Bringing Joy to Others By inSpire with Sandy Gogel

Photo: Sandy Gogel
We asked Sandy Gogel about her passion for the visual arts and her love for creating watercolors.

inSpire - Sandy, somewhere along the way, you developed a passion for art, particularly water colors. Tell us about yourself and your background, and then, when did you first realize that you had an interest in this?

Gogel - I was born and raised in Fullerton, CA on an orange and avocado ranch in a house built by my grandfather. I inherited my artistic bent from my mother. She played piano, organ, and cello and wanted me to follow in her footsteps. I took up the piano and cello but I wasn't committed enough to really become excellent at either one. She also had been a ceramist and we had many of her pieces in our home, so I chose ceramics as my minor in college. The wheel and kiln were too big an investment for me after graduation so I took a class in oil painting at my local junior college but I was so embarrassed by the nude people posing for the class that after that my art lay dormant for a time.

My husband, Bill, and I had a yen for traveling and after a year of marriage, we ended up in Cartagena, Colombia, teaching school for two years. We had both grown up attending Christian churches. Bill was a Presbyterian and I was a Methodist but the church didn't really seem to be relevant to our lives. I came from a family that believed in self-sufficiency and that a good lifestyle was what make you happy. My Dad once told me church is ok as long as it doesn't run your life. But Bill and I had been searching when I was in college and even attended the Order of Ramakrishna for a while. God knew we were seekers and met our need by getting us out of our familiar environment. When we arrived in Cartagena, we discovered that there were very few Americans there so we made friends with some of the missionaries. They were living in very poor circumstances but were some of the happiest people I had ever met. This was extremely disturbing and caused us to question our world view. We also had a couple of close calls with death there. One of our missionary friends was killed by Communist guerrillas only days after we had left the area where we had been visiting their work with the Multilone Indians in the mountains between Colombia and Venezuela. It surely seemed that God had his hand on us. It wasn't long before Bill and I decided we wanted the kind of peace and joy that our missionary friends had. That's when we gave our hearts to Jesus.

When we returned to the United States we started visiting churches to find one we would like to join. I had dysentery when I returned home so one of our first stops was to my family doctor who happened to be a Seventh-day Adventist. He had a literature rack in his waiting room, so we picked up some booklets and sent in the request for Bible studies. We were so surprised when a pastor showed up at our door. The rest is history!

inSpire - So, when did you decide to reconnect with your earlier interest and passion for art?

Gogel - It was in South America that I started taking photographs. We traveled in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador,and the Amazon. I tried painting some of those scenes, when we returned but motherhood put a damper on any painting ambitions I had at that time. About 15 years ago, I asked a local watercolor artist whose work I admired, if she would teach me some of the basics. She called me a few months later saying she was putting a class together. Right away I knew I had found my passion.. I love the way the paints flow together in watercolor and make something you didn't really plan.

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inSpire - How do you go about creating your pieces? Tell us about your production process.

Gogel - I usually paint from my own photographs; landscapes, flowers, and plants, often picking a subject that stretches and challenges my abilities. But beyond that, my goal is to paint something of beauty that will show God's love for His children. I have also painted some scenes from Seventh-day Adventist history and am looking forward to painting more. I'm thinking of taking on the challenge of Elmshaven. I can picture in my mind the glow that surrounded the upper room when Ellen White was visited by the angel.

John Keats wrote, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." I would like the beauty in my paintings to bring joy to others.

inSpire - In your view, what is the most challenging thing about working with watercolors?

Gogel - Watercolors are unforgiving. You can't just paint over a mistake like you can with oils or acrylics. But that's also the thing I like most about it--the challenge. And sometimes what you think is a mistake can become part of the painting. The serendipity is part of the joy.

inSpire - Have you ever shown your works in galleries, or entered them into any contests?

Gogel - I have entered paintings in the Fine Arts Exhibit at the Orange County Fair. It's a juried show and I've only had one painting rejected out of all I have entered, three each year for several years. One won a ribbon. I have also been featured in two other local art exhibitions. I also sold prints at a store in Hawaii for a time. Maybe after I really retire I can devote more time to painting and exhibiting.

inSpire - Thank you for sharing your story and for giving us insight into what makes you passionate about the creative process. You are an encouragement to others!

This interview was conducted by Rich DuBose, Director of Pacific Union Conference Church Support Services and the inSpire project. All rights reserved © 2012 Click here for content usage information.