Kew Gardens’ artist Sandy Ryan finds inspiration from her marathon running and triathlons

A work by Sandy Ryan inspired by her triathlon competitions. Image courtesy Sandy Ryan
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Longtime Kew Gardens’ resident Sandy Ryan can sum up most of her days with three simple, if not exhausting, verbs: Run, paint, teach.

“Lately, I’m always doing one of three activities. If I’m not running or training, then I’m painting or teaching,” said Ryan, who grew up in western Pennsylvania and moved to New York City in the late 1970s.

Ryan, who teaches art at two Catholic schools in the borough and has been painting for more than 20 years specializes in watercolors and oils and has painted a variety of iconic locations from Kissena Lake in Flushing and Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn to Little Neck Bay and crowd scenes from the old Shea Stadium.

An admirer of French artist Edgar Degas, known for his work painting dancers and nudes, Ryan has also expanded into painting nudes as part of the Barebrush Artist Association.

“Last February I was part of a group show called My Nude Valentine, to celebrate the art of the nude and try to tear down barriers,” she said. “It was a great show.”

Although Ryan said that gallery shows have been very slow, mainly due to the struggling economy, she reports that her prints have been selling well. “I think they’re more affordable for people who like art but really can’t afford paintings.”

Prints can often be purchased for about $20-$30 while paintings and commissioned works can be several hundred dollars.

Ryan says that in the last couple of years her marathon running and training for triathlons has had the greatest impact on her work as an artist.

“When I’m running, I come up with great art ideas,” she said. “Running and art are very integrated for me … art and marathon running are very introspective pursuits.” She added that some of her most creative ideas have come to her during long marathon runs.

To date, Ryan has run two New York City Marathons — 2007 and 2010 — and in the near future she is on track to do a half marathon (13.1 miles) in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this March and then a 10-mile race in Austin, Texas followed by a 10-mile race in Philadelphia, all leading up to November’s 2012 New York City Marathon.

And, in the last two years, Ryan has launched herself into the world of triathlons where she has again experienced a unique synergy that has bolstered her passion to create.

“Triathlons have given me many new ideas,” said Ryan, describing a recent work called “Hats” that pictures her putting on her bicycle helmet, a swim cap and a running cap. “To me, it’s funny because I love hats,” she admits. “I’m always torn between the athlete and the feminine woman.”

Yet another work, Ryan said, was based upon a triathlon she did last summer on the Jersey Shore. “I was nervous and I looked around and thought, ‘This would be a great painting,’ as I looked at other athletes getting restless as more lifeguards were called in due to the increasingly rough waters.” She recalls getting a “great painting” out of the experience, it’s the cover photo on her website,

But, Ryan says she still likes challenge of marathon running. “There’s lots of training that leads up to full marathons,” she says, noting that she just did 13 miles as part of a training run a few days ago.

Asked about what it was like to run the New York City Marathon, she compared it to being a rock star. “The fans are just great. Some of them even wear your shirt,” Ryan said. Further, she added that few vistas compare to that of looking out from atop the Verrazano Bridge “It’s an awesome feeling.”

Moreover, Ryan says she never wants to lose sight of being a woman in her art or her athletic endeavors.

“I always try to incorporate femininity into my works about running,” she says. “Whether I’m running or painting, I want to be a woman first and not a ‘tough guy,’” Ryan said. She recalled former tennis star Chris Everett as helping to bring femininity to the game of tennis.

Ryan is always cognizant of her femininity and she doesn’t want hers or any other woman’s to be lost to the rigorous pace of marathon running.

“You can have success in both art and running at the same time.”

Ryan says she feels her running and her art are inspirations. “My running makes me a better artist and vice versa.”

Posted 12:00 am, January 13, 2012
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Reader feedback

Karen from Harlem says:
Great Article. I love your work as a writer!
Jan. 13, 2012, 9:39 am
Sue MacKenzie from Littleton, Colorado says:
I am so proud of you Sandy. I wish your Mom and Dad were here to see all you have accomplished. I know they're sending blessings to you from Heaven. Love you, Aunt Suzie
Aug. 13, 2012, 6:56 pm
Alicia Kaufmann from Fresh Meadows says:
You are an amazing and beautiful person. I especially appreciate what you have to say about the inegration of art and running, and about the importance of feminity in everything
Sept. 28, 2012, 8:50 am

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