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?”
Sandra — you may be surprised to hear — is not a child.
She’s David’s wife, a talented artist whose work hangs in galleries in Canada and Mexico.
Neighborhood children gravitate towards her and she loves them. So she teaches children to create their own artwork.
She and the children have developed a system at her small studio at the summer house.
If this sign is up, Sandra can’t come out to play.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
“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.”
David hired someone to turn half of the garage into a studio with skylights, and there’s been no looking back.
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.)
Through 50 years of marriage, Sandra has seen how special the place is to David. It’s grown on her.
“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.
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….
… and a gift: a butterfly chair from David.
“Perhaps the Monarchs were saying thanks for all your good works with the children in Mexico?” I ask.
“Perhaps,” Sandra replies.
To learn more about Sandra’s work, or to acquire her paintings, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
92 thoughts on “At Home with Sandra Walton-Ball”
Love the thought of the butterflies visiting them for such a lovely reason.
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!)
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..
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.
That there are people like Sandra Walton-Ball in the world is a joy. Lovely post.
So well said. I agree.Thank you.
Another life -affirming story. Another person I would love to meet in real life.
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.
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.
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.
He has skills. Cows run away from me and horses don’t even bother to come close.
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? 🙂
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??
LOL, just tell us to mind our own business! 🙂
Yes, she’s a great and lovely artist ! I really like her painting and i like her smile !
I’m sure Sandra will love to hear this, Christiane.
Heart warming story. Such an artistic and loving couple. Lovely photos. 🙂
Thanks, Iris. I appreciate your response. Hope you’re having a good day.
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.
Thank you, Karen. And thanks again on behalf of Sandra.
You are very kind.
Love all of those pictures, monarchs. Once again, bringing interesting people into our lives, inspirational stories…many thanks to you!
And thanks to you for liking these stories, Rose. Much appreciated.
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).
Tee-hee! And a great sign it is!
Sounds like you’re all blessed to have each other. I’m thankful that you replied to the story.
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. 😀
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.
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.
Thanks, Levi. One day I’d love to visit San Miguel de Allende.
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.
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.
She should get a medal. An art teacher I had in high school is one of my favorite people and I still think of her often, even all these years later. I think the kids that Sandra teaches will most likely do the same.
What a lovely reply.
I bet you’re right.
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.
What a generous reply, Clare. And you’re so right.
One gets such a vibe of love and respect between those two. It is very nice to see.
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.
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.
What a great story and the pictures (artwork and yours) are beautiful!!
How lovely of you to say so. Of course, I agree with you on both counts, especially about the paintings!
Nothing more to add Cynthia, every reply has said it all. Beautiful and inspiring post!
Thank you, Gail. I hope your garden continues to flourish and delight and remind you of Jamaica!
Never thought you were such a great artist dear Sandra !!!
Now I know why your garden in http://www.rancholabradores.com is so beautiful.
Hugs and ccome back soon
Thanks for this, Sergio. I know that Sandra appreciates your reply. Rancho los Labradores looks great!
What wonderful art works. And a big life lesson: that you can’t really control your destiny only your reaction. 🙂
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.
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!
How nice of you to reply to the story, Allie. Thank you. And what a lovely compliment you paid your Nanny. I’m sure she appreciates it greatly.
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
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,
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.
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.
I know this lady!! I may even have a few masterpieces in my home. Congratulations. Great article. 😘
Thanks so much, Jonathan.
It’s nice of you to reply.
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!
Your reply made me smile, Marty. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m sure Sandra appreciates it too.
Absolutely incredible blog ,l enjoyed your recent posts.Thank you for visiting my blog,Best regards.Jalal
Thank you. And you’re welcome.
Great article about a lovely couple. Looking forward to seeing them in San Miguel next winter.
Peter & Joan
Thank you. Wishing you a great time in San Miguel.
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.
Bernie & Dave Barber
Thank you, Bernie and Dave, for this lovely reply.
Wishing you a good weekend.
Awesome post! Will share & reblog 🙂
That’s great! Thank you, Bette.
Reblogged this on Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author and commented:
This awesome post includes amazing monarch butterfly paintings! ~ Bette A. Stevens
This will be my daughter in a few decades. Lovely post.
Reblogged this on The Artistic Spider's Web and commented:
At Home with Sandra Walton-Ball
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,
I love that butterfly garden chair!
Hi Faith Simone:
It is a beauty!
What a wonderful woman and an interesting life. As well as a great artist.
That’s my Nanny! Very proud of that and a great story about great people!
thanks for commenting, Eric. Great people indeed.
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!
What a lovely note, Erin. Thanks for writing it.
Sandra–You are truly an inspiration to all who know you–I always look forward to Margie’s up-dates!! Love to you
I love this story. Inspiring!
Thanks, Teresa. And for visiting my blog. It’s nice to hear from you. Do you have many roses still blooming?
Just a few roses here and there. I was hoping for a big fall flush but I think it is going to be spotty. But, I enjoy every little bloom. 🙂
Lovely post about an inspiring and talented lady! Blessings to Sandra!
Reblogged this on Cynthia Reyes.
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…
Thank YOU, MaryRose, for your lovely messages.
You’re very Welcome, it was a great post, I wandered through again, she is an incredible artist
Take Care…You Matter….
beautiful home, grounds and artwork!
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! 🙂
Lovely story, I enjoyed reading it.
What a heart-warming story. Every child she meets and those who work with her, will carry her gift for the rest of their lives. A wonderful legacy.
What a lovely post Cynthia. And what a great girl she is. How wonderful sharing her talent with those children. I bet the singing is super too … Love the painting of the monarchs.
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.
That’s for sure, Andrea. She’s an inspiration.