Remember Their Summer
Isn’t that just beautiful? It’s the work of artist Susan Grote, a watercolorist in San Francisco. Susan and I became acquainted when she emailed me concerning an article I helped write for VFG some time ago. She also wanted to tell me about a collection she was helping to inventory (more about that later…)
After a few emails back and forth, she mentioned that she worked in watercolor, and then she mailed some photos. I just fell in love with her work.
The ones that I’m going to share with you are based on old family photos. These are not just old random photos, these are members of Susan’s family, and she knows the people and their stories.
“I have always been attracted to watercolor, the luminosity of the white paper shining through the paint, and I love color, pure and bright, which means these recent pictures based on black and white photos are quite a departure for me… I’m still experimenting with how much I want to introduce color into the new pictures. I sent you my first of these paintings, called Friends, because people who do watercolor are usually interested to hear that I did not use black paint — I always mix black from red, blue, and yellow, or, for a more sepia effect, from purple and gold, or ultramarine and burnt sienna. And I love layering colors — a green apple grows from layers of blues and yellows, for example, instead of mixing them on the palette to make green.”
“I used to be a theatrical costume designer (that explains my interest in costume history), but I came to design from a background in directing, and was accepted into an MFA program in Design for the Theatre without ever having had an art class! My advisor assured me that “drawing is like typing — it’s a skill, and can be learned.” To do costume sketches, or fashion illustration, you really need a very large vocabulary of symbols — a symbol for crisp pleats, a symbol for soft ruffles, etc., because you are drawing things that don’t exist yet – it’s not at all like art: drawing or painting an object you can actually look at! I’m still learning to do that, and I love looking at things very intently. There’s a halo effect that makes you notice and really look at things in your daily life after you paint for a while. It’s like travel — when I’m in a new country, I try to really see and remember, because I may never have that chance again. When I get home from a trip (at least for a while), I look at my own country that way, too.
“I enjoy working with a very limited palette, and I think a lot about color theory and the qualities of different pigments. Because I sometimes paint as many as 20 layers, I don’t use earth colors very often — in my hands, earth plus water equals mud! (I make an exception for burnt sienna & ultramarine — they mix to make such a great variety of browns, grays, and blacks. If I’m going to use a mineral color like cadmium red or cad yellow, it’s the very last layer.) I know I have a very “tight” style; people always used to tell me to “loosen up,” “throw the paint around,” “pour it, splatter it!” A couple of years ago I realized that looking at things very intently, painting an apple till I get every nuance of color I see down on paper, is what I enjoy about painting! Yes, it’s a slow process, but it’s the same as traveling: sometimes my destination is only an excuse for the journey.”
I love that – comparing the act of painting to a journey.
If you live in the SF area, Susan will be having an open studio the weekend of October 23. For more information, and to see more of her work, see her page at Artspan.
Hot Dog Summers
Alice Eating Watermelon