We had the good fortune of connecting with Charlene Lanzel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charlene, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I would not have my career as a sand artist if I was afraid to take a risk. Fear holds us back from success. You accomplish in proportion to what you attempt. So, if you attempt nothing, you will get that or less. If you attempt a lot, you will probably get something in return.
I took a big risk in my art career to attempt sand animation. I like to stay on the cutting edge. A step ahead of the crowd. I heard a rumor that sand animation was becoming desirable for events, but there were a shortage of artists who could actually do it. It is a very advanced art form, much like ice skating. It looks easy when its done well, but is actually extremely difficult to accomplish.
I took a year off from working to focus on teaching myself the art form. First, inventing and building my sand table. Next, learning what the sand would allow me to do. Sand is a natural substance with a mind of it’s own. I had to learn to work with it, how to get a good flow. It is nothing like drawing or painting. At a certain point, the sand builds up on itself, and starts to collapse. Suddenly, I must take some away. So, the sand sometimes tells me when to transition, or to work with a positive or negative image.
I had to learn music and video editing programs to start to make sand animation films. I learned to create a soundscape, to sync with the animation. I had no idea whether any of this would succeed. But, I continued, although sometimes the level of difficulty caused me to cry into my sandbox.
After about 6 months of working on sand drawings, I began to learn how to tell a story, and how to get one scene to beautifully and seamlessly flow into another. It took several more months to accomplish this. But finally, I had created and filmed my first sand animation video. I put that video up on YouTube, and hoped for the best. I would picture myself performing, traveling all over the world. Within a few weeks, I was contacted by an event planner, and asked to perform at Roseland Ballroom, for the opening night after party of Cirque du Soleil’s new show Zarkana. The risk had paid off… That was over 10 years ago. I’ve been working as a sand artist ever since.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Sand animation is an ephemeral art form that flows by, right in front of your eyes. It lasts only momentarily, and requires the living presence of the artist to happen. Hands skate on glass like a dance, atop an LED light box, which is then projected large screen for groups to experience. Emotionally immersive storytelling is created, which provides both entertainment and instruction. A visual language is created that transcends linguistic barriers. The sand artist’s light box dream world gives us an incredible opportunity for growth and learning, to manifest positive changes and to shine light on new ideas. Learning and creating sand animation requires hard work, perseverance and single-mindedness. It is not easy. Mistakes will be made. Learn from them. Never give up. Never give in.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’ve spent a good amount of time in Los Angeles, but most of that time was spent working on art projects. Making art is very time consuming, so, I haven’t been able to fully explore the city. I plan to relocate from New York City to Los Angeles in the very near future, and I’m hoping that my many dear friends can show me their favorite spots! I do love dining at Chateau Marmont, horseback riding in Griffith Park by the Hollywood sign, nature hikes and lazy walks along the beach.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate this shoutout to my Mom & Dad, for being my first and always inspiration to become an artist. To my Grandpa Charlie Kleinschmidt for showing me that I could make art for a living. To Mr. Ronn Kale, my very first art teacher in Elementary School, and then again in High School. To Mr. Cory Groves for teaching me how to read music and play musical instruments to a level of excellence. To my dear friends Kathy & Sandy Briggs, for being my cohorts in expressing myself through fashion. To Danny Nordahl for teaching me that if you work hard and don’t give up, you can achieve your dreams. To Tracy Lee Stum, my mentor, for so much more than I could say here. To my first husband Paul Sapiano, for getting me to paint again, after I had given up. To Jill Janus, for getting me into show business and teaching me how to shamelessly promote myself. To Mr. Murray Hill for making me a showgirl and curing me of stage fright. To my second husband Ronnie Magri, for helping me learn music editing and believing in me. To my dear friend and stylist, Tania Sterl, for giving me confidence through style. I appreciate each and every one of you.
Other: Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/charlenelanzel
Sand Artist | Charlene Lanzel