Over the past decade, Charleston has become a hot spot for tourism, food and most recently, the art world. From 1915 to 1940, local and visiting artists, architects and writers collaborated to drive cultural progress, putting Charleston’s art scene on the national map. The growth of the city is constantly attracting creatives who are full of inspiration and ideas and bring a fresh perspective to the charming city.
Sandra Roper, who grew up in the nearby, sleepy town of Fountain Inn, South Carolina, has always looked to Charleston and its rich history for inspiration in her art, especially its people. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio arts from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Roper worked in advertising for several years before finding her true calling and dedicating herself full time to her art career. The history, unique architectural features and beauty of Charleston have always been a key focal point and inspiration for her paintings.
“No matter how many times I visit Charleston, I never cease to be intrigued by the splendor and history embossed in each building, portico and garden. Its eclectic makeup has always fascinated me,” says Roper, who is currently working on a series of paintings that feature people in and around the Lowcountry who are passionate about their work. “The portrait of an oyster shucker, sweetgrass market weavers, shrimpers and Gullah women who do oyster shucking or work with the shrimp boats—I enjoy meeting with them, talking about their history and background. Many of them have been working since they were 11 or 12 years old and are now grandmothers carrying on traditions. You can see the passion in their faces as they work. When you talk to them, you can see the joy they have behind their work and the light in their eyes. Learning about their families and faith was moving and inspired my series.”
Most of Roper’s works are in watercolor, which is no small feat for artists. Watercolor or watercolour, also aquarelle, is a painting method in which paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution.
“When using watercolor, it really makes you think. There is a lot of planning and thought that goes behind every piece, as there is no room for error. I like the challenge of it. If you really do it right, the watercolor does a lot of the effects on its own,” Roper says. “One of the artists I’ve always admired is Steven Scott Young, who is best known for his watercolors and etchings of daily life in the Bahamas. I love how he studied and got to know his subjects, which inspired my series of daily life in the Lowcountry.”
Roper is a member/owner of the Lowcountry Artists Gallery in Charleston. A pioneer in gallery ownership by nine local artists, Lowcountry Artists Gallery is the oldest artist-owned gallery in the city. This cutting-edge gallery showcases work by selected local artists and entices national and international collectors with multiple styles and subjects. From paintings, Roper branched out into printing. She owns her own printing equipment and can better control the quality and quantity of each print she sells, which can be found both in the gallery and on her online store.
Roper is also represented in several other galleries in South Carolina, including Pat Branning Art Collection in Beaufort, The Frame Warehouse in Greenville, Artists Guild Gallery of Greenville and Off the Wall in Summerville. Her work can also be found on her online gallery, sandraroper.com, which is constantly updated with original watercolors, giclée prints and notecards. *
Carolina Ramirez Herrera is an art- and design-obsessed travel and lifestyle writer, who often contributes to blogs, city guides and lifestyle publications, sharing a page from her little Black Book of personal travels. Based in Miami but usually on a plane, follow her on @lacarolinda.