Architerior talked to Susan Washington, a former fashion business New Yorker turned full time painter in Poconos, Pennsylvania.
How did your art career start?
I’ve been creating since I could hold a paintbrush. My dad and my Japanese godmother were both artists and I was playing with sumi ink and ripping up origami papers to put on watercolor paper when I was really young. I’ve created all my life but I did not show anyone my work until I was in my 40s. I was in the fashion industry for many years and that gave me an outlet for creating. But when I turned 44 I decided it was time and went to art school. I took everything I had learned over the years and just did it. Soon after that I exhibited my work for the first time in a gallery, and the painting sold the next day. Since then, I have not looked back, only forward.
When did you know that you were meant to be working with art?
When I stopped creating, it felt like I stopped breathing. That’s when I knew. It’s just a part of my being, an urgency, and really there’s no other choice.
Can you describe your art style for us, do you have any preferences?
Right now I work mostly in mixed media. I LOVE working with textile and use it on all my paintings. I sew pieces together and tear them apart and glue them onto canvas with thick acrylic paint, charcoal and graphite. As far as colors go, it all depends but I will say I have an aversion to green.
According to you, what’s the hardest part of being an artist?
The hardest part of being an artist is this constant dialogue you have with yourself, especially while critiquing and analyzing your own work: “I love it, I hate it, I love it, I hate it, yes, no, yes, no”. I’ll go to bed at 2 am one night closing the studio door thinking I have created something so amazing only to go back at 7 am to look at it and mumble “What was I thinking?” and throw paint over the entire canvas and start again.
And what’s the best thing about being an artist?
It’s incredible to have a work go from just a vision to a finished piece and have a client completely resonate with it so much so that they will spend their hard earned money to acquire it so they can take pleasure in it and enjoy it for years to come. It’s amazing to be able to do this and I am very humbled and grateful that I can do it for a living.
Where have you mainly exhibited your artwork? Can you mention a few exhibitions or moments in your art career that have been extra important to you?
Currently I’m represented by Artspace Warehouse in Los Angeles and Susan Calloway Fine Art in Washington DC. At the moment I’m working towards an exhibition I will have with my husband who is also an artist. This will be in February at the Madelon Powers Gallery in East Stroudsburg University. The title of the show is “X-Scape – Deconstructing the urban and pastoral landscape”.
A moment in my career that was extra important to me occurred about 3 years ago. I was getting ready for a show and for months I was having a very hard time moving forward with an idea I was working on. One day I took everything and dumped it in the garbage – dozens of canvases, all my paints, brushes, pastels, charcoal, everything. I said I was done; I am not doing this anymore and left everything out for about 5 days (Thank goodness it never rained!) By the sixth day I was a mess! I just needed to do this, I needed to create and find a way to make this work. I dragged everything back in the studio, blasted the music and took a large piece of wood and started painting on it with no intention. Hours went by and when my husband came home from work and saw me in the studio I just looked up – I got it. I knew what I had to do. The important thing about this was that it taught me to never ever give up. I always think about this time when I’m having issues with a piece. I will keep going, knowing there are no mistakes, you just keep doing it until you bring it to life.
So what are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a new body of work that has a more painterly feel than before but incorporating collage.
What does art mean to you?
What inspires you to create? Where do you get ideas and energy?
As the great Picasso said “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working.” I agree 100% with this. I paint every single day. There are days that I’m not particularly inspired but when I get in the studio and start working, I naturally find inspiration.
Do you have any artists/art styles that you admire extra much?
Rauschenberg, Conrad Marca- Relli, Picasso, Cy Twombly.
If you could exhibit your art anywhere/with anyone, where/who would it be?
At MOMA!? Haha! Really, New York City. It’s my home town, my love and that is what I am working on now with this new body of work. Anyone want to give this girl a shot?
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