Author Archives: Suzanne Gibbs

About Suzanne Gibbs

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.

Seeing is Not Looking, Until You Look Again

As I understand it, Irwin is an artist who mainly worked with light and it’s affects on the viewer. He actually wanted to paint a painting without making a mark or a line. He wanted to teach people how to “see.” He was constantly figuring out how to make what he made look like nothing and still something.

Imagine spending a lifetime attempting to figure out how to teach people to look deeply, notice, engage, and see… what would you make to do that? How would you help people to pay attention? What would you want people to pay attention to?

Artists make work to communicate.

A portrait artist wants people to see people (usually). A landscape artist is portraying the world, land…in some form. Irwin wanted to make people curious about what they were seeing.

I was able to see some of Irwin’s work, while studying for my MFA. What I saw defies description, because as soon as I move or blink or breathe what I would see would be different from the moment before. This is sort of like the breath of yoga during poses, no breath is ever the same. No moment in life can ever happen again. The moment exists, until it doesn’t.

Irwin began his career as a painter. He is described as a conceptual artist and yet I do not think he thinks of himself as a conceptual artist at all. What he wants is for people to figure out the figuring out of what it is they are looking at. The art world is full of art-speak and philosophical mambo jumbo—Irwin’s work moves beyond these explanations.

Conditional art, with a capital “C”, is what you might think conditional might mean—does art look and say the same thing in different situations, at different times, with different people’s eyes? Personally I wonder, isn’t all art conditional? For example, a piece of gum that I chewed and my dog peed on and the car ran over and that I then pick up and I place it in a gallery on a wall in a frame—can this be art? Sure. Is this true only if I say it is art? I don’t know. But can saying that a chewed-peed-smashed-piece of gum is art really make it art? What is art? Who says it’s art? I say it is, when I make this thing.

Conditional means there are NO answers only more questions.

Many times Irwin kept working during his career and made nothing of value. Nothing that he felt he could share with an audience. He literally worked so hard to figure out how to change people’s perception that he sometimes “painted” himself into “nothing.” He called it a corner, or devastatingly “the end of his career.” The end never came to pass, he is 92 years old now, because he kept being curious, kept asking questions, kept figuring out ways to show us what seeing can be. At times he was not able to produce work that helped people to see, but he kept at it, and at it.

Ya gotta admire this! The endless curiosity. This desire to help people to see while simultaneously questioning what they are seeing.

Art generally has a frame—you can walk around it, figure it out, there may be a literal frame, or you can study the artists intent. In Irwin’s world, art is all about seeing what you see… and then seeing what you see in a next moment… Each moment changing the last because when you see you learn something, even if you don’t know that you are. I cannot really say more, he is taking his lifetime to say what he needs to say and he is asking us to see, to notice, to pay attention.

We need this more than ever.

This philosophy of noticing, of seeing, of paying close attention—we need this right now as a country and as humanity works our way through COVID-19, global warming, racial injustice issues, human issues, political land mines, and more.

Thanks for reading. Please take the time to pause and see. There might be some extra meanings in what is is I am trying to say here. Think for yourself, make art. Be curious. Make good decisions. Namasté.

The Why

Here is the why behind my most recent Book and a Series of Paintings.

If you have already read the Shhh book would you be willing to send me a written review? Thanks! I will send you a sticker as a thank you!!!

Announcing, one month from today:

Defining My Version of Excellence

I work towards my version of excellence daily, but sometimes I haven’t taken enough time to realize the fun I have been having along the way.

This is what I know.

My version of excellence is softer and more to do with relationships—family, friends, and strangers that learn of me and from me through my work. Connection to others and to our planet/earth in quiet moments of contemplation and curiosity are a special unique gifts. A life well lived, for me, includes plenty of time for rest, writing, drawing, painting, and reading.

Today, I am publicly celebrating a beautiful accomplishment, even though typically I tend to resist celebrating my accomplishments. You see, I was taught that A grades, awards, and/or money are the things worth celebrating. So if I don’t reach the top, then the work doesn’t matter. Right? Only excellence counts! What? Who decides what excellence is? With a limited edition art book, the goal of excellence was never about the awards or money—the goal, the dream and vision, was about connection and growth.

I was, and still am, interested in what I could learn and what others could teach and share. I am curious as to how and if there can be change and evolution in how we value women’s experiences and voices. I am interested in building connections that can grow and nourish my future work.

Now I know. I know that I can celebrate.

There has not been an award, nor has there been a windfall of money from the first round of Shhh book sales. However, I am pleased to report that 50 Shhh books are out in the wild world being enjoyed by readers. Fifty out of a planned 100 limited edition copies are already circulating.

Only 50 more will ever be printed!

I will be doing my next book order in October (for a show I have in Los Angeles in November, more on that later). So, if you are “on the fence” or have thought about getting a copy, but you missed the first round, then please be sure to let me know that you are excited to have your copy.

I am creating an interest list. Please Please Please email me at: artist@suzannegibbs.com to have your name added. I will let you know as soon as I have ordered some more books!

You don’t want to miss out! 😉 Ahhh, true excellence! You, believing in me, thanks!

Okay! I am off now to have some fun. Also, I have had fun hearing from all the new readers of Shhh, thank you special people for helping me on my way to excellence. Namasté

Primary Purpose of Art

Primary purposes of art are to:

  • delight
  • question
  • confound
  • document
  • build community
  • question reality
  • offer hope
  • personal expression
  • imagining

What if art is combined with stories? What if these stories are then beautifully designed to share in the pages of a book with art accompaniments? I have done just this! A book called: Shhh.

Shhh: a collection of stories from women who have been silenced or who chose self-silencing.

Get your copy!

or, maybe you’d rather view a video of my latest sketchbook. Either way, thanks for stopping by!

Hook and Bait

I just wanted to write a blog with this title. I have no idea what I will say.

I saved this title in April 2016… with the words as written above. Today is the day to bring the title to life in your inbox. I am fishing for customers.

Might I hook you?

Maybe the IRS is sending you a refund check? Or maybe not, but you finally finished your taxes? Either way it is time for a treat!

The Shhh book will be ready to ship very soon and I want you to have a copy of it in your hands as soon as possible. They only way I can do that is if you choose to pre-order your copy. Link here. Pre-orders arrive with a gift—the bait! 🙂

Thanks for allowing me in your in-box each month.

I hope you are staying healthy and weathering the storm of transformations and changes that are happening all over the globe!

An Invitation

Enjoy viewing a studio visit video tour and also a sketchbook tour!

Also, a wee bit of vulnerable honesty here. Making art is my passion. Usually I experience a zen-like feeling while I paint. That’s the truth. The other part of the equation is that sharing my work in all sorts online formats is also work and quite time consuming. I love this! I want to share my work with others.

Now for the invitation, if you love what I share and the work I make, will you please consider a subscription membership to Patreon?

For as little as $1 per month you get all sorts of insiders content about my work, process, and thinking. The $25 and above membership levels now include a nifty mug, shipped right to you! Sip your morning beverage with my art. What could be better? 😉

PS. Coming soon. Pre-orders for my third book, The Shhh Book.

Working Collaboratively

As many of you are already aware, I have been working on my third book this year. This time, instead of working alone, I have been working collaboratively with others. Working in this way brings me so much pleasure. Plus the bonus of constant email and follow-up with a diverse and interesting array of women!

I never feel alone! Ever.

Collaborative work is extremely different from the work I do to make my paintings come alive—where I spend hours alone with brush, color, and wood surface listening to countless books on tape, Podcasts, talking on the phone, or streaming music via Spotify. Working collaboratively has also forced me to be very much more aware of how I organize my time and information—two things all small business owners must attend to.

Somehow the balance of the two different kinds of work—collaborative vs. solo—are just the perfect fit for me!

I got to this place of joy in my work by constantly working, trying new things, asking friends and fellow artists, and then even hiring help. A few years ago I went through some art business coaching, and my wise coach said to me:

I kinda think your happiness is—not making your fine art in the studio alone. I get the sense you need to work more collaboratively on everything. — Alyson B Stanfield

It’s great when someone can reflect back at you what you might already know about yourself, but are not quite paying attention to!

The Shhh Book mock-up. The book will be in publication sometime later this year.

I hear you Alyson! This year, even with the horrid pandemic in the background, I have been 100% in the zone, on top of my game, and thoroughly enjoying my work. When I look back at the most exciting times in my life, they have often been when I work in collaboration with others. I have loved every construction project I have worked on because there is a team of people to collaborate with. I love co-teaching and cooperative school projects. I love creative projects where everyone’s input makes for a better process, even if the end results are somewhat wonky.

While we continue to endure the pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home and soon to be go out, but slow and with different rules orders, I urge you to look at how you can work collaboratively even while social and physical distancing. Interaction with others makes for healthier living—even if we need to use Zoom.

Stay well friends. I can’t wait to bring you more news of The Shhh Book. I am so close, and yet as we know birthing a project is a ton of hard work right at the end!

If you’d like to receive more frequent updates from me, and insiders Studio Visits, please consider joining me on Patreon. Patreon works sort of like a subscription to a favorite magazine, with perks.

Daily Writing—Ink and Paper

I use a Mead Recycled paper notebook that I buy in bulk from Amazon for my daily morning writing. Heaven forbid I run out, or the product gets discontinued, I’d be devastated!  In 2019 I filled 11 notebooks—almost one per month.

While doing daily writing I also emptied 3 BIC pens! You cannot imagine the thrill I get when I run out of ink! I love BIC because I can see the inside tube of ink. 😉

In fact I have published 2 IGTV films of the momentous occasion of ink running out!!! LOL Links below.

Empty ink One.

Empty Ink Two.

I also ran out of ink this morning recording the vivid dreams I had during the night. I was so busy writing that I was unable to capture the ink running out!

Writing helps me to develop my ideas so they and I feel more grounded, I literally develop roots, and sprout—nothing helps me to feel more me than my morning writing and daily painting. Join me on Patreon to learn more about the work I make and share.

Simplify to find calmness.

Hello. I really hope that you are healthy and coping with our new global reality. Times are _________________ (I graciously allow you to fill in the blank with your own word or expletive!). Ok, now that you have gotten this off your chest, let me ask you, what does it mean to you to simplify ones life? Is simplifying to find calmness even possible under our current circumstances? Maybe. Let’s explore.

In its most basic form to simplify means to make things easier. Certainly to live easier is a worthwhile practice and for piece-of-mind these days. But how do we arrive at a simplification of daily life? Especially when everything about life is not the same as it was a few weeks ago.

As a creative, and someone that has spent hours upon hours alone making work, I have a few ideas about simplification and remaining calm. Because, you see, to get to the core of my voice creatively I need to clear away extraneous noise and ideas. My work needs to be simply my own in order to be most truthful and honest. I am compelled to attempt to share with you the importance of moving our mindset to simple moments as well as living with more simplicity to invite a calmer mind.

I will start with the idea of a single weed. One weed. What does it take to remove one weed from the ground? Let’s get down and dirty. Following is a basic narrative of how to pull a single weed in the yard and how we can seek simplicity in a single weed. Let’s begin. I go outside and walk into the yard. I see the weed. The one among many that must be pulled, right now. I bend down, I grab the sucker as close to the dirt as possible, allowing the dirt to gather in my fingernails as needed. I’ll squeeze on that special spot on the plant between the weed that is showing above ground and the roots of the weed that hold it in place underground. Once my fingers find that sweet spot and I am sure I have a firm grip, I pull. As the weed begins to release from the soil, I may reposition my fingers a little lower on the root to get more traction. Then I pull with a bit more force while also making sure to wiggle my arm just so… so that the whole root pulls loose from the dirt, thereby not leaving room for the darn ting to regrow in the same spot from a small root part that remains under the soil. For the duration of time it takes to perfectly pull one weed my mind is fully occupied on the task at hand. There is no room for noise, because if I do then a few things may happen. I find myself holding leaves and not the whole weed, or there are prickers in my skin from the plant that are now hurting the tips of my fingers, or I hear the pop of the root breaking underground and now I know that this root will soon grow back stronger. One moment. All we need to do these days is live in one moment at a time pulling our own internal and external weeds. We can only do our best. If the last moment was not our best, we have the next moment to try again. When we live totally and completely in the moment life is at its simplest.

I have 2 things to share to allow you to expand upon this idea of simplifying.

First, an article that I found at least 2 years ago (and forgot to share with you, but I am now) that seems even more pertinent today, centered around the idea of simplifying one’s life. A link to the article is here.

Secondly, I am sharing a coloring book page. My thought is this, I have art from a few years ago that I can share, and I am happy to give you a gift for allowing me to be in your email box every month.

If you would like to get a coloring book page more often then please join me on Patreon. Every Sunday I will share a new coloring book page—fun for adults and appropriate for kids. Coloring is a proven way to relax ones mind and find a calmer existence. We all need calm right now. Coloring is simple, just you the paper and crayons, marker, or colored pencils.

What’s your wish & what is the obstacle?

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?

Suzanne Gibbs, ©2019, Marching Orders, painting on wood with mixed media collage, 48 x 24 inches. $3600

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.