This month Claire gets to interview the fascinating Susan Allen; we get to find out about Susan's background, why she loves to paint so much and the artists she is inspired by. I first met Susan a couple of years ago at a Christmas Fayre held at Create 98, we chatted for ages about her work and shared our love of art. At the time, I was struck by Susan's ability to approach any subject and master it with apparent ease. Recently, Susan posted a painting on Instagram of a little girl chasing seagulls on a beach (pictured above). The painting, entitled 'Woosh', immediately took me back to my childhood and I felt a surge of emotion as memories came flooding back of holidays gone by. When art stops you in your tracks like that, something magical must be going on..... What is your background and what brought you to the UK? I was born in Canada and grew up in Vancouver. After high school, I completed two years towards my Batchelor of Fine Art and then went on to study Fine Art for four years at Ontario College of Art. This included all the traditional arts (drawing, painting and printmaking ). My third year at Art College was spent in Florence, Italy. My time was spent drawing and painting in a studio off Piazza Santa Croce and living in a villa on the outskirts of the city. It was an amazing experience. I met my husband while visiting my grandmother in Leigh-on-Sea (25 Olive Avenue to be exact) in 1980. Nine years later, in 1989, I moved to here to be with him and start a family. Your work is quite varied with both landscape and figure work, abstract and realistic styles, do you have a favourite subject and style? I don’t think there is a division between abstraction and realism - it’s all line, colour and composition. Every style/subject feeds the others and pushes me forward as an artist. The landscapes are a culmination of sound drawing and gesture (the result of many hours of figure drawing and painting), and colour and composition (that evolve from experimenting with abstraction). I see drawing and painting as both an intellectual and emotional experience. In order to grow artistically, I need to challenge all aspects of my artistic explorations. The landscapes and figurative works are my favourite. The landscapes reflect my love of beautiful Leigh-on-Sea and the UK. In these paintings, I can interpret my environment and share what I see trying to reflect my positive attitude towards life. Who are your favourite artists and why? This is an easy one to answer. I love the work of Diebenkorn, Turner and Matisse. Diebenkorn is my favourite as he created strong compositions with simplified forms and a modern sense of colour. He was an American figurative and semi abstract landscape painter during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Turner is the master of drama. I love his brushwork and use of light to lead you through his compositions. Matisse’s use of colour and pattern is magical, so bright and positive. I also enjoy looking at contemporary painters to see how they are interpreting life, especially modern figurative artists such as Doron Langberg. How do you structure your time in the studio? I paint every morning and teach in the afternoon and then do some drawing and planning in the evening. My days revolve around art. I am an early riser (up at 6am, painting by 8am) to take advantage of longer days and better light. I’ll paint until noon, with breaks and then have lunch. After lunch, I’ll teach online then make dinner and tidy up. Sometimes I’ll join an online life drawing group for a couple of hours. I run a life drawing group at Leigh Community Centre on Friday evenings once a month. During lockdown, this is what I missed most! Could you imagine your life without art? I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I love art. I get such a buzz from discovering new colour combinations, watching an image come alive on a blank canvas or experimenting with brushes and palette knives. When I paint I feel at total peace. This internal space is beautiful and calm and powerful.
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