'Self Portrait’ from Portraits by Sandi Harrold. ‘My Eyes!’ (Acrylic on canvas/board) Artwork courtesy of Sandi Harrold.

Artist Watch

The Artist

Sandi Harrold

‘My husband is non-committal, possibly because there’s always a painting on the go and brushes and canvasses here, there and everywhere. I figure he’ll eventually get sick of the mess and build me a shed!


Sandi Harrold is an artist, children's author and illustrator. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, director and teacher at a C&K early childhood centre, and has also taught ESL (English as a Second Language). Sandi currently tutors children with special needs and spends every spare moment writing and painting at her home, a traditional old ‘Queenslander’ in the western suburbs of Brisbane.

‘We live in the bush and enjoy peace and tranquillity – except when the lawn mowers start up! Our garden is filled with King Parrots and our Jack Russell terrier Jack, who is featured in some of my paintings.

‘I’ve been married now for 38 years and have three amazing children; daughters Zoë and Felicity, and son Nick. Nick lives in Brisbane and is currently studying industrial design. Felicity lives in Sydney and aims to become a film archivist. Zoë’s a fashion designer in Melbourne and has her own label, Unempire.

‘Zoë started drawing at about the age of two, since she was old enough to hold a pencil. She received a really high OP score but had decided as a child that she wanted to be a fashion designer, so that was it.

‘Nick’s talent is with words, stories and funny scenarios. Felicity is talented too but reserved and self-conscious. I never had to help the children with any of their projects – they were all quite capable of doing them on their own. My greatest joy is to hear them chatting and listening to the bouts of hilarity!

‘My children are totally supportive of my art. I think they are as surprised as I am that I’ve done so much so quickly. My husband is non-committal, possibly because there’s always a painting on the go and brushes and canvasses here, there and everywhere. I figure he’ll eventually get sick of the mess and build me a shed!’

Were you attracted to drawing and painting as a child and how do you think your upbringing affected your style and choice of subjects?

‘I was born and raised in the Queensland bush, west of Warwick. One of my jobs was to look after the chooks. Maybe that’s why I paint them now. My father was a grazier/farmer. We had Border Leicester sheep (like the ones in Babe) and later changed to Santa Gertrudis cattle. Mum has always been a brilliant gardener and her floral arrangements were incredible. Our country home was always filled with flowers and the acres of garden filled with flowers, trees, vegetables and fruits. 

‘I honestly can’t remember ever drawing or painting. My mother was a fastidious housekeeper and I think anything messy was probably discouraged. But my grandma Zara painted delicate little watercolour birds. I have fond memories of sitting in her window seat while she painted these exquisite little birds with only a few light brush strokes. I really love birds, maybe because of their freedom. I hate seeing anything in cages.

‘Emus play a big part in my paintings now, something left over from my love of them as a child. My mother owned a property west of Goondiwindi and my brother and I spent some time there with my aunt and uncle. There were emus, wild pigs and kangaroos everywhere.

‘The emus always fascinated me. They are such curious birds, both in looks and behaviour. We would wave a tea towel in the air and they’d come closer to have a look. The closer they came the braver we tried to be. But we soon turned tail and ran back to safety – screaming in fright! 

‘I was educated at Wheatvale State School, a little state school about 12 kilometres from my home, and I loved it. I was really great at writing stories, researching and writing “morning talks” and handwriting, but I can’t remember being encouraged to do anything artistic. There were just 32 pupils in the whole school and only four children in my class! 

‘My dad taught me to read and to love reading. He read Enid Blyton’s books to me as a very young child until I could read them by myself. We had lots of original paintings on the walls, mostly landscapes. My mother had my portrait painted when I was about eight-years-old. I have it now – still unframed. It spent many years shoved behind the family piano!

‘I appreciated the beauty all around me but never made the link between nature’s beauty and the word “art”. There were no art galleries nearby so I never got that kind of exposure. My mother has always been artistic but I think she must have decided that I wasn’t, so I was never encouraged to think about artistic things. Maybe I grew up believing I couldn’t draw because no one had ever suggested I could.

‘We kids spent most of our spare time outside, playing tennis, swimming, and riding bikes. I read lots when I could – anything I could find! Being the eldest girl, I was considered to be the sensible one, and had many jobs allocated to me.

‘Little did they know that I spent much of my time pretending to be a school teacher! I’d go to collect the eggs, but on the way I’d go into a shed near the chook pen and teach imaginary students and real mice everything I’d learnt that day in school. The walls were covered in chalk works and numbers!

‘At the age of ten, I started at the New England Girls School in Armidale, New South Wales, a boarding school 480km from home. There were no schools in our area so to get an education we all had to go to boarding school.

‘Some people loved being away from home but I just felt totally abandoned. I made some lasting friends, but I’ve always been happy that I didn’t have to send my children away, because I know our bond of love and trust would have been broken. 

‘When it was time to decide on a career, my parents thought that seeing I was so good with my siblings, I should apply for Tresillian nursing or Kindergarten College. I was accepted into both but decided on the latter. I loved encouraging children’s creativity. They’re all naturally creative and I believe that it’s generally unthinking adults who dampen a child’s free spirit.

‘I trained as a kindergarten teacher at the Kindergarten Teachers College, an institution which trained kindergarten teachers exclusively, and I eventually graduated with a Dip Ed. ECE. Our training was excellent, lots of practical teaching blocks and really good guidance from the C&K centres to which we were attached to each year.

‘In February 1974, I began teaching at Upper Mt. Gravatt Community C&K. I became Director in my second year after graduating and after working there for the first year. I taught at the C&K for nine years before starting my family. My eldest girl, Zoë, was born in 1983. Many years later I reapplied for the same job and spent another five years working there. I was born to be a kindergarten teacher. I loved every moment!

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‘See, Hear, Speak' from the Feathers Series by Sandi Harrold. ‘Owls know to see, hear and speak no evil, because owls are wise – and colour coordinated!’ (Acrylic on canvas/board) Artwork courtesy of Sandi Harrold.