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It’s almost as if Susan Skuse’s artwork sings. Not only does she veer towards depictions of birds, but her eye for colour and pattern bursts forth from the canvas as a cacophony of visual tunes that enchant the eye, just as a song might enrapture the ear.
When asked to describe her style, Susan explains she is always searching for harmonies that sing. Her style is a collection of various things that she loves, she says. First comes colour. These might be vibrant or more subtle, just as long as they sing harmoniously as a collection on the canvas. Then come patterns inspired by different periods of time and cultures that help to convey symbolism and mood. Last, the nature-inspired wildlife depictions, often birds, enhance the canvas with their realistic representations.
Susan began her career by studying fine arts while living in Alice Springs, followed by carving her way through clothing design, visual arts and philosophy studies before winding up working in advertising for many years. “If art is an industry, and if I’m ‘in’ it,” “then like other creative endeavours, I’ve gotten in by repeatedly turning up and knocking on the door,” she explains of her journey.
Being an artist takes stamina and working in a creative industry takes years of dedication. Susan calls it a gradual metamorphosis. “When people ask, what do you do? And you answer, ‘I’m an artist’, it takes a lot of guts to say that. Along the way I have received tuition and encouragement from many fine artists. Strangely, I think the study of philosophy was just as important as the visual arts degree.”
Such dedication has its pay-offs. For starters, aligning yourself full time with your passion is a hugely rewarding position to be in. But for Susan, as an artist one of the greatest joys is slipping into the painting zone, as she calls it, where hours just melt away. “We are not only permitted, but required to look really hard at the world around us,” she explains, “and that is a great benefit.”
Susan paints with a combination of mediums. She uses diluted lithographic ink, acrylic or oil colour for an initial poured paint layer, then tops up with an aerosol or airbrushed layer using stencils and masks to build up a multi layered image. Susan always paints her final detailed birds in oil. “I love the ‘chanciness’ of the way I work,” she reveals, “the little accidents that happen.” Producing any form of art is an exploration of sorts, one where the creator must be impressionable along the way, flexible and able to take a chance in one’s stride. Susan embraces this wholeheartedly in her work, which enables her to produce pieces inspired by her history, culture and, of course, the natural world.