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"Passages" As An Artist

by Susan Blackwood on 9/27/2016 9:55:32 AM

This post is by guest author Susan Blackwood, This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 46,000 subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.




At the Window of Life by Susan Blackwood   27x17 Watercolor


Just like little children, artist's skills, styles and tastes grow and change through the years. As we find out more and more about the art world, we typically explore the many possibilities. AND I REALLY HAVE DONE THIS! I tried everything from macrame to jewelry, to enameling, pottery, pen and ink, drawing, painting and bronze sculpture.  


Then in 1972, a wise and dear friend commented, “Susan, you are good at all of these things, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you became an expert in one medium.” At first, I was shocked! 


“No!” I exclaimed! “I love them all!” However the more I thought about it, the more it made sense....So, I picked the one medium that could hold my interest and challenge me for many years.  I became a professional watercolor artist, exhibiting in shows and galleries. At first I was painting animals and Native Americans. Little by little my subject matter expanded, so did my style.


Turn Around and He's Grown by Susan Blackwood 


I stayed with watercolors for 32 years, after all, watercolors was one medium that was darn hard to conquer. In 2003, I took up the self imposed challenge and inspiration of Oil painting. 


Starting a new medium was awkward and frustrating. "Why am I doing this?" I thought over and over as I struggled to mix the right color.


Among the Shadows by Susan Blackwood  24 x 36 oil


But, little by little my struggles got fewer and my successful strokes became more plentiful. Persistence, not talent, will win in the end. And so, my oils and my watercolors marched forward in my career.  Today I paint and teach both mediums.


Over the 32 years as a watercolorist, my tight style became looser as I flung my passion into the fluid and often ornery paint. This is also happening with my oils. In 2013, when I was still figuring out how to hold the oil painting brush. My goal was to get an object to look like the object ... then as the paintings rolled off my brushes ... came the letting go of edges, adjusting the color harmonies, then the melting of values and then, using thicker paint.


Most watercolorists, as they transition from watercolors to oils, have the tendency to paint the oils very thin. Bingo, that was me, too!

Painting with thick paint was challenging. 


My career, style and mediums sure have changed over the years. Right now I am taking up the challenge presented by artist Keith Bond in his blog, to create "Risky" paintings ... paintings that are way outside of my comfort zone, way outside of my typical subject matter, style and expression. These painting pull me to discover more about my self. They challenge me to push harder and climb higher. 


First Chair by Susan Blackwood OPA AIS 40x30 oil -


My risky painting.


Risky? Yes, for me it is risky. Thick palette knife in the light, thin paint in the shadows were my challenges and colors altered from real life. The risk is that I might fail or no one will like it. But the risky is also that I will discover a whole new me in my painting!


I will continue to create safe and new paintings ... ones that are typical of my style and subject matter, but every once in awhile ... my risky side will slip out! Thanks to Keith Bond.


Stay tuned, I now am experimenting with abstracts ... "Risky" is exhilarating!

Walk on the Edge!


Keep your brushes happy,

Take them out for exercise regularly and give them fresh paint!





You can view Susan's original post here.


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Topics: advice for artists | art appreciation | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | oil painting | painting | watercolor 

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So glad you stuck with your progress to oils. They are wonderful,and, I'm sure,all the better because of your years doing watercolors.

Thelma VanSchoiack
What an interesting read. Risky is a good word perhaps because as I returned home from a plein air workshop two weeks ago, I disliked all of the 3 paintings done in oil. Two days later I picked up a palette knife and painted over the existing scene...amazingly, I like them now.
New avenue for me? We shall see...thanks for letting us know how you stepped out of your comfort zone. Love your work!

Mark Brockman
As a teenager I started with oils, I'm my twenties I worked in watercolor and what I called acrylic tempra (dry pigment mixed with water and acrylic mat medium which looked like egg tempra). In my mid theories I worked in oils then around my fifties I worked my way into pastels (I always liked working in more then one medium). I developed an allergy to oils or the mediums, but I was getting burned out with oils anyway and went exclusively to pastels (my all time favorite medium), but missed a second medium so I have gone back to Watercolors as well.

I think it is good to work in many media, one can influence the other. Concentrate on one primary medium? Sure, that's a good idea, but if one doesn't try other media how do they know which one suites them best? I believe this; we each have our own personalities, so does each medium, so we need to try them to see which medium our personalities match, or, don't match. Sometimes opposite astract.

Patricia Stafford
Firstly, I especially love your "Turn Around and He's Grown," Susan. The title paired with the image really makes you think ... talk about "passages" ... of time!

As for me, I started off as a fine art photographer, with the resulting artwork being exhibited in art galleries, museums, and a solo show. And, I still love photography.

That said, this year I felt called to start painting with acrylics, especially experimenting with abstract styles (minimalism and expressionism). I currently have an art instructor, and as for my most recent painting, she asked whether I wasn't going to add in "the lines." I replied no, that if I added lines, the piece would lose its feeling of freedom and openness. So she told me, "Well, it's breaking the rules, but it works." Apparently, that particular painting broke more than one rule. But I'm simply painting what I feel looks good ... to me.

I love exploring unexplored passages. Art really is a journey, so it may as well be joyful.

Carolyn Hancock
20 years ago I picked up pastels and found them so beautiful and versatile that there was no need to try anything else. Just try to master what they could do. With advances in pastel papers and even pastels themselves, there is always something new to risk, within the medium. Push the color deeper, try to make it glow, make thick dabs like oil painters do, back up and leave them transparent.
Love your article and the feeling behind it.

Walter Paul Bebirian
we are all on a very very very very long journey which will end at some point in time at which point we will then start on a very very very very very very ver very very long journey that will be even that much longer - the challenge is to enjoy every moment of this journey that we are all on now at this point in time that will then prepare us for that even longer journey that we will then be on later on -

the slower you go - the faster you get to where you want to be
because if you are enjoying where you are you do not have to go anywhere -

Lisa Carnicom
WOW, this is fantastic! Your willingness to challenge yourself - and your results because you stick with the challenge - are tremendously inspiring :) Thank you so much.... I would so love to take a class from you!


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