Sandra Nowicki, Artist

I’ve loved animals since I first discovered them when I visited my grandparents’ farm in northern Wisconsin. Neighing, mooing, milking, barking, clucking, pecking, and laying eggs, I was fascinated by the farm animals. Wild animals lived in the woods, too, and seeing a deer was a special treat! By age five, I was constantly drawing, painting, making collages, and creating animals from colored clay. I have always been intrigued by a diversity of art media.

Growing up in Chicago, the Art Institute was a big influence in my artistic life. During my four years of study at the School of the Art Institute I developed my drawing and painting skills and absorbed art concepts and techniques from the magnificent collections of the museum.

Images of animals are visible in almost all of my artwork. My fine art and pet portraits in pastel and pencil express these experiences. Capturing the animal’s expression creates the spark that brings the portraits to life.

While I was studying at the Art Institute, I also had the opportunity to experiment with batik, tie-dye and silk screen fabric design. Due to these influences, stylized images of horses, pet dogs, cats, and every other kind of animal dance across my hand painted, fashionable silk scarves.

These design skills have been important in developing my illustrations of whimsical animals posing as the letters of the alphabet in my line of “Spellmates” name prints for children.

Clay is a natural medium for my sculptures of animals. I love the cool feeling of the clay as I shape a block of clay into animal forms with my hands. I create the textures of sheep’s wool, furry bears, and fluffy squirrels in high fire porcelain, orangestone, and several other types of clay. Some animals are finished in the natural color of the clay. I also use glazes in the design of other animals to emphasize the colors and contrast between the smooth surface of a glaze and the texture of a mane and tail. I like to create the feeling that the animal could move at any moment!

The colors and soft textures of sheep’s wool is so appealing to the touch. I use the wool to make handmade felt in every color imaginable and create large fiber sculptures of animals. I make horses, sheep, goats, and dogs. Horses are my favorite animal to envision in wool felt. Wire armatures used as a skeleton make it possible for me to create felt horses twenty-four inches tall!

I always wanted to live in the country with horses and other animals. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago, I purchased a small farm in Wisconsin where I still live with my husband, horses, cats, and dog.

Now I have combined all my experiences with animals and my own horses into my first children’s book titled “Sparkles the Christmas Pony” which I authored and illustrated. It is a wonderful story about a pony who needs a home and a little girl. The book is for children ages 3 to 10 and for anyone else who loves horses and ponies. It is available for purchase on