Suzanne Gibbs works industriously, making repetitive moves while working on paper or wood panels. Instead of making many perfectly executed works of art, she embraces her purposeful inaccuracies. Her fluid process of making, writing, vandalizing, creating, cutting, and repeated mark-making results in work of unrestrained containment. Her tool kit is varied and always changing including some form of paint, drawing implements, scissors, and adhesive. Suzanne has published two illustrated books and has continuously created an artist blog since 2010. She spent her formative years in Mexico and Brasil, returning to the United States in time for high school. She holds a BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University, a Master of Science degree in Communication from University of Portland, and an MFA from Claremont Graduate University. Suzanne was born in 1965 in Madison, WI and currently splits her time between California and Oregon.
I wish for the world to be a kinder and gentler place. I wish for all people to be treated equally, or at the very least valued in equal measure.
My wish is to connect with women who want to change the status quo.
I wish for women to bear witness to each others stories so that healing and change can begin.
My obstacle is my introverted nature.
I’d really rather be alone painting, writing, and generally enjoying solitude. However, I realize that connection and change can only happen when people connect with one another. That’s what lead me to watch the following TEDx talk. If Isolation is a dream killer, then what is the solution?
For me, connection happens through research and painting and writing—all jumbled in my own private universe. Imagining utopia of my own creation. Maybe you see this in the work I create? Maybe you think I ought to get out more and interact with the world?
I am strangely grateful for this time with the COVID-19 self isolation recommendations. At the same time, I honestly hope this does not last a long time and I hope that the spread of the disease becomes less and less furious.
Ok, either way—staying in or going out. I know that connection outside of my internal world—will move me closer to my dreams and wishes—eventually! What is your wish and what is the obstacle? Can I help? If not me, then who?
These are such great questions! Let’s reach out and continue to help one another from the phone, internet, and text messaging. Sending my prayers and love into the world.
What are the steps to painting? Draw. A lot. Draw for months and months in my sketchbook. That is always where the work begins—in a sketch (or a collage). Then, there is so much more that goes into a single painting.
Plan. Plan. Plan.
Colors—and the reasons for the colors I choose.
Support surface (paper or cradled wood panel, I rarely use stretched canvas)
Mix paint colors, plan with a color chart (but not always).
Prepare the surface, I tape all the edges and back to keep the panel clean and free of stray paint. Ultimately this is better for the walls of my collectors!
Take the sketches to larger scale. There are several different ways that I do this using technology + low tech methods and/or my drawing skills.
Decide on what patterns to use and why (always the why, nothing is arbitrary).
Practice patterns on a separate sheet of paper in the appropriate colors until I know it will work.
Begin the base layer of paint, make changes to colors if something does not work according to plan.
Work on one color at a time. This is due to the type of paint I use and the properties of the paint.
Photograph frequently and check values using iPhone mono/black and white mode. Adjust colors as needed.
I sometimes wonder if I ought to be testing colors in Photoshop or illustrator first, but so far I use my years of color knowledge, but mostly my gut to make the choices.
The patterns come last, working on one shape and color at a time. Mindful to leave areas with no patterns.
Photograph frequently to check of the effect I am looking for is working. In the days before digital photography we used to squint to check work, use a mirror, view the work upside-down and other hilarious methods—to blur the edges and take the work in through a different visual lens. I still do much of this “testing.” Digital photography is a game changer adding yet another way to test what I am sharing visually.
I leave areas of flat paint, these are important to the message and the viewer eye fatigue. Flat areas also help compositionally.
Occasionally use Posca markers for very fine details in the patterned areas.
Photograph and look to see if any areas need additional pattern detail. Fix as needed.
Photograph again and check for completeness or worse, the over-worked art! Fix.
Complete the work only after a minimum of a 2 day “rest” — I literally turn the art around in my studio and start a new painting.
Finish the back—name, year, title, materials used, size, and any other details.
Finish the edges—typically a wood varnish to protect the wood from drying out or changing color.
Document the work in Artwork Archive and on my backup hard drive and website.
Write a blog about the work.
Add the work to select projects that are in the works.
This feels oh, so wonderful! Ten people believe in my work enough to pay me just a little (or a lot) every month to help me to keep creating and sharing my content.
Ten is a big number, 20 is my goal for 2020!
As an MFA trained artist and author I make work expressing ideas from deeply private personal inquiry. The series is Shhh, Say Nothing: An honest look at silenced voices is my newest work.
In this work, my fluid process of making, writing, vandalizing, creating, cutting, and repeated mark-making invites inquiry through whimsy and exacting detail. A tool kit of paint, drawing and writing implements, scissors or X-acto knives, adhesive, paper and other surfaces allows me to express the underappreciated and unnoticed labor of so many, especially women. Even more to the point, the systematic silencing of these voices.
As a Patreon artist I hope to broaden the conversation I have initiated with my newest body of work. I wish to travel and show the work as well as gather stories from other women and create a book of essays alongside my art. The book is already in process! Do you have a story to share?
And, I am sharing art, because well…. you know! You gotta see the work I do!
Hello! If you have reached this page, I welcome you with open arms and a heart full of love!
Art collectors and creative souls help the world to be a better place.
I kept a blog for 10 years from 2009-2019. All the writing can be found here along with links to older blogs I wrote and edited. Some of the older posts are missing images. Some (or many) posts have misspellings and older ideas. Everything is my work. My ideas. My thoughts. Whatever I felt I needed to share—I did. It’s all here, unedited.
To find old posts please use the search tool (up and to the left if you are on a laptop)—try any words or numbers you like! For example: interview, encaustic, painting, philosophy, sketchbook, 2015, museum, MFA, exhibit, and others… you never know what might pop up! 🙂 Sort of like a random search in a used book store, but this is all one author!
I have moved on. I am waiting for you…
To follow my artists journey and current studio updates, please join me on Patreon. Thank you for your patronage.
Have you ever wondered what goes on inside an artists studio or better yet, have you wondered where artists get their thoughts and ideas, how the research is conducted, and what decisions are made for the subsequent output?
I have decided to share as much of what I do and how I do it as possible. In fact, I have already been sharing my story on this blog for years. I have been giving away my time, ideas, and research energy in blog posts for 10 years now!
Ten years is a long time and a lot of blog posts (and videos). Over 550 posts on this website.
I am forever grateful to all of my devoted readers. Some of you are so devoted, that I could hug you! Do you feel my love? 😉
The time for change has come! I have found a platform online that allows me to cater to my audience (you) and also supports the work I do to make sharing my journey possible.
Maybe you are one of those people who gets really inspired creatively when you hear about the art I am making, sharing, selling, and exhibiting—and how I go about doing this. I am so glad!
Maybe I have taught you a thing or two. Cool! 😉
Maybe I have made you smile or think about something that without me dropping into your in-box, you would not have veered down that thought path…yippee!
I am sure you can tell (especially those of you who read every post) that I love to share what’s going on in my life and creative journey.
The thing is… blogging these days is not like years past. Having a steady and consistent presence on the internet is not free (it never was, but it has gotten more expensive). I am ready to go out on a limb. I need your help. I am searching for a two-way street. One where you get the information you have come to enjoy and trust, and one where I get paid to do the work I love. Are you with me?
There is a way for me to share blog posts, images, stories, video, have chat rooms, and more…
Patreon is a site where art lovers like you can support the work of creators you admire and artists who make work that matters—to you.
Let’s stop for a little video break! Just because! 🙂
OK, back to regular programming and the Ever Wonder… theme of today’s post. For many years now, especially when sales were slow or non-existent, I self-financed my art career (many artists do this). Did you ever wonder how I did and do the work I do? Of course, I am prepared to keep financing my own work if I have to, however the power of patrons, supporters, and fans—whatever you’d like to call YOU—would make a tremendous difference in what I could create and share.
Being a financial fan goes way beyond a dollar amount… way way beyond. You see, a single dollar or five thousand dollars a month tells me:
Suzanne, your work matters to me, you’ve touched my life, I have loved watching your career, I am excited for you, I want to be a part of your success, watching you has been an inspiration to me, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!
I am an artist. I share my vision of the world and what the world could be like with the ideas we imagine and discuss, together. Patreon can help us.
Two things happened that led me to the path of choosing to ask for patronage via Patreon.
Thing One—In 2011, my father asked me a question about my blogging. At the time I was writing 2 or more articles per week; including artist interviews with photographed, curated studio visits and researched essays. He asked me: “How do you get paid for all the work and hours you put into these articles? It is clear to me that you are not rushing through the writing, the research, and your ideas. What is your plan for income.” I could chalk this up to a “Dad comment,” but he had and has a good point. How DO creatives get paid?
Allow me to continue.
Thing Two—In 2016, a friend and collector told me that it was hard to follow and understand my work on social media and my blog because she wasn’t sure what I was focusing on (we met in 2012). She felt like even though she loved my work and cared about my success, she wondered why my projects were all over the place. Ouch! She, like my father, had really good insight for me!
When my Dad and a collector friend send me clear love and support, I listen.
It was really hard to hear this feedback and harder yet to change. You’ll notice the 8 and 3 year gaps until today in 2019! I’ll be honest, when I dug deep (the problem was hidden) I realized that I was scrambling to find and make that “thing” that would sell. I thought that shear hard work and constant blog and social media posting would be enough to get “found” and my work would fly out of my studio and off my gallery walls. I had some growing up to do.
I had to face facts. I was chasing the elusive carrot and the brass ring on the merry-go-round. Hoping for easy sales and growth of my fan base.
The chase is over… because I expect more integrity from myself and the work I make.
If I were to continue on the path I had created, not only would my work never improve, neither would my income or my reach. My passion for making visual statements through painting insisted that I find an alternative.
Ever Wonder… how I came to the conclusion that my integrity as an artist matters? I started with the idea of doing less. I had only one goal for 2019. Make better art.
If you have followed me this year, you have watched me make better art. I wish you could see the work in person, because I have made really solid work. Visually exciting from far away and even more interesting from up close! Plus a whole lot of research and craft going into the work.
Also, I still write blog articles and make video of my work. This can be shared via Patreon just as easily as it has been here on my website and in your email box.
Now back to Thing One and Thing Two.
Thing One, My Dad still reads my blog, and comments, and reminds me (along with my Mom) that I have been making and sharing the artists path since I was 6 years old. When he thinks I have forgotten my way he’ll say: “remember when…” and he’ll share yet another story of a time when I led our immediate and extended family through art projects that were my own, and I included them in the process. Wow, we sure have had fun throughout the years! And about my friend, Thing Two, hopefully the next time I see her, she will have a different nugget of savvy business feedback for me. And she will not be telling me that, “you are all over the place.”
So, dear reader, this blog post has been long and heartfelt. I have written to say:
Wonder no more, I am an artist, and I wish to share this journey with you.
This is my last blog post from my website (unless things change, as we all know they always do). To follow my journey, and to get inspired on yours—join me on Patreon.
Look for this button (it will be smaller). Click it to support this artist. Thanks!
PS. There will continue to be a tiny bit of free content on Patreon, to get your free content follow the link to Patreon and use the follow button instead of the green become a Patron button.
PSS. Did this post make you interested in my past forays of blogging? See how far I have come: Blogger 1, Blogger 2, Blogger 3. No comments! Haha, practice makes perfect!
This is a super short blog post. Perfect for people looking to connect directly with artists around the globe.
Foundwork is a new community online that showcases artists work. This is NOT a place to buy art. This is not a place for looking at random feeds of art and scrolling along. Foundwork IS a place to go for original art—searchable by artist Suzanne Gibbs), format (painting, collage, mixed media), attributes (abstract, figurative), location, and schools.
Find me on Foundwork here. Or you can stay here on my website.
PS. Wish me luck! I applied for a $10,000 grant from Foundwork. If I am chosen, this would be a game changer! What would I do? Rent a space and show my work! Make a catalog and solicit galleries and art agents! I will still do all of this, but of course money can make things happen faster.
For those of you following my journey, you’ll know that in late June I embarked on a personally created artist residency (typically artist residencies are about going somewhere else to make art in a new community, I reversed the idea and focused in from home-base).
I am pleased to report that I have nearly 20 paintings finished. I found so much joy while working 8 to 16 hour days painting, thinking about painting, preparing and finishing paintings, imagining the next painting, mixing colors, and having a photographer come to my studio to take professional images.
My world has swirled with flurried activity—then crashing into deep sleep late at night or even occasional mid-afternoon naps.
Now the time has come to venture out of my studio and bring the work to my community—you and others!
This new series began to take root last summer. I was re-purposing envelopes. Specifically, the inside patterns from security envelops to create art for Art-O-Mat. The more envelopes that I cut open and tore apart the more I began to think about the use and meaning of a product as banal as an envelope.
Security envelopes are taken for granted. They do their job of hiding critical information. The envelopes gave me entry to a question I have had locked inside of me for years. Are social norms that we all, and especially myself, take for granted working like security envelopes?
I questioned the function of the product—and by extension, my role in social norms. For me, my new series: “Shhh, Say Nothing” is about stories hidden inside ourselves.
The curiosity and confusion I feel is expressed through abstract portraits.
Below, is an image of one of the first collage pieces I made when I was in the development stage of this new body of work.
…but many women do. Anger at being treated unfairly. Anger at being asked to do the unthinkable. Anger for hurts that have gone unresolved. And more.
I don’t hold anger, but I do wish for systemic change.
I wish for our voices to be heard. I dream about—well, you know—a utopian world were all people are treated with equal respect, kindness, and compassion. Where we all feel hope, love, and a chance for joy.
A world without fear.
I know I am not alone. I know that while I work towards change with a quiet creative heart and personal mindfulness others are using anger as motivation and voice. There is a place for this anger. The shit is real. I allow for others to have that voice, the pain, the anger too. I urge you to read the article link above should you need to understand why women are mad and frustrated.
For each story I read I can think of a story of my own.
I have stories I have never shared and stories I have shared with only a precious few. Somehow, the gift of my creative voice has tempered my anger. My voice is quietly visual. Working my way through anger to joy—and from there I hold hope for change. At the very least, I hope for each of us to have a chance to share our stories.
While in graduate school I learned of the idea of “bearing witness.” Meaning, that by sharing our experiences and knowing that someone else knows of an injustice, a pain, a failing of our social systems, or any other traumatic experience—there is then a chance for healing and lessening of anger and hurt.
At the time, I was learning and listening as a student and the theoretical angles of what bearing witness means. Today, I am stepping towards the concept of being a person that does actually bear witness to other people’s stories as I connect the words of others to the images of my work.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” —Maya Angelou
My hope is to create a book of art with collected essays (stories) as told to me, or written for me.
Please, if you are interested in sharing your story, no matter how angry you feel, I am here. I will gladly welcome what you have to say with an open heart and my listening soul. Each of the paintings in my “Shhh, Say Nothing” Series requires a personal story. We can use full names, or first names only. Either way, we are bearing witness to your agony. Thus creating room for healing—which is truly a gift. Systemic change is a dream, the people along the way that share and affect other human lives, this is the utopian wish.