A Good Home, Art, Artists, Beautiful Neighborhoods, Bond Head, Butterflies, Canadian life, Canadians, Children, Country Homes, Country Living, Couples, Homes, Inspiration, Joyful Moments, San Miguel de Allende, Teaching Children Art

At Home with Sandra Walton-Ball

David Walton-Ball opens the door of his summer home, east of Toronto, and is greeted by a child looking up at him:

“Can Sandra come out to play?”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David in Orchard

Sandra — you may be surprised to hear —  is not a child.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Studio Wall

She’s David’s wife, a talented artist whose work hangs in galleries in Canada and Mexico.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Painting of Island

Blog Photo - Artist Sanda Painting side viewNeighborhood children gravitate towards her and she loves them. So she teaches children to create their own artwork.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Student

She and the children have developed a system at her small studio at the summer house.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra stands at work table

If this sign is up, Sandra can’t come out to play.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Sign

In Mexico where she and David spend the winter, Sandra teaches art to children whose parents can’t afford to pay for lessons.

“We put on Andrea Bocelli and the children sing along.”

San Miguel de Allende is home to many artists from Canada and the U.S.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Leonard's painting

Years ago, Sandra met Leonard Brooks, an esteemed artist who started the Canadian and American migration to San Miguel. They became friends. That’s one of his paintings behind her, above.

Music playing, the children in her studio sing and paint. This is her gift to them and their families: encouraging the children’s creativity. She introduces them to the styles of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Gesticulates

You wouldn’t know that, nearly 20 years ago, Sandra was so ill, she was on life support for months. It took her 15 years to start painting confidently again.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Reaches for brush

Once recovered, she decided to take more risks with her art. And so wherever she is – in Owen Sound, the family’s main base, or in San Miguel de Allende, or here at the summer home near Toronto, she’s painting – doing “gutsier and more experimental work”.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Yellow Flower painting

“When something happens to disrupt your life, you recognize that things can happen and you may not get a chance again – so you start taking risks.”

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Framed painting Abstract

David hired someone to turn half of the garage into a studio with skylights, and there’s been no looking back.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Studio Outside

Generations of the Walton-Ball family have lived in Historic Bond Head for about 150 years.

During World War 2, the family planted and supplied potatoes to all their neighbours.

(Another historical tidbit: David’s first ancestor in Canada is the “Walton” for whom Port Hope’s main street is named. Port Hope, a famous heritage community, is near Bond Head.)

Blog Photo - Artist Sadnra window garden

Through 50 years of marriage, Sandra has seen how special the place is to David. It’s grown on her.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra in Sunroom wicker chair

“I fall in love with it each summer. Each year my garden grows. And now, like Virginia Wolfe, I have a room of my own, so it’s easier to find my heart.” 

They love this place for the history, the house, the studio, the family times, the garden and the orchard. Some of the apple trees are more than a hundred years old.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and David Picking apples

One summer, Monarch butterflies visited Sandra and David here. (Monarchs fly from Mexico all the way to Canada each summer and back.)

“You couldn’t see a leaf,” Sandra says. “The trees were covered with Monarchs.”

That magical event led to this painting….

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Butterflies CU

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra's Butterfly painting

… and a gift: a butterfly chair from David.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra and Chair

“Perhaps the Monarchs were saying thanks for all your good works with the children in Mexico?” I ask.

“Perhaps,” Sandra replies.

Blog Photo - Artist Sandra Wheelbarrow with flowers

To learn more about Sandra’s work, or to acquire her paintings, email: swaltonball@gmail.com

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92 thoughts on “At Home with Sandra Walton-Ball”

    1. Wow, what a great article about a great lady! Way to go Sandra, we are very proud of you! (Also nice work, Dave on getting the historical references weaved in there!)

    2. This wonderful woman’s story was recently covered in a local publication. She’s definitely awe-inspiring and reminds me that I, too, want to go to San Miguel and to Mexico following the Monarchs..

      1. And I hope you get that opportunity, Donna. I, too, would love to go. In addition to being in a colony of artists, there are also great classes and guest speakers there, I’m told.

    1. Sandra and her husband are interesting people. I met them the second time I went to Historic Bond Head in connection with the series. David was in front of their home and I stopped and said hello and explained why I was taking photos from my car! So — getting lost led to two stories and meeting some lovely people.

      1. You are friendly. 🙂 At the weekend, on my jaunt, I talked to sheep and explained why I was taking their photos. They listened politely, expressed their surprise but didn’t invite me in. 😀 They probably thought I was a little odd. As,no doubt, did the occupants of a small red car who drove by me twice; obviously wondering what a grey haired lady was doing in the middle of nowhere talking earnestly to sheep.

      2. A sheep-whisperer. I like that in a woman.
        My husband talks earnestly to cows. They listen intently, too. Thank God they can’t tell us what they’re thinking.

  1. I agree with Gallivanta. What a life affirming story. You find and create wonderfully touching stories. I love that you meet them and draw out interesting aspects of them and their lives. Sandra and David seem to have a great love for each other and life. Thanks Cynthia.

    When exactly did you rest? 🙂

    1. OK. I rested for two days.
      Then I remembered I had to post this story.

      So now it’s back to resting.
      Geez – how can a person get into any kind of serious trouble when I have you blogger friends looking out for my well-being??
      Thanks, Brad.

  2. What a lovely post and what a truly inspirational lady. Her way of letting the children know when she is available is so sweet.
    You have such a lovely writing style Cynthia. Your stories allow time for the characters to reveal them selves slowly, allowing us to feel they are our friends too whilst letting them take centre stage. I think you have a very generous nature and a big heart.

  3. An incredible woman & talented Artist!! Blessed to have them as our summer neighbors. Our Children adore the Walton-Balls…and cherish the time they have in Ms. Sandra’s studio. I believe the sign was created for my two (tee-he).

  4. What a wonderful refreshing post and couple, Cynthia. You are really treating us to some nice people and places. I love San Miguel de Allende. Have been there many times. Thanks so much for the treat today. 😀

    1. So good to hear your reply to this couple, the story and San Miguel de Allende, Levi.
      I’ve never been there, though I’ve heard about it from artist friends.
      As always, THANK YOU.

      1. It is a great artsy kinda place with many American and Canadian residents who have studios and shops. You should visit sometime but it’s not close to major airports really. When in Mexico we usually stop in there for awhile. Your couple is inspiring as are you.

  5. I visited my son one summer when he was living in Mexico City. I did not expect to like it but I really enjoyed myself. We went to Frieda Kahlo’s home in El Coyote but did not get to San Miguel de Allende. I would love to go back and do that.

    1. Me too. Have worked briefly in Guadalajara but never been to San Miguel de Allende. Having heard so much about it and now from Sandra and David and blogger-friend Levi, I sure would.

  6. What a kind and generous woman she is. It’s also nice to hear of a marriage that is still so good after 50 years. She has made the effort to see the place as her husband sees it and now loves it. He has provided her with a special room where she can work and be comfortable.

  7. What a lovely story, and such interesting and beautiful paintings. Taking risks and butterflies, living and giving in different lands and different places, finding roots in a place full of history… Today, on our walk, we saw two monarchs fluttering and watched one land on a tree, on a branch just over our heads. So the monarchs in your/her/their story lend a sense of connection as well. I’m feeling heart-warmed. Thank you.

    1. I’m glad you saw monarchs, Margaret! I’ve been watching and waiting – but either they’re hiding from me, or I choose the wrong times to look.
      I’m also glad you like Sandra’s and David’s story, and Sandra’s art. I’m sure they will like your kind response too, Margaret.

    1. So true, MT. Her recovery was slow and painful and I strongly related to her story — as well as her willpower, and the love from family, friends and neighbours that helped her in that very challenging time.

  8. What a wonderful story about my Nanny. She definitely is a crazy one! She always used to have art projects for us to do whenever we would come over. It was so much fun and my sister, brother and I really enjoyed it. Love you Nanny!

  9. Hello Sandy,
    Interviews can be tiresome and stressful, but they can also be enlightening and yours was so enjoyable as you mentioned.
    I don’t know the author, but, the write-up on my sister is inspiring… just a beautiful article on my dearest and courageous sister who everyone adores,so much talent, intelligence and enthusiasm . I am so delighted Cynthia and you crossed “paths”. We are all so very, very proud of you.
    Hugs and LUVU
    P.S.Our character is what we do when we think no one else is looking… what a gift you share (smile) in so many different ways.
    Thanking you, Cynthia.

    Margie and Barry

    1. How lovely of you to write this reply, Margie and Barry.

      It must be inspiring to have such a talented artist for a sister. Gee whiz – I wish my sisters could say the same of me – but I’m still drawing stick figures…. (smile)

      Thank you for your kind words. If the story is good, it’s because I had two interesting people for my subjects!

      Wishing you a good day,
      Cynthia.

  10. Thank you Cynthia for your well researched & written article. It has been our pleasure to meet you & read your book. Your life experiences & Sandra’s have much in common. I’m so proud of my soul mate & lover. She is a very caring & supportive person with a great deal of talent.

    1. David, you two are an inspiration to us all.
      (As you can see from the replies coming in to the story about the two of you.)
      Thanks for not being taken aback by a strange woman looking lost and taking photos in your lovely neighborhood. Your kind, polite response had everything to do with this story coming into being.

      Bravo to you and Sandra both.

  11. I used to go to Sandra ‘s door in Simcoe,Ontario and say”Can Cline (Sandra’s father) come out to play?” The apple does’t fall far from the tree! He wasn’t an artist,but just a lot of fun! Always so proud of Sandra…a fantastic person and an amazing artist….loved the article!

  12. What a great article on a wonderful artist! I love Sandra’s work and its lovely to see her get so many accolades. Sandra is just as beautiful inside and out as I remember from many years ago. Reading this article made me smile with delight. Beautiful pictures of Sandra & David’s summer home, very inspiring. A perfect place for such a creative spirit.
    As ever,
    Bernie & Dave Barber

  13. Knowing Sandra from a few years, I do remember when Jean and Sam introduced her to me, I did feel she must be a sweet and smart person and then with time i discover a loving and wonderful human being and plus an amazing artist, I´m so proud of her and is a privilege just to talk to her,

  14. I remember always making art with my Nanny when I was younger and would come to visit. It was always a great time and I loved (still love) doing it. Some memories I will never forget. Very proud of you Nanny! So inspiring!

  15. Sandra–You are truly an inspiration to all who know you–I always look forward to Margie’s up-dates!! Love to you

  16. one could say we wandered within the love story 🙂
    I didn’t see the “view original” till I clicked the button, I am glad I saw
    it, for it is an amazing journey she has been on with her husband…

    Thank you again for sharing her story
    Take Care…You Matter…
    )0(
    maryrose

      1. You’re very Welcome, it was a great post, I wandered through again, she is an incredible artist
        Take Care…You Matter….
        )0(
        maryrose

  17. What a terrific post, Cynthia! I can’t imagine a better ‘job’ than the one of this special lady. To live in such a darling studio, helping children among the butterflies. Heaven to me! Thank you for introducing her to me. A story to delight my day! 🙂

  18. I love to see where artists work – Sandra’s studio is vibrant and looks very productive and her work is bold and lovely. She’s also very inspirational in her risk-taking and in her giving back to the community.

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