Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Remembering Susan Shatter

watercolor by Susan Shatter
I only recently learned of Susan's death, and thought I'd share some memories of her. I met her in 1998, when she had an exhibit of her wonderful watercolor paintings at the Huntington Museum of Art in WV, and I had the opportunity to spend a weekend with her.

watercolor by Susan Shatter
Some of her large watercolors were 12' long! She liked to put the paper on the floor and just go for it! They look pretty abstract up close, but if you step back about 10 feet, they snap into focus. The viewer is just surrounded by them.

She loved painting plein air landscapes because she said it "put her in accord with the vast mystery."
She liked high viewpoints which make the middle ground the foreground, and the background the middle. The high viewpoints also tend to pitch the viewer forward into the painting.
She liked to have the light in her paintings appear to come from the land, and to use a diagonal or serpentine division of space.
She loved the Isabey squirrel quill brushes.
Her small plein air studies were painted on conventional watercolor blocks and were used as a reference for structure and color, along with photos, when she worked on her large studio paintings.
She preferred painting deserts, canyon lands, rocky coasts, the patterns created by water... (no green pastures for this artist!)
Often the local color of the rocks in a scene was gray, so she'd make up her own  colors. In Peru, she used the colors of local native weavings for the rocks.
She said it took about a month (yes, you read that right!) of adding layers of paint on her large watercolor paintings to get colors as rich as hers are!

Charles Le Clair, in his book, Color in Contemporary Painting, says that her work has "a structural quality that takes its cue from the repetitive forms of Cezanne's late landscapes. Thus the rock formations... set up rhythms that read as pure abstraction..."

She was elected as president of the National Academy of Design, and was represented by one of the finest galleries in New York: quite an accomplishment for a woman artist, working in watercolor!

painting by Susan Shatter
After her diagnosis with breast cancer, she said she had been looking a lot at x-rays, that were dark, with a white spinal column in the middle, and it was influencing her work: It was like a dancing white line in the ocean. Bones returning to their source. See the spinal column in the painting above... She spoke quite a bit about the transitory nature of life. She also began experimenting with acrylic inks and monoprints at that time.

For more about Susan Shatter, check these links:

I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you are an artist, maybe it gave you some ideas for your own paintings. Please forward this to any of your friends who might be interested.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Eye Highlights

Eye with highlight
Eye without highlight

Other eye with highlight
Here's what I'm working on right now. Almost done! I just put the highlights in the eyes. I love flake white for portraits: it is translucent, just like skin. But for the highlights, I used titanium white. I wanted a white that would be opaque, and stay that way.

I like it when portraits seem to come alive! Then, I can talk to them!