Northern California, USA
Mediums: Acrylic/Mixed Media
Style: abstract expressionism
Favorite Quote: “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” – Lester Bangs from the movie ‘Almost Famous’
Favorite Books: Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Kite Runner, And The Mountains Echoed, Memoirs of a Geisha
Favorite Movies: Almost Famous, Once, Magnolia, Seven Years In Tibet, The Avengers
‘G.O.D. Genius On Dope’ Acrylic on Canvas; matted and framed
This piece is matted and framed and was my first piece sold. It was inspired by a couple of old friends of mine who put together a new band last year. We go back 30 years and just reconnected on Facebook recently. When they decided on a name for the band, I got inspired to create something from it and this is what came out of that inspiration.
What goes on my canvas has everything to do with the music that is playing at the time. Sometimes it's music that brings back memories from my youth, other times it is music that reminds me of my young adult days and the independence of being out on my own and taking on the world full throttle. And then there are times when I want something with some kick to it; a jazz beat with some fine piano playing, or other times, a smoother style with acoustic guitars and great bass & drum rhythms.
Please tell us about your first experience creating.
There was a certain innocence and freedom when I first started to paint. I didn’t care what the canvas looked like as much as I wanted to just get that paint on the canvas. I was rather conservative with the sizes of canvas I bought; I felt more comfortable painting on a smaller scale. I often miss that non-judgmental time when I first started painting. I’d like to get back to that again.
What music do you like to have playing while creating art?
As I mentioned earlier, it really depends on my mood. There are times when the music decides what I paint and there are times when the canvas decides what I want to listen to. Either way, I always, always have music playing.
‘What A View’ Acrylic on Canvas
Another piece that has multiple layers to it. There are 3 layers to this one and when I painted it, I was listening to some old music that reminded me of the house that I grew up in. It was out in the country and that is where the title comes from. This piece was sold at my first showing.
If you have a job besides being an artist, can you tell us about it?
I’ve always worked in admin and/or office management. I’m trying to limit my work days to 4 days per week so that I can focus more time on my art.
What are you trying to convey to viewers through your art?
I don’t know that I ever try to convey anything to a viewer other than hoping they get something out of the work emotionally. When I had my first show in March of 2013, it was the biggest high for me to hear people talking about what they saw when looking at my artwork. Everyone saw something different and it was so incredibly cool. That’s the wonderful thing about expressive abstract art; it’s up to the viewer to decide what the painting means to them. I don’t like to sign my work because of that. I don’t want to force someone to look at it in any perspective other than their own.
‘Orange Swirl’ Acrylic on Canvas
One of the few pieces I have done that got its title literally from what it looked like. This piece has 2 layers to it. It started out completely different and then I started seeing something in my head and decided it needed a new tone. I have to admit I think of those orange crème popsicles when I look at it.
Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion:
There are times when I have something in my mind about what I want to create, but for the most part, I just start painting. I’ll get a feel of the color combinations as I go along and just work from there. Often times, I go over my work at least twice. There have been pieces that have been ‘done’ for a few years and I’ll decide it’s not what I want from that piece anymore and I’ll go over it. I have artist friends and we joke about the fact that a painting is rarely ‘complete’ in our eyes. There’s always ‘one more thing’ you want to do with it.
What things inspire you to create art?
100% of the time, music. It is my inspiration for just about anything and everything in life. I grew up a music fan and it hasn’t gone away. A lot of times I work with headphones on so I can paint in my own little world. The impact of the music is genuine. Every piece I paint has been inspired by a melody, or a memory from a melody. You know how music has a way of taking you back to a specific memory? Well I’ll take that memory and throw it on the canvas. My titles tend to be metaphoric; they’ll come from a specific thought or memory. My husband sometimes asks me, ‘where did you get that Title? What does it mean?’ and I wink and tell him, ‘it means whatever you want it to mean; I don’t give away my secrets.’
‘Where Did We Go’, Mixed Media on Canvas
This piece was inspired by a song of the same title by a musician friend (Jon Levy) that I met on Google+. I have two pieces that I painted and was inspired by while listening to his CD. He is an Aussie who grew up and still lives in Japan. The tones and textures in this piece come from what I envision of his homeland and his personality.
What exhibitions have you had?
I had my very first show in March of 2013 at a local non-profit entertainment venue. The funny story about that (although it wasn’t thigh slapping funny at the time) is that I was scheduled 6 months prior to show my work at their box office. I had actually even worked part time at that box office so I was definitely familiar with the venue.
Not having any experience in hanging a show though, they offered me a volunteer who was also an artist. She was a life saver. We got the show hung up in a few hours and I had 34 pieces total hanging up in a venue where people came to purchase concert and theatre tickets, as well as walk through to see the artists that were showing their work. It was a great opportunity; however, 2 days after my show was hung, the Board of Directors decided to close the box office portion of this venue down. They allowed me to keep my work up for the month, but the doors would be closed. There would be a few instances where they’d open it up, but for the most part, my ‘show’ was being seen by no one.
The good news was they still let me have my Artist Reception towards the end of the show. I have an amazing group of friends and family and they came to the reception with full support. I ended up selling exactly half of my pieces that were hung. That was an incredible night! So at least there was a happy ending.
Have you sold any of your artworks? How?
Yes. I sold 17 pieces at my first show in March 2013. Since then, I’ve also sold a couple to friends and I’ve also sold prints on blank cards through Fine Art America.
How do you promote your art on the internet?
Through social media sites such as Fine Art America, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Linkedin.
Please recommend another artist you admire, and tell us a little about them:
There is an artist on Google+ whose work I deeply admire. She is insanely good. Her name is Abigail Markov. I believe she works in all types of mediums, but encaustic is one that comes to mind. She is an abstract artist who uses color and shapes in such a beautiful way. I love her work.
‘Two Came True’ Acrylic on Canvas
When I painted this piece, I just kept going until I said all I had to say. My husband insisted on hanging this one in his office.
Tell us something interesting in your life
I never took art classes other than one drawing class in an adult education setting at a community college back in the late 80’s, and I didn’t even finish that class. It was a summer school course and I was working full time and I had just met my now husband. I was too busy being googly-eyed over my new guy to pay attention to school. It wasn’t until 2006 that I decided I wanted to try painting. I’d always had a curiosity, but I’d never actually tried it. One day, I simply went online and looked up the best paint to use for beginners, what items I would need and drove to the local craft store. I took a free 2 hour painting ‘class’ through the store a few days later (which was actually reps from a company showing their new type of paint) and the rest is, as they say, history. I fell in love working with acrylic interactive paint and pairing colors together. People are sometimes surprised when they find out I started painting out of pure curiosity in my 40’s. Never say never to finding a new passion!
Do you have an embarrassing moment in your life?
Just one? (laughing) I don’t know that I can recall a recent specific moment. I try not to do anything that will make me embarrass myself anymore. (laughing) Maybe I need to change that!
If you could live your life over again, would there be anything you would do differently?
Well, I’m a true believer in everything happening as it’s supposed to, but I think if I had to change anything it would be to relax and enjoy more. I was always such a nervous and stressed out kid/young adult. You wish you could reach back and say, ‘hey, things aren’t as bad as you think they are. I promise.’
What plans do you have for the future of your art?
Hopefully to get more viewers and more fans of it. And I always want to grow as an artist. I love to learn from others. I’ve had a few people recommend that I use my poetry in my artwork. I’ve tried it a few times, but I haven’t quite gotten the right feel for it yet.
Do you have any good advice for emerging artists?
I consider myself an emerging artist myself so I guess I would just tell someone coming out to’ just do it.’ Don’t let fear get in your way. It’s scary because your art, whatever it is you do, is like a diary of yourself, so you are very protective of it. I had to decide to let go and share my work to family and friends, and then finally, to the world via social media as we know it. It was hard. I was a wreck at first. But now I love to show my work. I had to get over the ‘what if they don’t like it?’ phase, because not everyone is going to like everything and that’s OK.
Sue McElligott - An Artist Inspired By Music
Northern California, USA