We present the second installment in our "Meet the Artist" series. Each week, we take a few moments to shine the spotlight on one of our own, learning about what inspires us, our favorite colors and subjects ... or just some fun facts about us.
Today, it's all about Susan. Like Ken last week, Susan's known for her fearless love of color. She is also known for her prolific output. She's only been painting for 6 years, but the number of paintings she brought in to share surpassed some of us who have been painting three times as long! Think we're kidding? Just look! She started by hanging some of her 18"x 24" paintings on the wall...
... and even stacking them in piles when she ran out of table space, as you can see above!
Let's get started with Susan's history. Over 20 years ago, she dabbled in oil painting, but found the slow process and long drying time didn't appeal to her. She just hadn't found the right medium. In 2004, she was visiting Venice and got the urge to paint the water....in watercolor! Her journey had begun.... in more ways than one. The Venice trip was one of a series of annual trips she takes with her sorority sisters. Two years later, in Mexico, a cruise ship painting instructor got her even more interested in watercolor. And two years later, she enrolled in our class—and the rest is truly history!
She started with the same exercises we all do, learning color theory and developing technique. But then she was off and running, painting anything and everything that caught her eye. Her earliest paintings showed a love of pattern that was influenced by Gustav Klimt, combined with a love of story. This can be clearly seen in Bamboo Forest below, one of her earliest milestones.
Her next breakthrough came when she discovered plein air painting on a beach in the Philippines. The speed and immediacy suited her perfectly and Baloy Beach (below) was only the first of many plein air paintings she's become known for.
Since then, she's documented a variety of subjects ranging from her neighborhood, Chicago monuments like the Bean, all the way to exotic vacation locations like Egypt, China and the Philippines. Yes, the same sorority sister vacations that brought her to watercolor now provide her with subject matter.
But most of all, Susan paints stories. Her art tells what's happening in her world....the first snow of the season, the Blackhawks parade, dance ceremonies at Daley Plaza, anniversary flowers and first kisses...it's all fair game.
Which brings us to what she's working on this year, based on a trip to the Philippines.
And what does she do with all her paintings? Well, she exhibits some. Besides our Chicago Artists Month show, she's been in other group shows—at the Philippine consulate, the Skokie library and the Daley Center/City Hall pedway. She's sold paintings and even raffled some off at a birthday party (lucky Sara won a lovely floral).
But there are plenty more, as you can see. And rather than leave them in shopping bags at the back of her closet (we won't mention names!), Susan believes in seeing, using and enjoying her art every day. She's repurposed her paintings onto mugs, trivets, even vinyl tarpaulins, like her Great Wall of China below....
... but mostly, she makes her series of paintings into calendars. You can see some of her 13 volumes spread out below (yes, we know she's only been painting for 6 years....she has several calendars for some years).
...and Egypt (notice the preliminary sketches? Very cool!)...
...and her most recent featuring a year of Pat traveling the world in all her sartorial splendor.
And we, her classmates, are lucky enough to have received her calendars in recent years. How cool is that?
To summarize Susan, looking back at her body of work, we've noticed
- Her favorite subjects may vary, but they are all things that are happening to her in the moment. Looking at her paintings in chronological order is like a visual diary. But what they all have in common is a strong sense of story. Her paintings are about people and life and something's always happening.
- Susan's all about color! She has two large palettes with the bright vivid colors she loves—one basic and one advanced. Oh, and all the colors are clearly labeled. It's the accountant in her! Susan is also a big fan of complementary colors. Look at her paintings—if she uses a red, you can bet it's tempered by a green.
- Susan's style is very painterly. She doesn't go back and fine tune; she's not one for endless subtle washes. Maybe it's the plein air background or maybe it's the accountant background. Regardless, she paints fast and makes each brushstroke count.
- As for size, Susan is flexible. She favors 18" x 24" and 9" x 12" paintings, but she's also been known to paint small postcards all the way to wide panoramic banners.
- Finally, Susan paints in series. Whether it's her latest vacation or Pat's latest outfits, she typically explores her subject in a series of 12 or more paintings....and then she makes a calendar!
And come back next week to meet another one of us!