From Suzanne's DPW Gallery Page:
I've always been drawn to color. And I see it everywhere, in high definition. I want to put it all on a canvas, and then on another, and another. Through trial and error, I've discovered that I prefer to paint organic shapes, and I have a penchant for painting people's pets, dogs in particular. Mixing oil paint and putting it on a canvas brings me a tremendous amount of joy. And it's satisfying to know that my work has brought color, and hopefully a bit of cheer, to the walls of people beyond folks I'm related to.
It's never too late to do the things that call you. Listen to the nudges and the urges that linger. You never know what you might discover. (click to read more)
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.
I started painting about five years ago, in my early forties. I’ve always felt drawn to it, but never made the time. About ten years ago, I took a class called ‘Large Paintings’ from the local community college here in Portland. I was SO excited. Six weeks later, I carted home a hideous painting which promptly found its place facing the wall, propped up against a pile of junk, in the dark unfinished basement, and I thought ‘not that’. But it still called, way in the background. My kids were little and I didn’t have a lot of time. Then, I saw a painting that a friend had done. It was her third ever painting and it was wonderful - so colorful and full of personality! She had taken a class with local artist Julia Peltz. I decided to give it one more go and I enrolled. I painted a landscape and then another. I was hooked. I took the class four more times before I decided I would have enough motivation to paint minus the obligation of the class.
|I'm Good Fat!
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Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Suzanne's interview.
Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?
Even though my ‘career’ has been short, I’ve still had plenty of stops and starts. I’d love to make a full time living as an artist and I’m actively working towards that. In the meantime, life calls and the bills still need to be paid which can make it hard to be consistent. Starting in the late fall of 2019, I’ve doubled back on my efforts to make a living with art. Daily Paintworks has been a huge motivator in that. Carol Marine’s book, Daily Painting, was recommended to me by a fellow artist friend a couple of years ago. It resonated SO much. She makes it all feel so approachable and doable. The ‘daily’ aspect, which I generally change to ‘often’, is a game changer.
What mediums and genres have you experimented with?
Not too many really. Oil painting is my number one. I have always been drawn to creativity and art, but I’m afflicted with the need to do things well right out of the gate. It’s a bit of a curse, and I’m working to give myself permission to experiment more. It’s a process for sure. I did have a letterpress business for a decade and I spent fifteen years as a graphic designer and illustrator. Creating things is just plain fun and you can do it in so many ways. I’m an avid, and amateur, photographer. I’m also a do-it-yourselfer and a homeowner, so I’ve focused a lot on my living spaces lately.
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Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?
I would like to explore more, but for now, I have no plans to do much besides paint. In October, I
bought a giant canvas. My dream is to just step up to it with no plan and start. I still haven’t started -
like, I can’t even take the wrapping off of the canvas. If you ask me to paint something in particular,
it’s no problem. When it has very few parameters, I really struggle. Allowing myself some freedom,
forgiveness, and grace is next on the agenda.
Who or what inspires you most?
I’m inspired by so much. I find travel and people to be super inspirational. I love seeing what other
artists are creating. Social media makes all of that so much more accessible too. Obviously it has its
downsides, but I love the feeling of being connected to a broader ‘thing’ as long as I remind myself to
not compare. Currently I’m participating in a challenge called ‘Art Dare’ that a fellow artist that I admire and found on DPW, Teddi Parker, has started with some of her artist buddies. It’s way more motivating to get out there and be creative when you feel like you’re part of a larger movement.
|Roscoe T Mcgillicutty
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What does procrastination look like for you?
What doesn’t it look like? I’m an excellent procrastinator! For me, it looks like doing anything besides what I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing - cooking, laundry, cleaning, social media, lunch dates, walks, watching Love It or List It, playing solitaire on my phone... Ironically, I find that being commissioned to do a painting is a double edge sword. It’s wonderful to be paid up front, but sometimes the source I’m given to paint from is not inspiring - fortunately, it often is. I find that to be the hardest. And then, I feel like everything bottlenecks behind that one thing that I feel stuck in. Or, that time in a painting when you just wonder why you’re bothering - before it all comes together... just me? That’s sometimes when I find it hardest to stay at the easel. The more I paint, the easier it gets. I’ve also discovered that it’s better for me to paint alla prima and try to finish in one go, two max.
What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?
I’ve recently started, or resumed, a dedicated space for my art on Instagram - @Suzannehallerman, and renewed my DPW membership. I find that things like this help me to create often. There’s some implied accountability. Of course no one is asking me to, but if I want to have a base of followers and make a living making art, I feel like I’m obligated to offer fresh and consistent content. I need to act like it’s my job, because I want it to be! It’s always my goal that I’m going to paint first thing on any given day, but life doesn’t always, or even generally, work out that way, so it often ends up being the last thing I do. Ironically of course, some of my best work has been started at 9:30pm.
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How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?
Lately it’s been dogs, dogs, and more dogs. #Artdare and challenges like that can be fun and help get me out of a rut and into painting things I would otherwise never attempt. Participating in those kinds of things also helps me feel like I have permission in an unexpected and helpful way. Besides that, life... I’ve found that I’ve started looking at things in terms of light. I’d like to move into painting more portraits. I notice that I’ve begun to see more through a ‘painting lens’ in my everyday life - like, the different planes on people’s faces and I notice that I try to discern what specific color different elements would be as we engage. Other times it’s just that feeling that something would make a great painting. My memory is not fantastic, so I take loads of pictures. Sometimes I take a pic, or see one and just ‘know’ that it has to be a painting! I have yet to tackle painting from life, but I’m intrigued and feel like I could learn so much from it.
How do you keep art “fresh?” What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?
I think just engaging with life. Inspiration is everywhere. I’m not afraid to try new things - workshops, restaurants, different parts of town, traveling, what accounts I follow on Instagram, movies. This modality is still so new for me. I’m definitely still finding my way. Noticing everything. And observing what I do well and where I still have so much room for improvement.
|Let's Be Fronds
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What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?
Right now, I feel like I’m focused on intention. I find that I can get very caught and overwhelmed with the details. I see ALL of the colors, and I want to put them ALL on the canvas. It’s a constant conversation of ‘big picture’. There are various ways to combat that. I’m heavy handed. Painting with a larger brush has helped me stay out of the minutiae. And taking my glasses off! That, and reminding myself to see the bigger picture and have a plan. I can get off track easily. The other thing that I’m acutely aware of currently is how many parallels there are between painting and life.
What makes you happiest about your art?
I think what makes me happiest lately is when I’ve done a portrait for someone and they reflect that I’ve captured more than just the likeness of their pet. It’s very satisfying to capture the essence or spirit of a loved living being. That and when a piece just really comes together beyond what you could have expected and you feel it in your body - or when I wake up early because I’m anxious to have another look at what I finished the night before. I love when I surprise myself. Ironically, the more I want a painting to be great, the more stuck I usually feel in it. When I have a more relaxed approach, I’m able to be looser in my style, which is something I’m always working towards. I did mention the life lesson parallels, right?
© 2020 Sophie Marine