Thursday, January 30, 2014

DPW Spotlight Interview: Susan Fern

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

To enter to win Susan's painting, "Donald Preaches" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing her interview.

From Susan's DPW Gallery page:

Welcome! ​I have been painting for some twelve years and am largely self-taught. My concentration is on realistic still life, with works done in both oil and pastel. I sell all my originals and offer excellent quality art reproductions as well. 100% of all my sales, both originals and giclee prints, go to benefit Youth for Christ Spokane, a local non-profit that reaches out to impoverished and at-risk youth.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I am sixty years old and I had absolutely no interest at all in art for 47 years. My mother had always painted, she's the best painter I know, but with raising five children alone, had time to do very little. When she retired she took it up once again, and urged me to give it a try. I told her endlessly that it was hopeless; I would be a miserable failure.

She did not give up, and finally I gave it a try once while visiting her and was hooked immediately. My mother and I then spent several years traveling to workshops given by contemporary masters, such as Daniel Greene and Michael Shane Neal, which helped tremendously.

Note to Mom: So when are you going to join DPW??? She would break all the records in sales.

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

In 1996, I almost gave up painting as everything I produced looked awful to me. Then I was reading that many of the old masters copied works by others they admired, and I figured if it worked for them, I should try it too. So I decided to do nothing by copy works by artists I admired for a year. It worked wonders. I learned more than I can believe. You don't really study a work till you copy it. Obviously, I can't show the works, but the year of studied copying was so valuable to me.

Donald Preaches
(click to see original image)

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

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I started out in watercolor because it looked easy. How wrong I was. I finally gave up in frustration and turned to oil, which I continue to love. I have recently expanded to pastel. As for genres, I began with portraiture, because my mother was doing it. I loved it, but it was too exacting. Now I just do still life.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

Portraiture fell away because, as John Singer Sargent said, "portraiture is a still life with something wrong with the mouth." Don't need that. I continue to love still life. It doesn't have opinions. And I don't have to battle the elements that landscape artists battle. I'm too big of a wimp for that.

Red Clock
(click to see original image)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Nothing, to tell you the truth. I love my ruts. And I love still life. I've also formally given up on loosening up. It's not for me. I tried and was a miserable failure. I guess I have too uptight a personality for that! Its really freeing to figure out your own style rather than what you "should" do.

Who or what inspires you most?

Looking through the artwork of other contemporary artists. I never cease to be amazed at the beauty they find in ordinary objects.

(click to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you?

It is the story of my life. I have a high work ethic, and painting is fun, so I rationalize it as "work before play," which is baloney, in my case. I find I procrastinate a lot less if I have a deadline. Deadlines are good for me.

Also, having a pastel in progress is critical. I can work on it for only ten minutes, but that ten minutes is so productive because I see the work and the problems with fresh eyes. Every time I walk into my studio I always wind up saying "I can't believe I did that..." because the problems just jump out at me. Being a perfectionist, I want to fix problems, and if I have a pastel in progress, I know I can fix something in just ten minutes.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

Pastel. I mean it. I find I can't paint more than a half hour to an hour a lot of days, and mixing my oils and cleaning up makes no sense on those days. So I took up pastel, and find even if I have only ten minutes, it is a highly productive ten minutes. If I have a lot of time in a day, I work on my oils.

(click to see original image)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I am the least creative person you will ever meet. I love the internet for that reason, as well as art magazines. I look through DPW every day for ideas. I don't copy the ideas, but am amazed at the creative things people paint and then use that idea to come up with a similar idea that works for me.

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

I just keep looking for ideas I have gleaned from others and then adapt them to my own style. That keeps me fresh. I don't think I have ever painted the same object twice. That helps as well.

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

The same things that have bogged me since I started painting; I am finally started to figure them out. My two problem areas are values and shapes. I discovered if I look at my painting from a very far distance, say 30 feet, it screams out its problems. Or take a photo of it and shrink it to a thumbnail on the computer and look at it. You just see the big shapes and values then. I'm often horrified with what I see.

Pool Balls
(click to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

When I complete a piece I am really proud of. I wasn't proud of my art for a long time. The last eighteen months, I feel I have really turned a corner and am genuinely proud of it. It also really helps when my biggest fans and biggest critics, my husband and sons, like what I do. Even better is when they request that they have it to hang in their own homes and offices!

Also, I finally had the gumption to agree to a solo show recently, my first. I was terrified no one would come, and if they did, no one would buy. The place was packed and there was a line at the cash resister. I was stunned and thrilled; it made me realize people really like my work! Now friends are asking to hang my art in their places of business, which really thrills me.

Thanks, Susan!

© 2013 Sophie Marine

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