My life as a painter

I started painting as a young child and have loved the process of applying brush to paper ever since. Like many kids, I went to art classes (at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York), took art as a subject in secondary school, and pursued art and art history in college (painting, ceramics, sculpture, and design). After that, life and career intervened and stalled my work as an artist for about thirty-five years. In 2003, by then a tenured professor of history, I went on sabbatical to Italy to study Italian foodways. At the time, I remember thinking that I could not go to Italy without trying to paint there. I took a small box of Winsor Newton watercolors and a pack of watercolor postcard paper. I had a small apartment in Panzano, south of Florence, and I started painting—first the view out of my kitchen window, then from everywhere I went. I loved it and couldn’t figure out why it had taken me so long to get back to this!

After I returned from Italy, I met up with the newly-formed New Ipswich Artists’ League, who invited me to show with them. I spend ten happy years painting and showing with these wonderful folks, who inspired and encouraged me with their insights and commitment to their art. I began taking classes at the Sharon Arts Center with Mia Mead—who taught me to paint without drawing first, an important lesson in spontaneity. I also studied with the wonderful Robert O’Brien—who taught me that drawing and precision are also important. Mia first piqued my interest in painting in France and Rob made that a reality with his workshop in Canel in June, 2017. My fabulous artist friend, Christine Neill, encouraged me to combine my interest in photography and digital imaging with painting, and painting teachers at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, especially Elaine Hultgren, taught me about the joys of painting succulents and using iridescent colors. In October, 2016, I attended the Artisan Materials Expo at Buffalo Thunder Resort in Santa Fe, a delicious buffet of classes and vendors. I took five workshops, two on painting with pastels (a medium I wanted to learn more about), one on travel sketching and journaling, and two others on watercolor techniques. The Expo helped to connect me with other Santa Fe artists and resources. All of these influences have helped to form me as an artist and to them, I am eternally grateful. 

I joined the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico and found some like-minded plein air folks. I also became a member of the Eldorado Arts and Crafts Association, the EACA—my new artistic home. The EACA, founded in 2003, has two big shows a year. Their Spring Eldorado Studio Tour is the largest in New Mexico, and the Fall Art Show, held in Santa Fe, also draws large crowds. I look forward to participating in the Studio Tour for the first time this May. 

My paintings reflect my life interests—landscapes, gardens, plants, water, Italy, France, New England, and the Southwestern landscape. Recently, I’ve begun painting animals, with my two dogs as my favorite subjects. I love the versitality of watercolor, the potential of layering color over color to create beautiful effects, and the spontineity of the medium. I can do it anywhere, anytime—in my home studio and on the road. New Mexico has offered me a complete new range of subjects and palette, very different from my original artistic home in the shadow of Mount Monanock New Hampshire. As I continue to grow as an artist, I will post my work here for comment and constructive criticism, and maybe even for sale. My current mantra for painting comes from Arthur Wesley Dow—a prominent turn-of-the-century painter and printmaker whose teaching had a profound impact on Georgia O'Keeffe: 

The object of an artist is to fill the space in a beautiful way."

© Susan Williams 2018