Keeping Our Heads Above Water: Paintings by Susan Valentine

Keeping Our Heads Above Water: Paintings by Susan Valentine

Hope & Feathers Framing and Gallery hosts "Keeping Our Heads Above Water", paintings by Leverett artist Susan Valentine, January 18th through February 25th.

Late this past summer, Susan acquired a kayak. She explains:

"Leverett Pond is a tiny walk from my studio. On the pond, I was inspired to slow down. I spent many a day on the water’s surface, tooling around and being nurtured by the views, the creatures, the plant life. 

These vertical canvases arose from those experiences. I used my phone for reference photos… Inspiration for the format of these paintings. I liked the way this vertical view led me from the plant life below my boat all the way to the sky. Some of these paintings are collaged interpretations and others are representative of what I really saw.

Since November 8th I have been in a state of confusion/depression. I’ve been transported to the promise of a nation I don’t recognize, force fed by a faction which voted, in desperation, humanity’s dark side. I found myself locked in a downward spiral; feeling helpless and useless. Feeling less than my usual self and far less than contented.

Nevertheless, I step up to the canvas again and again. Persistence pays off. November was a tough month. By December, though, I found that my heart had lifted a touch… And once again I began to be nurtured by the act of painting pictures. There is power in making one’s own happiness and I began to feel more positive, more awake and more myself.

I hope that something of the ease I find in this process is transmitted to the viewer. And out of that respite, activists may return to the job at hand more effectively, renewed by having spent some time with my first summer on the pond."

Susan's intention is this exhibit be a respite from what is likely the most important issue of our political/social times. She'd like people to feel that they're in good company here in the valley, and that the job ahead of us is paramount but we need to take care of ourselves to be effective.

A reception will be held on Thursday, February 2nd, in conjunction with Amherst Arts Night Plus, from 5pm to 8pm.

About Susan Valentine
Susan studied first graphic design, then painting at Greenfield Community College. She has held studio space at Leverett Crafts & Arts in Leverett since 2013 and very much enjoys the support of the community of artists there. Her work has been in numerous group and solo shows in western Massachusetts since 2012.


Q&A with Susan

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Always. But in In 2009 I began to feel the urge to create art beyond using the computer. In the summer of 2010 my first teacher finally presented herself and valley painter, Robin Keller and I painted in her home studio one afternoon every week. By the fall I knew I had to delve in deeper and enrolled in Painting I at Greenfield Community College. Penné Krol is an artist whose work I greatly admire and she happened to be teaching it!

Why did you choose your medium?
The 2010 summer paintings were done with acrylics and I was thrilled with that. When I arrived at GCC I was offered the opportunity to learn to paint in oils and I figured I’d be a fool to pass up any opportunity to grow as an artist. I’ve gone back to acrylics now and then for curiosity, a quick study or a small project but I’m very happy with the feel and the look of oil and the working time oil paints afford.

What inspires you?
Light, of course!

Where do you work?
Leverett Crafts & Arts, Leverett, MA, studio #7.

What is your creative process like? How do you work?
For the most part I start by building and stretching my own canvases. I like the process and it removes the restriction of working in standard proportions. If, as in the case of Keeping Our Heads Above Water, I find that I’m working in a uniform, standard size I’ll buy some of them ready made, saving time, money and hand stress. I work mainly from photographs. If I paint outdoors I take photos to finish up in the studio. Sometimes I'll begin with a grisaille, sometimes just a toned canvas, sometimes I paint directly on a white surface. Large paintings often start with a photograph projected onto the canvas to make a quick drawing. Smaller ones or landscapes do not. Layers are thin. My medium is alkyd walnut oil and Gamsol, 1:1.

What do you like about being an artist in the valley?
The community of artists in the valley is a warm and very welcoming one. I feel cradled in companionship. I also love the beauty of our surroundings here. There’s always something inspiring happening in valley nature.

What is your favorite piece that you’ve created?
My favorite piece is always the last successful one. They are like pregnancies… Looking at the results, I forget about the ordeal of the process . “Why, I must be some kind of a gifted genius!” No. It was blood, sweat and tears most of the way.

Any advice to young and/or aspiring artists?
Find a community of artists with whom you can share ideas and swap critiques. Surround yourself with people as passionate about art as you are yourself. Don’t get attached to your work and keep your sense of humor. Practice a lot.