Where I am
Dalton, Ohio, Ohio Amish Country
Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I live in a quiet little Amish community in rural Ohio. My husband and I owned and operated various farm based businesses over the years from boarding stables to organic market gardening and all sorts of things in between. It probably goes without saying the caring of the animals was my favorite aspect of farm and rural living.
I did run into trouble though because it was hard for me to see animals as commodities. I liked to rescue the broken down horses and the barn cats! I grew attached to the livestock and found it hard to sell or eat the meat after having raised them.
This did cause some tension between my practical husband and I when talking about business plans for the farm! I really found the very best outlet by being an animal and equine artist. I still do become attached to the animals I paint but now they are meant to be held on to and remembered!
When did you first start painting?
I drew horses as a kid but never got a chance to pursue art. My last art class in school was I believe middle school. I am always sad when schools cut out art class when making budget cuts.
Around 2002 I was going thru some tough times and I found that drawing relieved the stress in ways that nothing else did. I picked up some colored pencils and started coloring flowers and birds and could really relax.
From there I quickly went to portraits of my kids. I began painting after that, first with acrylics and then watercolors and pastels. My favorite now are oils although I still do the others on occasion.
You paint more than just animals , what is your favorite subject to paint?
I like faces, flowers, figures too. Anything with curves! I do not like painting anything with straight lines!
Who are your main influences?
I am fortunate in that I’ve been able to get involved with a very active art community in Canton, Ohio. I am really enjoying the interaction with the other artists and seeing their work. I find that very inspiring.
The art community also has open studios every First Friday and I am enjoying the energy and traffic that comes from that. I tend to enjoy looser, energetic, slightly abstract paintings with some realism. I can do tighter, detailed work but its harder for me to get into that frame of mind unless my environment is perfect and quiet…and with 3 teenagers that does not happen too often right now so I am letting myself play with faster, looser work.
I do keep going back to my farm and garden days in my subjects. I feel like the country mouse in the city at my studio in Canton! Its fun how that all comes together though.
Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
My own horses are a great inspiration. I love caring for them, grooming, riding – just the every day stuff.
I recently rescued a horse that influenced the naming of my new studio ‘White Horse Studio’. I renamed her Boomerang and you can read about her on my blog.
She represents to me the embodied spirit within all of us to raise above tough circumstances. She took a hit just like many people did this past winter when the economy went nuts. She also is personally inspiring because by nature she is a highly sensitive, high energy horse that found herself on two separate occasions in environments that were not conducive to her thriving.
In many ways I can relate as an artist who has some of those characteristics too! I could be described as highly sensitive with aimless energy! In the wrong environment creative people do not thrive but when the very qualities that make an artist an artist are valued and given an outlet they are a wonderful asset to the community.
I see that in the area around my art studio. The downtown area has been revitalized and is thriving because of an active, vibrant art community! My rescue horse is doing the same. She is thriving because she is not being asked to not be who she is! I have decided from now on her lot in life is to be in my backyard and to look pretty – which she does quite well!
White horses are very fun to paint because you can incorporate so many colors in the highlights and shadows. She is now in her element and I feel like I finally am too! So look for lots of paintings featuring her in the future!
Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone for your art?
I have an MP3 player with the same music I listen to Voer and ove as I paint. My brain just knows what to do when those songs come on!
Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
I love being outside. I also love being in my barn. It is peaceful and relaxing and the horses are always glad to see me.
What effect do you think the Internet will have on art in general?
Its been great for all the marketing opportunities and making connections with people. I enjoy the social networking – although I have to put a limit on it or else I wouldn’t have time to paint!
I used to worry about stolen images on the internet and try to do what I can to protect myself from that. I know that kind of stuff happens often. Other than a few printed cards from my studio I mostly sell original work. I decided not to pursue limited edition prints or reproductions.
My goal for 2009 is to paint, paint, paint and concentrate on creating new work often and not get bogged down in trying to sell prints or products online.
Has it had an effect on yours?
I think the internet has had a positive effect for me. I am one of those odd artists who actually love the marketing end of things! I used to sell real estate years ago so that has been a help as I pursue outlets and commissions for my art.
Which one is your personal favorite piece?
I have a watercolor I call A Multi-Colored Life. There is a personal story behind that image but the basic message is that the things that make a person different are the same things that make them special. So the motto is Be Yourself!
Would you ever sell it?
No. But I should frame it! It is sitting on my desk at my studio!
What else are you passionate about?
Other than my kids and family I love cheering on the underdog – anyone or anything that is in a bad spot from no fault of their own. I feel especially passionate about protecting our children from abuse and domestic violence. I hope to use my art to help those types of causes.
Working on anything new?
Always! I am adding on the the life sized farm animal murals at Lehman’s here in my home town on a regular basis. That’s fun. I like painting in the store and talking with people.
I also am gearing up for my Grand Opening at my studio which coincides with a special appearence of the Budweiser Clydesdales during June’s First Friday in Canton, Ohio. I want to have a painting of the clydesdales in the works for the opening.
I’ve want to do more Belgians plowing in the fields. This time of year they are out working the fields and it is one of my most favorite sights in Amish Country. I paint Daily Paintings on my blog and did a painting of my Amish neighbors in the fields just a couple weeks ago. You can read about my murals and amish themed artwork on my blog.
More to Come
Thanks to Sue for answering the interview and sharing her art. Be sure to subscribe to her art blog for updates about her latest works.
Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.