Sue Robertson - Joyful Art Studio - Studio #14
Acrylic and mixed media paintings
Phone: 425-742-6635 Web: suerobertson.net Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 425-742-6635 Web: suerobertson.net Email: email@example.com
Interview by Lynette Hensley
Sue Robertson’s studio is known as Joyful Art, and that tells you a great deal about what you are going to see. Sue splashes vibrant paintings with color and shapes of joy and connection and meaning.
LH: Who are the artists that influence your work that you know in person?
SR: Robert Burridge, an artist from California, actually changed my life. I was about to give up painting because I was not finding it very satisfying painting realistic landscapes. I took a workshop from Bob and it was like there were explosions of color in my mind. I came home from that workshop and changed everything about what I was doing. I started producing vibrant, loose, colorful paintings, and immediately started selling them. I am still painting and loving it 18 years later, and I still take a workshop from Bob about once a year because he is so inspiring to me.
LH: Who is your favorite dead artist(s)? Style? Period?
SR: There are so many artists that I love, that it is hard to pick just a few. Van Gogh is probably my absolute favorite. He was so amazing and I love his style, brush strokes and color choices. Richard Diebenkorn is another favorite, along with other painters of the San Francisco Bay Area Figurative Movement. I also love the work of William Cumming, who was a local artist and a latecomer to the Northwest Group. Figures were his most common choice as well.
LH: When is the first time you realized you were an artist?
SR: I painted for two or three years before I considered myself an artist. At first I copied paintings out of magazines to teach myself how to paint, took a workshop or two, and attended a weekly class. It wasn’t until I attended the Burridge workshop that I realized I was an artist and started calling myself that.
LH: Why are you drawn to use acrylic paints? And I see that you are also exploring encaustics?
SR: I started with acrylics because I did not want to deal with the toxicity issues or odors of oil paint and watercolor did not seem vibrant enough to me. After I had been painting for a few years, I tried a lot of different mediums to see if I would like them. I always came back to acrylics. It is the perfect medium for me for several reasons. As an intuitive artist, I am constantly changing things because I am not sure where I am going until the painting tells me where to go. I might take off on a tangent and then think, no this would be better. It is easy to paint over acrylic. Acrylic dries really fast and suits my impatient nature. I am also extremely prolific, and I do not sell all of the paintings that I paint. I do not get attached to my paintings the way some artists do, because I am in it for the process, not the end product. I just want to paint! So, I can easily paint over the acrylic paintings that do not sell and they provide some great texture. Some of the best paintings are those that have other paintings underneath, sometimes several.
A couple of years ago I was looking for a new direction, and I started painting with encaustic. It is a challenging medium with a high learning curve, and I needed that challenge. I love the feeling, look and smell of encaustic. However, it does not offer everything that acrylic does. Acrylic is still my first choice, but I go back and forth between acrylic and encaustic for the time being. I am always looking for something new to do and had hit a road block with acrylic. Now I believe I have gotten through that and am painting in acrylic again. I also want to try my hand at encaustic sculpture.
LH: What is one art tool or supply that you would take to your proverbial desert island?
SR: I think my favorite tool is my Lyra chunky graphite pencil. I do not do a lot of drawing, but I love to add graphite to my paintings by drawing into the paint. I guess that wouldn’t help me much on a desert island though. You would really need something to paint on. You could make tools from things you found on the island. You could probably even make colors. So, I would take heavy paper to use these tools and colors on.
LH: I’ve noticed that certain subjects, colors, and figures appear often in your work. What attracts you to them?
SR: I find that my palette is usually warm. When I look at a wall of my paintings, I see orange, red, yellow most of all. I guess I just love warmth. My acrylic palette is almost always very bright and my encaustic palette is generally more subdued. I have no explanation for that except that the encaustic medium seems to tell me that it wants to be more subdued than my usual palette. My subjects change constantly. I started painting colorful, loose fruit paintings and did those for a long time. When I looked for something else, it became figurative work. When I tired of that I went to abstract and abstract landscapes. Then I came back to figurative work, which seems to be something that I do not leave for any length of time. I do not know what attracts me to figurative work, but I keep painting different types of figures. Maybe I have not found what I am looking for yet. Whatever my subject though, you can still tell it is my work.
LH: When someone is viewing your work for the first time, what do you hope they’ll see in it? Or, what do you want them to say about your work?
SR: I want them to stop and really look at it. I especially like it when they look at all my paintings and then return to the one they like the best and spend some time with it. I never tell people what the painting means to me or what my intent was. I want them to see what they see and listen to what the painting tells them. It will be different for everyone. I am an intuitive artist and do not really have an idea in mind when I start a painting. A story might develop as I am painting, but it isn’t until it is complete that I name it. I usually keep the titles vague so that the viewer can make up their own story. Once in a while the painting speaks loudly and I give it a more specific title. I want viewers to say that they love the painting and that it makes them feel joy.
LH: What are some ideas you have brewing for your next work?
SR: As I mentioned before, I am thinking about three dimensional encaustic work. I am not sure exactly how to proceed, but am ready to just start experimenting with the idea. I have always been drawn to sculptural work, and prior to opting to start working in encaustic I was going to work with paper clay. I had purchased the clay and was ready to go, when Tracy Felix invited me to ARTspot to work with encaustics one day, and I caught the encaustic virus. The clay is still sitting on a shelf, and I think that I want to combine the sculptural with the encaustic.
LH: Did you grow up in an artistic family?
SR: My maternal grandmother always wanted to paint. However, we were never able to find out if she would be good at it because she was too busy raising 8 children on a farm to ever try it. I have always felt a little sad about that. My mother also wanted to paint, but she was able to give it a try. She did not paint very long, but I do have a few paintings that she did. She is very pleased that finally someone in the family has become an artist. My mother also wrote poetry when she was young.
LH: Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
SR: Earlier in my life I thought of myself as an introvert, and I probably really was. I was very shy as a child. In my forties I became an extrovert. I always thought you had to be one or the other, but I truly believe I changed. I enjoy people too much to be an introvert anymore. Ask anyone who knows me. I rarely stop talking! However, I can spend hours alone in my studio happily painting.
LH: Tell me about any classes that you teach and your interaction with students.
SR: I do not teach. It is not that I do not want to, it is because I can’t. All I would have to say is, “just start to paint and go where the painting takes you.” It would be a very short class. I love talking with people about art and my own paintings, which is one of the reasons that I love the studio tour so much. However, I have never been able to figure out how to turn it into a class that other people would want to attend.
LH: Is your studio/workspace neat or not neat? – what does that say about you?
SR: My studio is fairly neat and organized. I really enjoy organizing and sorting and putting things in containers. When I was doing a lot of collage, I worked with a huge pile of papers all different sizes, and I would be constantly looking through it. Now that it is organized and in containers, I no longer remember what I have. When I used to look through the pile on my table, I knew what I had to work with and it was always in the back of my mind. I would be working on a piece and think, “I know what would work here, now where is it?” Now I forget what I have and do not use a lot of my papers and tools. Every once in a while I look through everything to remind myself.
I had to sort through it and organize it because once a month I have a painting group that meets in my studio. Herein lies the real reason that I have a fairly neat studio. I have to clean up once a month so that six more people have a space to work. I can’t imagine what it would look like if I did not have the painting group. I do not have to clean up my encaustic work area and it is a disaster. I have to clear a little space for the piece I am currently working on.
LH: What do people ask you when they come to see your work?
SR: They ask an endless list of questions. How do you do this? How long does it take? Why do you use the colors you use? What does it mean? How many hours a week do you work? I never tire of attempting to answer the questions, and do not mind saying the same things over and over. I love to talk about my work and painting in general, and I am gratified by the interest in my work. I find it especially rewarding to talk to people who are just starting to paint or really young people. They are so excited and have so many questions. I feel like I have really been of help to them.
LH: How do you get the word out about your work?
SR: This is something artists are always worrying about. We really just want to paint and not spend time finding venues to show our work. Showing and selling our art is something we need to do if we do a lot of painting. No one has a house big enough for the amount of work I produce, so it must go somewhere else. I despise spending my time seeking venues and avoid it at all costs. I primarily show my work in venues that have come to me or that I have been connected to by fellow artists.
LH: What is it like to be an artist in your community?
SR: Edmonds is a wonderful art community. I moved to Edmonds 19 years ago, but I mostly showed my art in Kirkland because I joined a cooperative gallery there. In 2005 they started a studio tour in Kirkland and I just loved the idea. However, I did not know any artists in my own community. I heard about Artists Connect and started attending in order to meet artists and eventually start a studio tour in my own community. It was the best thing I ever did. I connected to a large group of local artists and discovered many opportunities to show my work and spend time with people who loved making art. If you are interested in selling your art, the best thing to do is meet many, many artists. We all try to help each other out and connect with opportunities. Every year Edmonds becomes more of an art community and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Also, 2015 is the tenth year of the Edmonds Art Studio Tour!