These Cows Did Come Home

September 2022, by Diane Sulg

Despite her art degree from Michigan State University, Sandy Erickson Wright began her professional career as a flight attendant for Pan American Airlines. She was fortunate to travel the world, fall in love with European art and antiques, and marry a handsome pilot. She enjoyed living in exciting cities with artsy environments like San Francisco, Berlin, and Santa Fe where she both collected and sold art and antiques. 

However, it was later in her Georgia home near Atlanta that her life as a painter really began. She had a space selling antiques and observed that many folks walked by hurriedly with barely a glance at her beautiful wares. To catch their eye and make them slow down, Sandy reverse-painted a big-eyed cow on glass and put him on an easel at the entry. The cow painting sold almost immediately, and Sandy, a bit aggravated, quickly painted a second cow. When that one sold just as rapidly, Sandy says “the penny dropped.” Her career in cows had begun! 

Now cows were very familiar to Sandy. She had a Finnish grandmother who immigrated to America. When her husband suddenly died leaving her with five small children during the Depression, it was the family cows that saved them. Her grandmother milked the cows, sanitized the glass bottles, and sent her young children out as the neighborhood “milkmen.”  

As much as Sandy loved cows, she also loved antiques and began combining the two, painting soulful bovines on recycled wood. She knew there was a folk-art gallery, Matilda’s Enchanted Cottage, in nearby Alpharetta, so she made an appointment. Sandy nearly floated home because Matilda loved the paintings and said, “Let’s give them a chance.” 

Over the course of many years, Sandy did shows like the Atlanta Folk Fest, and her work was picked up by many galleries across the country. While she still loves her cows, she also began painting other animals and country scenes. She painted voluptuous pears on pieces of tin from old ceilings and chickens wearing boots while declaring, “These boots are made for walking!” You can see Sandy’s work on her website, ericksonwright.com, as well as on her Facebook and Instagram pages. 

Artist Sandy Erickson Wright. 
Photo courtesy of Sandy Erickson Wright

Using recycled materials is an important part of Sandy’s art. She loves painting on “chippy” panels, where the bumpy fragments of old paint combine with the brush strokes of her paint to make the painting appear both old and very real. Sandy says she can sit with her morning coffee and just look at the surface of an old board, and that can inspire the direction her painting takes for the entire day. 

Sandy also mixes philosophy and humor into many of her pieces. She has mastered the art of printing with a paintbrush, so a cow with large soulful eyes might be saying, “I only have eyes for you.” A chicken dressed in a flowered dress asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?” No wonder her art is popular! It is fun and accessible to the many people who see it on gallery walls. 

For Sandy, painting and cows have been an integral part of her life and her history. On her website, she has included a photo of four young children bundled up delivering bottles of milk. The oldest child in that photo is her father. As she has said many times, those cows saved her family. In more recent years, the cows came home to propel her art into something unique, interesting, and lovely. 

A painting of a cow with daisies by Sandy Erickson Wright. 
Photo courtesy of Sandy Erickson Wright 
Sandy Erickson Wright also chooses to paint other animals, like this bear. 
Photo courtesy of Sandy Erickson Wright 

About the Author

Diane Sulg 
Diane Sulg is executive director of CRAFT and founder and co-chair of American Craft Week (ACW). She is a handmade advocate who provides valuable information in her one-day seminars titled “All About Wholesale” at wholesale shows throughout the United States. Diane is the former owner of Maddi’s Gallery, in Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina. 

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