Life as a Full-time Artist

As of May 17, 2015 I have retired from my “day job” at the University of Kansas and am beginning my adventure as a full-time artist.  I am excited about the possibilities and eager to see what opportunities will appear.  And I hope to post frequent updates on this site.  Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for the next installment!


Puzzle Map Oct. 20, 2014


Puzzle Map- this is something new I have been working on this year.
The puzzle is 12 inches square, consisting of nine four inch squares.
The pieces are interchangeable, allowing for many different configurations.
This makes an interesting coffee table activity.

Maps of my Journey

Maps of my Journey

One of my favorite toys as a child was a wooden jigsaw puzzle map of the United States. I spent hours labeling each state with numbers indicating its rank in size, rank in population, and order of joining the union. As I assembled the pieces I memorized the state capitals. Later on, a set of encyclopedias and a globe provided more maps to explore. I loved the details, the symbols, and the certainty of maps. I still love order, details, symbols and certainty.

Making art has taught me to focus on the process of painting. I don’t work from sketches or photographs; I never know what will happen when I sit down to paint. The inward focus reveals unacknowledged, unidentified, and sometimes unwelcome truths. As an artist, my maps are an exploration of my personal vision of the world. Once the painting reveals what I need to work on, I can concentrate on the colors, details, and certainty that the piece requires.

My Map Series began with “The Middle of Nowhere,” a mixed media work from 2011. Looking back on my Map Series I am struck by the sense of adventure and exploration that accompanied them. I experimented with papers and paints in various combinations. I used acrylic ink for the first time in “The Middle of Nowhere.” This piece combines dripped and painted ink, with colored pencil and collage on Arches Cover paper. Many of the maps have acrylic ink on them- I love the intense colors, especially the iridescent shades.

Several of the maps are painted on paper with visible plant fibers. “Grid Map,” features acrylic ink on Thai banana paper, which is backed with rug canvas and embroidery thread to emphasize the grid. “Flight Map” has portions of a watercolor painting collaged onto the banana paper, before the addition of acrylic ink. “Enchanted Forest Map” (pictured above) uses acrylic ink on Thai mango paper, backed with amate bark paper. “Windows on the World” is done in watercolor, with the addition of lace paper windows, framed in amate bark paper.

Some maps explore the textures that can be created with the addition of modeling paste, stencils, and mica flakes, such as “Map of Paradise,” “The Search for Life on Mars,” and “Scene from Above.” Others make use of previous work. “Full Moon” and “Transit of Venus” feature circles cut from paintings collaged onto black Arches cover paper with dots and drips of acrylic inks.

After 35 years at the University of Kansas I am nearing retirement. Perhaps these maps are in preparation for what lies ahead. I don’t know where my journey will take me, but I have maps to guide me along the way.

Sandy Craig McKenzie

String Theory 13

sc000e8808_2“Trysting Hero” is an anagram of “String Theory.”  My contribution to the collective installation is a set of illustrations of this, plus 13 other anagrams.  You can see the exhibit at the Lawrence Arts Center beginning Friday, May 17 at  7:00 p.m.   The show will be up through June 29, 2013.  A book of photographs of the illustrations, titled “Trysting Hero” can be purchased for $20 at the Arts Center front desk.