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Sunday Salon: Painter, Sculptor, Teacher - Susan G Holland at 73

I’ve recently been in contact with Susan Holland, an 73-year-old artist with the energy and enthusiasm of someone closer to 37.  Hailing from Hoodsport, Washington, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Susan describes herself as a well-worn mark-maker who just wanted to tell me how the blog post, Why Moving Backward Can Be More Powerful Than Moving Forward, had been particularly cathartic for her.  

"I am going on 73, and getting in touch with my old self in this way.  I have influences all around me that are shrieking paint to make money...and the abysmal current state of the economy is one of those influences." (Spp mango sea contoured top view 2Image left: Mango Sea Colored Bowl)

I appreciated her attitude - this is no senior citizen who dabbles in art to fill her afternoons.  Through a series of emails a Sunday Salon began to emerge.

"Could it be that we need the stress of this pull between chic and sale-able products and real art? As you suggest, the contemporary art around us informs our current personal mark-making.  We can no more ignore that than the sort of spirit of our current times.  And our subject matter will reflect our times, too, no doubt.

I try not to think overmuch about the urgings of my benefactors who would have me paint multiples of successful works just to make some money.

I fight with them sometimes, and get very angry.  And then I think, sometimes, they are right.  Why not do the giclee on canvas thing, and put on final touches? Then I think of sweat shops with hired brushes dabbing textured paint on dozens of prints and selling them for fifty bucks in poster frames. And I stick to my guns.  I will paint it fresh each time, from scratch, and in the spirit of today - not yesterday, and certainly not guessing about tomorrow.

Silk Purse array at Shelton Farmers MarketRight now the season is on for my new Silk Purse project (see set-up at left - Silk Purse array at Shelton Farmer's Market) – working with wooden bowls. The bowls are from a source in Seattle.  They are hand carved by other artisans and the rejected ones end up in the discard pile.  I pick and choose from that pile and rework the bowls that have a second life in them.  This is a great opportunity for me - I am the only one doing this with these bowls, so they are really one-of-a-kind, and special because of the recycled nature of the business.  The bowls are a celebration of wood - of the tree, and the nature of wood.  The carving is somewhat rustic, but very skillfully done.  Carving a root is not an easy business.

SPP STIppled mango key bowl  I am working especially on small dishes out of Cunninghamia Lanceolata - fir/cypress, rootwood, and also on contoured turned bowls of Mango wood.  Color is insisting on making an entrance into these natural materials... I am using various kinds of tools and combinations of paint media to come up with exciting decorative pieces. It's important to me to retain the characteristics of wood - its nature - and hopefully to draw attention to it. All products are finished with a sealing coat of varnish or wax oil. (Image: Stippled Mango Key Bowl)

I find I’m fascinated with the collection of Peit Hein's "Grooks" that I’ve discovered.  If I can, I shall get his books-- now out of print and very expensive.  Grooks is the name Peit Hein, Danish scientist and poet, gave his little poems.  Some of them are so wonderful; they will be welcome in people's homes.  This is a direction I may take in my art-making, whether it evolves on carved wood bowls or in paintings.

On the back burner right now is a very viable plan to set up a plein air group here in the Hoodsport area.  It will not be as a class, but rather joining with others to utilize the beauties of this part of the forest with them on a regular basis.  I have passes to get into lovely parts of the Lake Cushman area, and there are all sorts of great places to set up an easel and have at it. 

I do have small works (8 x 10, - 11 x 14) planned for my next season of painting.  Not only am I limited in space for painting here, but the economy lends itself to people buying small, I believe.  They will likely buy a small original rather than frame up a large print...and the prices seem to be about the same.  Why shouldn't my small framed items be on people's walls?  So...I have boats, and trees, and grasses and mountains roughed in on clayboard ('s really a wonderful, versatile, and archival surface to paint on.)  Oils, temperas, mixed media.

So for the time being I have sets of types of art in my studio - small tempera local scenes for local sales,  infrequent large non-objective decorative works in case some hospital needs something for patients to gaze at while waiting,  and then the real art - that's the stuff that says what I am thinking and feeling, and which I want to do exclusively.  They come out without strategy - aside from how to arrange it all on the canvas - and they just work, somehow, without blood, sweat, or tears.  They are keepers, and they live comfortably on any wall for a good long time."

WIDE MANGO FRONT VIEW BLACK W BRN RIMIf you would like to find out more about Susan's Silk Purse Project, to purchase a bowl or painting, or for any other reason you can contact her through email:

or through snail mail:  Susan Holland, PO Box 1138, Hoodsport WA 98548

See what else Susan G Holland is doing here.

 Above: Wide Mango Bowl, Black with Brown Rim