Whatever the subject matter or medium, however much time I have allotted to the piece, however big or small it is intended to be, the gesture is vital
Susie Wilson was born in North Walsham, a beautiful countryside village near Cambridge. Ever since she can remember, she has always felt a strong connection to art. Susie studied printmaking, typography, and illustration. This talented artist also founded her own successful Graphic Design business, Pommegraphis, and moved to the US in 1991.
Nowadays, Susie works in her studio in Santa Cruz, California. Susie’s favorite mediums are graphite, chalk pastel, charcoal, Conté, and oil, and her beautiful paintings can be found in private collections around the world. She paints and teaches traditional figure drawing with joy and passion: “The human form is endlessly fascinating and being aware of its energy and fluidity is the ultimate teacher of really seeing!”
In this Q&A, artist Susie Wilson shares with PoseSpace details about her aspirations as an artist, what life experiences influenced her work, and the importance of gesture drawing to her:
What are your goals or aspirations as an artist?
When putting into words what motivates and inspires me as an artist, the first thought is that part of me ‘belongs’ to my art. It is difficult to describe, but there seems to exist a core self that is fed and feeds me through drawing and immersing; it is a very humbling feeling to be part of an energy and source far greater than myself. To study the figure intensely and connect with its energy, to follow the lines and pathways, to explore connections throughout the form and around its edges, is blissful and emotional! Translating all these discoveries of a living, breathing, moving, fleeting moment, and to capture them honestly onto a flat canvas or piece of paper and be able to retain some of it’s essence feels like a responsibility and a privilege every time I do it, and the enthusiasm is never diminished.. This is perhaps the aspiration. My goal as an artist is more than this as it becomes important now to share everything this journey has taught me. To this end, I have spent quite considerable time teaching figure drawing in a very traditional style which emphasizes technique, anatomy and form.
How has your style changed over the years?
Much of my original ’style’ has stayed the same, just become much improved I hope! It is my ability to see and interpret that have changed really. Also I am braver and prepared to fail more easily than when I was younger. As my attachment to outcome has diminished, the end result is open and not contrived.
What is the importance of gesture drawing for you?
I was glad to see this question included! Gesture drawing is essential to me!! Whatever the subject matter or medium, however much time I have allotted to the piece, however big or small it is intended to be, the gesture is vital. As a teacher, I begin every class with a minimum of half an hour of gesture practice and even for a long study the first twenty minutes is dedicated to the gestural overview of the entire work. Working quickly and seeing everything at once forces us to let go of any detailed or analytical frame of mind; we simply do not have time for erasing and second guessing and a looseness prevails and an opening of our eyes! It is energizing and liberating!!
What life experiences have influenced your work?
I guess in a way all life experience becomes a part of the evolution of our art. I personally have moved many times, lived in several countries and met people from all walks of life. As a result I have been exposed to a great deal of art and many artists work and ideas. Perhaps the most influential aspect has been the fact that I worked as a graphic illustrator and some of the story-board and comic book artists I was lucky enough to meet most definitely broadened my understanding of color and anatomy. These years are when I truly discovered the importance of gesture.
What do you think of PoseSpace? Do you have a favorite model?
I was introduced to PoseSpace several years ago by one of my students who fell in love with figure drawing and couldn’t get enough of the practice from our live models. I was skeptical at first but once I checked it out for myself found that the 360 degree views of each pose provided a very satisfactory substitute which I went on to use regularly and still am using today. Favorite models would be Shandra and JenB, but there are others I have loved drawing for certain individual characteristics, like Stephanie who is a great portrait model.
Do you have a favorite living artist, whether famous or completely unknown?
There are far too many amazing artists to really have any be a favorite, but Andrew Wyeth and Alma Tadema are two of my most revered past artists and Nick Alm’s modern day watercolors literally take my breath away.
What is the most valuable lesson or advice you always give to your figure drawing students?
To enjoy the process more than the end result and not be too judgmental along the way. Also I emphasize that natural ability needs a LOT of practice to manifest and the journey is going to take a lifetime… so relax, enjoy and keep lots of notebooks handy!
Susie Wilson’s website: http://susiewilson.net/