Sally Painter currently has works hanging in Delray Beach at Posh Realty
and in the lobby of the 110 Atlantic office building. She also will
be featured in an exhibit at the Agora Gallery in New York City. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
Stopping to smell the roses is just part of what artist Sally Painter does. As an owner of nurseries, she grows and nurtures plants, and then, when she paints, aiming to catch and share their essence, she invites viewers to really look inside them.
For Painter, 56, becoming a painter was a natural progression. Having worked all her life in the nursery business (she still returns to California each month to run her family’s nurseries), she moved to Delray Beach in 2004 and, semi-retired, she had time to explore other activities.
“I happened to take a painting class at the Boca Museum’s art school, and I was hooked,” she said. “Having worked so closely with plant materials, trees and shrubs, I am able to see flowers a little differently than most people,” she said. “A flower is so beautiful and complex when you look inside. It’s not just petals. There’s much more to it.”
Often, when looking at flowers and painting them, she’s filled with emotion.
“There’s the excitement of looking inside the flower and interpreting how it was created and came about its unique features. My painting is my interpretation as to how God created those incredible plants. I want to capture and translate that.”
When a subject “speaks” to her, it stays in her head until she puts it down with oil on canvas, she explained. She’s got plenty of favorites, including roses, peonies and hibiscus, and they almost paint themselves. The more difficult flowers to paint are the ones she has not selected.
“When I try to force-paint something, I struggle with it,” she said.
But music helps. “I usually start out with Josh Groban — that puts me in a meditative mood — and I work my way to faster tempos.” Favorites include Carrie Underwood, Motown, Sting and Nickelback.
“When I paint, it often feels like a dance,” she adds. “My brushstrokes reflect the rhythm.”
Some plants are mellow, while others are bold. For example, there’s the Matilija poppy — that’s pure rock and roll, while the Douglas fir cones she’s painted are placid, soft and subtle, more like The Prayer by Groban, she said.
Painter does paint other subjects. Some have underlying messages and bring out her sense of humor.
“I have a painting, The Showoff. It’s of a rooster going across some water on a log. He’s halfway across, and all these hens are watching him. And there seems to be a conversation in their eyes — like, ‘What’s he doing? He’s showing off, going across the river before everybody else.’ ”
But people seem to like her flowers best, she said.
“I do Western themes and beach scenes, but people relate to my florals.”
And that comes as no surprise.
“I’ve been told that gardening is the No. 1 hobby in the United States. People keep buying plants. They make you feel closer to nature and give you a sense of calm,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s the fragrance, but when people are out in the open and in nature, maybe it’s all that color against the green — the contrast that draws the eye.”
When Painter is not painting or working, you may find her in Jackson Hole, Wyo., (she loves to hike), or painting here at the beach, or enjoying her friends, many of whom volunteer with her at the American Red Cross, where she is on the advisory board for the South Palm Beach County branch and assists with fundraising.
“I am blessed with having great friends in Delray Beach. I’ve never experienced that before. I have a great core of girlfriends and we make time for each other with lunch, a walk, a drink.”
— Christine Davis
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. I grew up on a nursery farm in Woodland Hills in Southern California. From a very young age, I was propagating and growing plants. My love for trees and shrubs became my career. I now own two nurseries of my own: Western Star Nurseries, in Sacramento and Pleasanton, Calif. Plants, especially flowers, have been an inspiration for my art. I graduated from Pepperdine University with a degree in business management.
Q. How/when did you become an artist?
A. I became an artist when I moved to Delray Beach seven years ago. My work schedule was modified and I had the time to take art classes. I was soon consumed with painting
— it became my passion.
Q. What advice do you have for a young person pursuing a career in the arts today?
A. I would advise a young person in the arts to take advantage of any and all classes and inspiration available to them. Be free. Be imaginative. Believe in yourself.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in coastal Delray Beach?
A. I moved to Delray Beach in 2004. My husband, Robert, who was in the golf course industry, had worked at Gulf Stream Golf Club several years ago. We vacationed in Delray in 2003 and fell in love with the area. We moved our family there a year later. I have a son, Tyler, 20, who is now attending Abilene Christian University and works as a wrangler during the summer at a ranch in Colorado. I love it today more than ever. Delray Beach is truly paradise.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Delray Beach?
A. Delray Beach has so much to offer, from the beach to Atlantic Avenue. My favorite part about living here is the friends I have made. Through art and my volunteer work with the American Red Cross, I have made more close friends than ever before. They are quality, authentic people who don’t take themselves too seriously. For example, we have a Kentucky Derby party every year and my friends dress to the nines, unafraid to wear wild outfits and hats. It is a blast, reflective of our humor and love of life.
Q. What book are you reading now?
A. Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana De Rosnay. It is a powerful, heart-wrenching story. Very well written.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. My mentors include my father, John Boething, who was a gifted cartoonist and very successful businessman. My mother, Susan, who kept the wheels turning, overseeing the household full of girls (I have three younger sisters: Haydi, Cathy and Marji), as well as being my father’s business partner. She was my hero. I am currently studying in the masters art class at the Boca Museum of Art School. My instructor and inspiration is Miles Laventhall. I have learned so much from him.
Q. Who or what makes you laugh?
A. I laugh often and easily. Life is too short not to.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A. If my life were a movie, I would want a young Candice Bergen to play me. I loved her confidence and humor in the Murphy Brown television series.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. My favorite quote is, “She believed she could so she did.”