, which likewise recently closed. "I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do, but I always land on my feet," she says. "Sometimes we need to get knocked out of our comfort zone."

While she's picking up the pieces, and looking for ways to stay connected with her artist friends, she will continue to work out of her studio in Paonia. You can see examples of her work at