Thursday, December 27, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Sue Churchgrant

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. 

To enter to win Sue Churchgrant's painting, "Silver Shadow,"go to go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing her interview.

From Sue's DPW Gallery page:
Sue loves the immediacy of small daily paintings. She paints in both watercolor and oil, mostly because she loves the contrast of the media. The small format of daily paintings allows for exciting experimentation with new colors, new subjects and new ideas. 
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I started painting almost 30 years ago during my pediatric residency using a small Prang child watercolor set for a creative distraction or emotional recharge. Later, as a full-time pediatrician, wife and mother, I continued to paint whenever I had a chance and enjoyed painting with my children.

Silver Shadow
(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the home page announcing Sue's interview.

About 15 years ago, I squeezed more painting time back into my life, upgraded my supplies and learned from wonderful teachers including Motsie Brooks, Joseph Fettingis, Susan Harrison-Tustain, and Ted Nuttall. I also went to every art exhibit possible whenever I visited my children away at school. I remember how different and stunning the scale and vibrancy of Georgia OKeefe's watercolors were in person, compared with the same images in books.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

My career as a painter started in June 2011 when I stopped practicing medicine and started to paint 8-10 hours a day instead. My career redirection was urgent not only because of my increasing obsession with painting, but also because I have a progressive visual problem and I want to paint for as long as I can see.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Goals for my watercolors include: more depth of color, more movement or freedom, and the use of more abstract elements in my compositions. Therefore, I taught myself to paint on silk to learn about color vibrancy. "Painting" with fabric pieces or "art quilting" allows for experimentation with texture and use of line in my designs and introduced me to the art and teaching of Hollis Chatellaine.

(click here to see original image)

To "loosen up" my painting style, I decided to learn to paint more impressionistically in oils. However, I completely failed at teaching myself this. Therefore I enrolled in excellent workshops taught by Dreama Tolle Perry and Karin Jurick. I credit Karin with my becoming a "daily" painter.

To date, I love everything that I have tried. All I could wish for was more time to do all of them well. The reality is that I concentrate on watercolor as my primary medium. I am an avid student of oil painting and I continue to "play" with fiber of any description for fun.

Your work ranges from quiet and finely detailed, to bright and impressionistic. What can you tell us about how each piece ends up with its particular style?

I think that each painting for me is first a feeling. That feeling is most easily translated into color, color intensity and color translucency -- all of which then dictate the medium and the style. For example, the rich color bounce on sunlit vegetables or rounded bird breasts both seem to "ask" to be painted in transparent, rich, wet but controlled, watercolor. In contrast, the ripples and melding of colors in beach puddle reflections or the sparkle of the light through jelly jars seems more abstract and "juicier" in my mind and needs to be painted with the richness, the interesting brush marks and the looseness of oil paint.

Reflections: Jam Jars #3
(click here to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

Because I am an adult learner, I feel "behind" in my education and my degenerative eyesight may mean I have limited time to paint. As a result, procrastination is not really my issue. Strategies to insure that I make the most of each painting moment: I don't leave my painting space without the "next thing on the easel." As I begin each painting, I remind myself that it is a learning opportunity or an exercise; I console myself that it is only paper (or a canvas that I can wipe); I recognize that some paintings will be only "trash-worthy" (even on both sides of the paper); and I am resolved that "the next one" will be better because I complete this one.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Perhaps because I spent 28 years as a practicing pediatrician, much of my work focuses on the spontaneity of personal moments and the goal of capturing true emotion. For example, in figurative work, I am interested in illustrating the unchecked joy or sadness of a child, the concentration or determination of an adult or the trust, patience or love of a pet.

Windy Tea Party
(click here to see original image)

I am also intrigued by the effect of light either to provide an idea for a painting or to enhance a painting’s message.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

For me, keeping art "fresh" is having a new challenge to solve. Painting a series seems to provide a way to work and rework an idea. Large paintings provide compositional and design challenges and push the technical aspects of executing a painting. Small quick paintings allow for fun playing with colors, different brush or knife marks or styles, sometimes of the same subject, to discover what will (or won't) work.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

To better express form in my paintings, I am working on the interplay of warm against cool colors. To make my paintings more technically dynamic, I am working on edges (especially lost edges) and large value shapes in the overall painting designs. In my watercolors, I am working to have the water be important in my painting technique and use it to create texture. In my oil paintings, I am working to paint clean, vibrant colors.

Sunny Peppers
(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

Art provides those of us lucky enough to experience it, a way to see what is immediately in front of us. Until we think about painting, we may not notice the forty plus greens that are in our backyards, the warm and cool reds that shape the apple we are eating, or the soft edges of the distant mountains. Often we take seeing for granted. I feel fortunate to have been given time to “really look” and share what I see. I am extremely grateful that I am an artist. When I paint, I feel complete. When I review the resulting painting, I am challenged to try harder on the next one.

Thanks, Sue! 

©2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine


  1. Sue are a painter who always surprises me. You do such varied subjects and they always catch my eye .......I can see a Sue painting and think...hey.....I want to be in the world as she sees it.

  2. Thanks, Jo. Come on in! I think I'd like to have you in my world!

  3. Sue, your paintings are wonderful...full of wonder. You articulate so well what you see, your goals, your aspirations. I appreciate how you "melange" your intellect and your senses in your paintings.