'A Mastercard masterpiece': local artist paints by credit card

SEQUIM, Wash. -- If painting is all about what you see, to track down local artist Sandy Byers, try listening -- closely.

Byers, of Whidbey Island, quit her job at Microsoft 12 years ago to take up painting full-time. She paints animals, people, and landscapes on canvas, selling her artwork out of a gallery on Whidbey Island.

What makes her different, however, is her abandonment of the paintbrush -- for plastic.

"You gotta find something to paint with when the scene is there and you've done the work to get that far," Byers said. "I'd have used a stick if I hadn't had those (cards)."

Her unique technique started with a trip to Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park in 2013. Byers was painting 'en plein air' - out in the open - and had hiked about a mile with her husband to the area where she chose to paint.

Upon arrival, she realized she forgot her paintbrushes. Hiking out to the car and then hiking back to her painting spot would've taken too much time and effort.

"I did not have the heart to ask (my husband) to go back and get my brushes," she said, "so I looked around and I just took out my credit card and started painting with it."

It worked. Byers entered the painting in the inaugural Paint the Peninsula competition and took home the Juror's Award.

On Friday, she sat on a beach in Sequim painting a rocky cliff. Her technique drew curious glances from onlookers and hikers. The sound of her card scraping against the canvas made a soft abrasive noise.

"Sort of a cat's tongue," Byers said, as she described the noise. "It's just this little soft scraping that goes on. It's very comforting to me for some reason."

"At first I was thinking, 'what a way to use a credit card!' said one woman, as she walked past. "I use a credit card for charging. My husband would love me ot use a credit card for this!"

In a few weeks, Byers will once again compete in this year's competition in Port Angeles, along with 31 other artists from across the United States and Canada. The public can watch as painters work outdoors for about a week, beginning September 8th.

"We don't have any other painters that paint with a credit card. I thought it was very creative," said Anne Dalton, chairperson of the event. "Pulling out what just was handy -- I thought it was amazing. I thought it made a really good story."

Byers says the sample credit cards that often come unsolicited make for her best tools.

"I wait for the junk mail to come," she said, laughing. "I just want to see what the credit card's going to be."

"A Mastercard masterpiece," she said, as she wrapped up wokring Friday. "I like that."

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