California painter Susan Brown presents a collection of colorful landscapes that share a unique sense of place. See more of her work by visiting her website.
To create in any of the arts takes courage. – Georgia O’Keeffe
To me painting is not a hobby, is not easy, and is not usually fun (although sometimes it can be.) Approaching a blank canvas is like beginning an unknown journey. It has pitfalls, challenges and unexpected surprises. Some of them are happy surprises and some are not. I call the process paintstaking.
Due to the architectural geometry, aerial perspective and inclusion of portraits and figures, my Roadways and Today’s World series are especially complex and challenging.
As many artists know, you can fudge landscapes and still lifes, but if you are painting human beings, especially at all realistically, one can spot inaccuracies immediately. That’s why I studied nine hours per week during 2020. I continue to study figures and portraiture so they can be incorporated into my paintings.
One thing I do enjoy is getting into the zone. This is where I’m so totally absorbed in my work that I hear and see nothing else, as if a shroud were over me that shuts out the rest of the world. I even talk to my paintings, sometimes swearing at them if things are not going well, and thanking them when they are!
However, I find that day to day distractions often make it difficult to have this concentrated situation. That’s why I applied and was accepted into an artist residency in France for a month.
While there, I painted a large (32” x 28”) painting in about two weeks, including a landscape background with a portrait in the foreground. This was a record for me. I was surprised that I could finish such a large, detailed painting in such a short time! It gave me confidence knowing that I have the technique and knowledge to do this. The painting was then accepted into an international exhibition.
Now I apply this concentration as I paint in my studio. Many of my paintings are local, including Van Ness Ave, Santa Cruz, which is the street I live on. It was one of my first location paintings. Downtown Santa Cruz is my candy-colored version of my town’s downtown, where five streets converge. (The geometry of the crosswalks was especially challenging to get right!)
The Davenport paintings are of a town about ten miles from Santa Cruz. It’s a place I often go, to eat at the iconic restaurants (the RoadHouse and the Whale City Bakery) and hike down from the bluffs to a path by the ocean. I like the small town feel.
My Hidden Valley landscape paintings are of a lovely valley that is only seen very briefly while driving on California Highway 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz.
I intend my paintings to pose questions for the viewer, who may be figuring out where the roads lead. They are meant to evoke a sense of recognition or deja vu, whether or not you have actually been to these places. And I want to create a sense of community regarding how we all deal with difficult situations, such as Covid and immigration, in Today’s World.
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