Sandra Speidel

Sandra Speidel

Oil on Canvas & Board


Sandra Speidel is known for her figurative and abstract paintings, which reveal a rich and complex surface quality and ambiguous interpretation of the subjects. Though her paintings are anchored in classic painting and drawing, they suggest a broader story through the exploration of abstract elements.

Sandra attended Duke University in North Carolina as an English and art major. She later received a degree in journalism and came to California to work as a writer for Women Sports Magazine.

She soon returned to art, studying at the San Francisco Academy of Art University. Before turning to fine art painting in 2000, she enjoyed a very successful career as an illustrator. Among her clients were Apple Computers, FTD Florists, the US Postal Service, and Warner Books. She illustrated 19 books for children, including three for Maria Shriver.

Throughout her career, Sandra has continued to study painting at the San Francisco Art Institute and with local painters Chester Arnold, Jamie Brunson, Michael Azgour, and Nicholas Wilton.

Sandra has taught figure drawing and painting at the San Francisco Academy of Art University for over 20 years. In addition, she teaches ongoing painting workshops from her studio in Petaluma and is frequently asked to judge shows and mentor other artists.

Her work has been exhibited in national shows and in galleries throughout the Bay Area. She is influenced by the figurative work of Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, Romare Beardon, Egon Schiele, and Milton Avery among many others.


I paint figures that live in the space between reality and abstraction.

I am always searching for the poetry, the unique juxtaposition, the totally genuine impulse that belies the explainable.

I combine my figures with abstract elements to suggest thought or emotion, psychology, or history beyond the literal depiction of the figure. The flattening of space, addition of marks and symbols, and omission of other elements are all reminders that this is not an attempt to copy reality, but a response, a viewpoint, an interpretation.

The figure’s gesture is my entry point into interpreting and understanding. I look for the weight and subtle shifts of posture and curve. I break up the figure by making abstract marks with a variety of brushes, knives, scrapers, squeegees, trowels, and other hardware finds. Along the way, I celebrate the surprises, how the marks add to or subtract from the image in both representational and abstract ways. Learning about the figure and revisioning it in these ways helps me tell its story.

In the end, I hope to create an image that is both personal and universal. It’s important to me that the final painting has mystery and unanswered questions, distinct and indistinct passages, so that viewers can enter the painting with their own histories and find their own stories.