For the month of August the Westchase Artist of the Month is Susan Whitaker. A new member to the club in 2011, Susan passed the "initiation" participating in our Summer Showcase at Great Art and Frame. So without further delay, here's Susan's interview:
Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Susan: I've been married to my husband, Mike, for 27 years; and we have three grown children. Always creative and artistic, I majored in Business to develop my "practical" side. In 2007, after 26 years in the insurance field, I retired to take care of my mother. Also, my husband recruited me to work part-time in his business, where my job is to make up custom stains and tinted lacquers that we sell to cabinet makers and furniture refinishers. Florida has been my home for the last 34 years. It's the perfect place for an artist to settle! Although I enjoy many different hobbies, including sewing, gardening, reading, music and motorcycling, my favorite pursuit has always been art. I mostly enjoy working with pencils, watercolors and oils.
Question: What first made you want to become an artist?
Susan: Actually I've been an artist my entire life. As a child, I entered and occassionally won school or community art contests. I drew my own paper dolls and all of their clothing and sent them to my cousins. I wrote and illustrated my own magazines and family newspaper. Using pencils or pastels, I drew everything from a buxom Jayne Mansfield to scragly wind blasted-trees. Art took a back seat during my career and child-raising years, but I took some lessons in watercolors and oils, and started painting a little during that time. I've illustrated women's club, community, and company newsletters, and designed T-shirts for family reuinions. Now I'd like to ramp it up and develop my painting style. That's why I joined the Westchase Artists Society - not only to learn from others and fine tune my craft, but also to acquire the discipline to apply myself to it.
Question: Describe your creative process.
Susan: I take lots of photographs, and in my head there is a storehouse of ideas for subjects and treatments. I learn from books and other artists' techniques and tips. I set aside an entire morning or afternoon create. Before starting a painting, I feel joy, excitement, and anticipation.
Before the painting is finished and in between painting sessions, I "visit" my painting until I see areas that need correcting or enhancing. I also look at the painting in a mirror, which immediately highlights erros in balacne and perspective. I stop when I'm as satisfied as I'll ever be with the painting. I also know when to just throw it out and start over. Even disappointments are exciting, because of what I learn in the process.
Question: Favorite books, movies, website, groups...
Susan: All of Jane Austen's masterpieces; I admire her wit and use of irony. Legal and courtroom thrillers by John Grisham, Steve Martini, and Scott Turow. Detective novels by Agathy Christie and Sue Grafton. Books about Florida, like the works of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Carl Hiaasen, adn of course, The Everglades, River of Grass, by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. Movies: Mostly drama: Dr. Zhivago, Gone With the Wind, (Oh yes, I loved that book, too!) Just starting to introduce myself to opera. I get DVD's of opera productions from Netflix or the library - so far my favorite is Carmen but I love Madama Butterfly. I don't like staring at a computer screen, but I do try to keep up with the Westchase Artists and Cigar City HOG websites.
Question: In ten years I'd like to be...
Susan: Spending many more hours painting, with a website. Puttering in a fully grown garden. Cooking out with family and friends on a large deck. Relxing with my husband near the white dunes and sea oats at Siesta Key, walking barefoot in the sand and surf, breathing in the salt air, picking up seashells, and watching the sun set.