You’re rounding the corner of the street when suddenly a pair of large eyes with huge, curling eyelashes catch your attention. You stand face to face with the painting, all bright color and cutesy sass, her eyes meeting yours.
This might look on first glance like a girl straight out of a cartoon, but that character – and similar ones – actually takes inspiration from real women in Los Angeles, brought to life through the spray paint flair and nonstop energy of artist Sand One. A Mexican and Guatemalan East LA native, the artist also comes off as very real; even while perched on a stool at a Starbucks on a weekday afternoon, her legs shake with artistic anxiety as she excitedly explains her characters. She wakes up each morning itching for a wall to paint on, following a dream she only started realizing four years ago.
“I started using brushes and then one day I met a graffiti artist and he was like ‘use spray paints,’ says Sand. “But I was against spray paints. I was like ‘I don’t know what to do with this spray paint, I don’t know where to start what am I gonna do with spray paint? I have no idea how to paint!’ And then I bought three colors, four colors and now I have hundreds of colors and then it started progressing into what it is now… I can do three story murals, I can do anything now with spray paint.”
Sand grew up with the support of her mother who bought her crayons and comic books but never took formal art lessons. And as much as her mother nurtured Sand’s inventive spirit, she recognized a distinct outlook most Latino households might hold.
“In the Latino culture, our parents don’t really embrace art as a business or as a form of success,” says Sand. “They think of it as a hobby. My mom when I started she was like ‘why don’t you just go apply for McDonald’s or something?’ I was like ‘what?’ let me stab myself with a paintbrush! Or my stepfather would be like ‘where’s your millions?’ go work at Chase bank… I really believe in my art. I believe that it’s a beautiful form that inspires other people.”
After creating works in the street, Sand starting moving into the gallery scene and showing with other street artists there. Most recently, she participated in the Red Bull Curates: The Canvas Cooler Project, a competition in which she and artists like Vyal, Man One, James Haunt, Allison Torneros and more gave their own twist to a Red Bull cooler. Her art led to travelling everywhere from Miami to Puerto Rico. Before all that happened, Sand simply worked at a Pollo Campero, a job she’s glad she got fired from; now, she likes being her own boss and moving up by her own will.
“I don’t know if it’s the crazy, little short Latina inside of me that’s like ‘dale dale! go go!” says Sand. “I don’t know what the hell it is but to me it’s like everyday I wake up like ‘what am I doing today?’ I can’t even sleep.”
The colorful characters she paints are inspired by women she actually knows, ones that she admires for their determination and drive. She bases the characters not only on Latina women but also Middle eastern, Russian and Hungarian women – anyone Sand sees setting high goals and reaching them while staying true to their own sense of style.
“I’m like look you’re not alone, you could be outrageous, you could have pink hair, you could wear fake eyelashes and long nails and be crazy and be successful,” says Sand One.
In the mostly male-dominated world of graffiti and street art, Sand moves forward to take over more walls and continue appearing as one of the few women in street art shows. She cites Curtis Kulig – creator of the easily recognizable ‘Love Me’ phrases posted around different cities in the US – as inspiration for his talent as branching out. Sand receives commissions from women and their boyfriends and husbands for canvases, purses and more and she hopes to one day sell her clothing in a major retailer. It’s that drive that she hopes motivates other Latinas to do what they love, too.
“I’m from East LA. I’m not supposed to leave East LA, I’m not supposed to travel the world,” says Sand. “I’m supposed to be just a regular chick and I’m not, you know?”
See more of Sand’s work here www.sandoner.com and if you’re in LA, check out her mural now in progress at VIP Auto Repair Service on S La Brea Ave. and San Vicente Blvd.