In your statement, you discuss avoiding formulaic approaches to making work. When working on a series of paintings that address a similar subject matter, how do you combat that?
There has to be something unique that is drawing me to paint the subject each and every time. If there isn't, I shouldn't be painting it; I think this is why commissioned work can be difficult. Similar subject matter doesn't mean similar intent or focus; I could paint the same scene fives times, but in one I am interested in the sky, in another the light on the buildings, in another the moody atmosphere. My intent drives my decisions - the size of the work, the composition, color choices, the quality of the brushwork - every choice is new every time! I love to learn and I also want to continually improve my work, and I can't do either of those things if I am mindlessly repeating myself.
What are you working on in the studio?
As usual, a variety of things: landscapes, figurative pieces, portrait and animal commissions, florals, Chinese subjects - whatever strikes my fancy. Some are quick, alla prima works and others are large, carefully planned compositions. I have some works-in-progress in one corner of my studio and they reveal that I am in a blue - but happy - period!
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
I like to balance the theoretical and the practical. While I love learning principles of design, color, light, atmosphere, brushwork, and so on, I have found that they are best understood with paintbrush in hand! I almost always have teaching in the back of my mind when I am painting. As a result, I take a lot of in-progress photos that I can share with my students, and as I discover techniques or principles, I am generally thinking about how I can best communicate them to others. And because I paint a variety of subjects, I am able to bring practical experience to whatever my students are working on.
On the flip side, teaching has made me a better painter. During class, I have to be able to quickly come up with suggestions for each student's painting dilemmas. No time for dithering, just decide and do! This has made me more decisive in my own work.
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
Do I have to pick one thing? The students, staff, facilities, and location all add up to a wonderful time! What I always look forward to in my workshops are the "aha" moments, when students experience growth and gain more confidence in their abilities.
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
Visit my website www.SusanPloughe.com. You can sign up for my newsletter there. Or, send me a friend request on Facebook.
Susan will be teaching Navigating the Landscape: Essential Elements October 5-7, 2017.