Artist Suzanne's keeping busy during lockdown
For this week’s profile, we turn to art. Suzanne Williams is a visual artist, who lives and works in Barnard Castle. In 2014 she graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from the University of Sunderland. Her current practice features a collection of mixed media works, with compositions ranging from the figurative to the abstract. She runs arts workshops for a variety of client groups, has completed commissions, is an active member of a number of artist collectives and has exhibited at venues across the North East.
How did you get started as an artist and what is your medium?
I’ve always loved to have a go at drawing and painting and experiencing art at galleries, museums etc. I’ve been to a wide range of art classes over the years, picking up many different skills and techniques. Art wasn’t a serious occupation until I completed a fine art BA (Hons) at the University of Sunderland, graduating in 2014. I shared the whole experience with my friend and fellow artist Margaret Rhodes. It was quite a long journey overall, as we completed the degree on a part time basis over six years.
Painting is my primary medium but I like to consider myself a mixed media visual artist, as I am always expanding my artistic repertoire to include a whole range of media. These include sculpture, drawing, digital photography, digital drawing/painting and collage. Sometimes my artwork can be a mixture of some or all these different media – truly mixed media.
What inspires your art and which other artists have influenced your artwork?
I get inspiration for my artwork from all kind of sources – what’s around me, colours/shapes/textures, everyday situations I encounter, from going on walks, travel, being with family and friends, research using books and the internet (especially when I have a particular brief given for an exhibition or project), and visiting exhibitions and festivals (the Venice Biennale is a great experience).
I’ve been influenced by many artists – professional, semi-professional and amateur; old masters and contemporary artists along with art teachers/tutors, including Paula Rego, particularly her works in pastels; Cornelia Parker – for her large scale installations and suspended sculptures; Paul Cezanne – landscapes for colour and impressionistic paint mark making; Yayoi Kusama, for her use of colour, shape and sense of fun; and Soraya French – mixed media ideas from her book Expressive Painting in Mixed Media.
What is your favourite style?
Again I will have to go for a mixture of styles which I often scrape together – impressionism, post impressionism, expressionism, abstract expressionism, classicism, pop art, land/earth art.
The dale has a wealth of artistic talent. What do your attribute this to?
I was born and spent my childhood and teenage years in Surrey, lived in Oxford and Otley, West Yorkshire, before moving to Barnard Castle where I have lived for over 27 years.
The location and community are slightly on the edge of the contemporary art world but arty folk who have grown up in the dale or moved here really appreciate having the space to grow artistically amidst a wealth of beautiful vistas and interesting landmarks.
What is your favourite work and why?
I don’t really have a favourite artwork. I find it hard to single out one piece. Although a satisfying finished composition is important to me I have come to realise my favourite part of artwork is the actual making of it. I was pleased with my recent series of mixed media collaged paintings of Flatts Woods Bluebells and the seascapes I made of Horden Beach.
Do you have a special place where you create your work?
Yes – I’m very lucky to have a Hodgson’s superior workshop in my back garden all kitted out. It means I have quick access to my workplace.
Apart from art, what are your other interests?
I love walking, cooking, baking, watching films, having holidays and breaks away, gardening, listening to all types of music, trying to play my treble recorder, reading, playing board games – Boggle is a favourite – jigsaws, chatting, volunteering with Durham Wildlife Trust, at Teesdale School art department and at The Hub.
Do you have a favourite piece of art from another artist and can you explain what draws you to it?
One of my favourite pieces of art is The Dark Pool, by Dame Laura Knight. I love seascapes and the tones, light and impressionistic painting style are just fabulous.
How are you keeping yourself busy while the country is under lockdown?
I am doing lots of outdoor jobs in the garden and going for a daily walk. I’m working on about ten canvases making mixed media collaged paintings inspired by the geology found on and around Embleton Beach, Northumberland. This is for a future planned group exhibition with a scientific theme at Locomotion, Shildon, now postponed probably until summer 2021.
The art group I’m working with for this project is Interface Arts Durham. As a member of this group I’m joining in a project to create postcards to send to my fellow artists and other people in isolation during this time of virus lockdown.
For anyone who hasn’t seen your artwork, is there anywhere currently they can view it?
I have a blog I use as a simple website suzanne williamsart.blogspot.com/
At the moment I’m putting a step by step photos of how I’m making my Embleton Beach paintings.
I’m on Network Artists North East website www. networkartists.org.uk/ and also www.interfacearts durhamuk.com/
In the future I might be interested in setting up an inclusive art group locally to focus on promoting and sustaining good mental health. In the past I worked as an occupational therapist so have experience of group work. Also, for the past five years I worked as a sessional artist one day a week at The Art Studio, Sunderland, whose members had mental health issues. Unfortunately, the Studio had to close recently as it lost its sources of funding.