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.
While I work on my work I also find myself helping other artists.
I love this work. To help fellow artists with the work of deepening their personal visual voice and message—such joy. This seems to come naturally to me, especially when I visit artists in person in their studio space.
But… seeing my own work with an objective eye has been ever so much more difficult!
I’ll keep working on being more me, I know it will be worth it in the end!
I also adore talking to artists about getting unstuck when their work begins to feel stale or uninteresting. I could talk about studio habits for a long time. I have all sorts of ideas for encouraging the nagging inner voice that wants to squash ideas. Allowing the personal voice to emerge, when our earthly existence wants to resist, is the work of a creative.
Resistance is real, folks!
Resistance can derail a great project before it even gets a grip, roots, or a body. Resistance can leave a seed of an idea bereft and dead. Steven Pressfield calls this work the war, the battle, that thing that needs to be wrung or beaten into submission.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be kinder and gentler to myself.
For me kindness = asking questions and remaining curious.
My curiosity has led me down many wonderful paths. I’ve written books, produced art and drawings, and worked as a graphic designer. My kindness and refusal to go to battle with my creativity has made my work better. I appreciate the gentle generosity in myself that has led me to wonderful relationships and a sweet life.
My visual voice is emerging from me with continued practice, not fight.
I can attest to the fact that as a human I am more and more content these days with who I am and where my art belongs. The space I take physically, emotionally, and spiritually in the world seems just right.
I practice self care along with studio practice, do you?
This year marks the 10th year since I began blogging about my art. At a decade — I thought why not reevaluate and reinvigorate?
A tiny bit of history. In 2016 I stopped automatically sharing my blog content to email subscribers. Life got in the way of regular posting. Then, in 2018, I began a regular monthly newsletter that contained links to my blog.
Since I am always excited to share new work and because I miss the immediacy of blogging and people commenting I have decided to breathe new life into my blog.
In case you’re curious, my beginner blogs can be seen here, here, and here. My current blog (this one) can be found here.
On the current blog, you’ll see images of my work, video, and progress in the studio… all my art processes, specifically, drawings, paintings, and books. Same as always, but I like to think my work is a bit more polished—with a decade of practice under my belt.
My hope is that my trusted readers will enjoy this journey of watching me dive into projects while I continue to further develop my visual voice.
This blog post is to let you know that you can now view my blog in your in-box almost as fast as I am writing them!
For those of you who have followed my work you’ll have already noticed that I have been drawing whimsical characters for a long time. Mostly, these drawings have remained in my sketchbooks, for years. They have also landed on any paper surface that happens to be under my pen and even on sidewalks with chalk when my children were small. This effort is what I call doodle characters under development.
Repetition and focused effort is the key to improvement.
To see a few of my past character drawings go here. Recently, I’ve been told that these characters need to lose the name: Doodle.
Doodling has the connotation of being scribbled absentminded work.
I do not fully agree with this definition for my work. Because of this I am forced to reconsider the meaning of my doodle characters and my continued use of the word doodle. Through making the characters I give them life. Once they exist, they have a visual voice.
The voice I wish for them to portray is to invite curiosity through whimsy. The characters are non-judgemental, full of life, emotional, and as much as possible I make them while being very present in the present moment. They may at first appear childish—but always contain deeper adult meanings.
I am wildly excited to share this new/old work in new ways! Especially since I have mentally re-framed what my doodle work has meant to me over the years.
While I make them and redraw them and paint them and collage them I think about how I will share their voice—which is ultimately, my voice. I have considered making t-shirts, cards, patterns, and yes, even fine art with them in the central role. All these avenues for showing the work can and will happen in the future. Still, I wonder, how will I complete the loop of the conversation that my art can and does ask for if viewers do not have access to the work in real life, right now?
This blog post is to let you know that you can view these characters almost as fast as I am making them!
Join my blog using the form above. Each time I post a new drawing, video of my sketchbooks, or studio progress images, you’ll automatically see the work in your email box. Never more than 3 per week, I promise. I need time to make the work too!
Since I spend a lot of time thinking about Visual Voice + Studio Habits I naturally also begin to wonder about an artist’s way of working, specifically tables.
Let me start by acknowledging that there are very likely as many ways to work as there are artists in the world. The purpose of this post is not to expound upon ALL the possible ways of working!
I do want to take a look at work tables.
In my mind, there are 3 types of tables that are non-negotiable, then another list of tables that “come in handy” in an artists work space.
First, the top 3
Let’s take a look at these tables in more detail. First the digital table.
Let’s face it, today’s artists spend time on a computer. A lot of us spend as much as 50% of our time on administrative stuff, most of which is work done digitally. There is also digitally made art, digital art records, and more. A dedicated digital desk is paramount to success. Below is a screen shot of my screen creating this post!
What I find interesting about this table is that the work can be done almost anywhere, sometimes without even having a physical table. I have been known to write a months worth of Social Media postings while sitting on a comfortable living room chair.
Some artists may prefer bringing their laptop to a local cafe. As I mentioned already, there are as many ways to work as there are artists. What we know is that a digital desk is essential.
Second, we have the analogue table.
For me, an analogue table is non-negotiable. I need a place to gather ideas through drawing and to mess around with my preferred supplies. My analogue desk is a huge 8 x 3 foot standing work table. I’d be lost without it!
I love to work with collage on paper. My art includes painting, drawing, and of course, use glue! The eight foot table is just barely enough space to accommodate my method of production and art process because I almost never work on just one piece of work at a time.
A second version of an analogue desk that I use frequently is a table at a cafe or restaurant with either my sketchbook or my journal at hand.
I love to draw in public. And yes, even though I love to draw in public I get stage fright every time. However, to show up in public to draw keeps my drawing skills sharp and allows others to see me working. As an artist who lives and works alone most days, these drawing field trips are an excellent extension to my studio practice. Drawing in public is something I do not do often enough because I seem to get stuck in my studio routines! Still, drawing in public is an important part of my studio habits.
An analogue desk with a sketchbook is a great place to work.
Then, there are my journals. I write in a journal every single day! Usually, my writing happens before the sun wakes up! I keep so many notes in my journals that sometimes I simply need to sit down and sort through the pages to make sure I have not missed something that I feel needs follow through. Some of the ideas need the trash bin, but I leave the work to linger in the journal anyway.
Being away from the studio or my digital desk allows new perspective on my previously written thoughts. Also, I can of course, write out more ideas and sort through things that are not working in life, or in the studio. Therefore, I build into my schedule a once a quarter analogue review session of my journal pages. A typical review session can take as many as 4 hours!
If my brain or work feels clogged, I may schedule an additional spontaneous review sessions. I can recall a few sessions where I went to a park table and sat outside to work on my creative life instead of in a cafe or restaurant. The point is always to move out of habits that are not working to shake new ideas into a workable project.
The third type of desk is the research table.
The word research desk will often conjure up a library setting. And yes, libraries are one great place to begin to do research. However, sometimes research comes in the form of field trips, conversations with others, reading books, reading magazines or newspapers, and also looking through previously made art. Any and all art practices require some research at some point, either qualitative or quantitative.
A place to conduct research is a part of a working artists practice.
I have noticed that in photos of famous artists and in the studios of the many artists I have visited, nearly all have a research desk or as seems to be more often, a research chair. This is a place where a painter, for example, sits and contemplates their work. A painter might sit and rests their eyes—blur their work into submission, looking and researching the thought, what comes next or what was the point of that move I made?
My research desk is sometimes a place to sit and look back through my old work or even newer work and let the work “talk to me.” I cannot move forward until I know what the work was made for in the first place. Since I work spontaneously and instinctively I do not always know what my work says visually.
When I take this research table work seriously, the work will often show me what I need to know to move my ideas further along.
There are so many other types of tables that are helpful in crafting the creative life. I’ll list them for you, but these other tables are not as essential as the top three listed above. The others are:
Personal table—home, kids, family and a place to eat
Finance—this table might be more of a file cabinet or a visit to an accountant or money manager
Taboret—a fancy word for paint mixing table, or a dolly type table that can be wheeled around the studio keeping supplies handy
Mailing and shipping table—an important table for artists who primarily sell work online or who need to frequently ship work to galleries or shows.
Feeds-the-fire table—I think of this as sort of like the junk drawer in the kitchen, so many artists have a messy table full of items that for one reason or another inspire their work.
I personally have a feeds-the-fire box, not a table. My box is an 8 x 7 x 3 inch box full of random toy-like objects that when all else fails, I open this treasure box and draw an item from the box or just play with the toys and then put them back and close the lid. Ooops! My private playpen is no longer private! 😉
I wonder if anyone will ask to see my special feeds-the-fire box after reading this post.
Five years ago, in 2014 I had a month-long art sale. I called it March Madness. Nearly 100 pieces of my work went all over the USA—including Alaska and the east coast. This was the year post-graduate school and I have tons of art needing homes. Gratefully, many people where excited to own the work.
Four years ago, in 2015 I made postcards for 30 people in 30 days in March.
Three years ago, in 2016 I did the postcards gig a second time, and generated many more takers than the first year. 45 original art cards made and mailed.
Two years ago, in 2017 I was working for another artist making huge sculptures out of marine debris in an artists residency that lasted a year instead of a month.
Last year, in 2018 I published my second book at the end of February and shipped all the copies I printed in March.
What will March 2019 bring? I am totally unsure! There will be a March Madness game to watch on TV, and as always, I will be making more art.
I am once again showing the pages and the thinking behind keeping a daily sketchbook. The following pages encompass December 2018, January 2019 and a bit of February 2019 sketchbook. I always like a laugh, hear me know—it’s a page turner!
Honestly, if I could help one other person to enjoy the journey of personal sketching and journal pages, I’d be happy! Comment if I have made a difference for your thinking about sketchbook keeping after you have watched the video.
Once in a while the pages of my sketchbook land me a commission fine art sale. This sketchbook was instrumental in one of these types of relationships. I took an idea from the pages of my sketchbook and remade the art on fine art watercolor paper. I am grateful for the work and most especially the ability to bring joy to a client!
While my goal for my sketchbooks are not sales, when I do get a sale from the effort the extra bonus is sweet and keeps me motivated to keep on learning through an exploration of ideas, materials, and musings. I keep the work purposefully playful and messy! The joy is in the making.
My Walking While Musing videos have temporarily or forever ended, because they served their purpose. Now it is time for me to move on. I made them while I was in a state of transition. My studio space at the time was a 2 x 4 foot table that was also where I ate, wrote, and did anything else that required a table. I lived in a space of 11 x 12 feet with a bathroom.
The musings were a form of artistic expression, but also a form of redirecting my visual voice.
I’ve had viewers, fans, and readers asking me: What’s up with these musings?
I’d rather entice you to watch, but, well… instead, now is the time to explain.
I made my Walking While Musing video episodes for three reasons.
My weekly hikes feed my body, mind, and spirit giving me the energy and stamina to create art. I do not exactly get “inspired” by my nature walks, but the time spent outdoors makes me feel better both physically and emotionally.
While I am in nature, I pay close attention to detail. In nature I see all her flaws and imperfections as absolutely right and perfect. A broken tree is flawless. A cloudy sky will not last forever. Soggy ground is muddled. This translates into my work. I am not a precise painter. Spontaneity, mishaps, and even mistakes make me happy.
The musings in nature also serve a bigger purpose, my studio time often follows the walks. Going forward, instead of taking you outside on my walks, am excited to figure out a way to invite you into my studio world and process.
Stay turned, for a look inside the world of my imagination inside my new tiny studio.
Accepting commissions for personalized watercolor grid paintings. Let’s get the conversation started here.
This post is the first peek of what it has taken me to realize the dream of a dedicated place to make art and honor my creativity skills.
We live on a small lot. We also live in a very small house (under 900 square feet). Space is so limited and precisely defined that building a tiny studio, on wheels, seemed to be the best solution for me to have a dedicated place to work.
Last year I went about searching for a work unit that would suit my needs and my dreams. I dedicated two Pinterest boards to my ideas. First, a board for mobile business units, and second a studio setup dreams board.
The dream boards helped me to focus on prioritizing my needs.
I had a list of furniture I already owned, and a list of how I would like the space to function. Every inch counts in a tiny space!
I considered purchasing a used Airstream to gut out to be a work space. I then looked at buying a used tiny house that I then re-tool and remove what I didn’t need to make room for what I did need. In the end, I hired a contractor in a different part of the state to build a tiny studio on wheels for me, from scratch.
My tiny studio was being brought to life miles away, in a different city. A licensed contractor not only built the unit, he also delivered upon completion. I do not own a truck or vehicle appropriate to haul the unit! The communication we had was via phone, texting, and email. Some things went really well, other times, communication or details fell apart.
I do have a space to work. However, the process was not without problems. Many problems. I might have done things differently if I knew then what I know now, but isn’t this the truth in any project worth undertaking? I am happy to share the first few images sent to me from the contractor!
The walls of my tiny art studio went up.
I didn’t notice, at this stage, that the roof was sloped in the wrong direction. I was completely overjoyed to simply see progress being made and for my dream to come to life! Soon, I’d have a dedicated place to work that was all my own, not rented and if I had to move, I could!
More on this adventure to follow!