A Leverett resident by way of the greater Boston area, Susan Valentine finds much of the inspiration for her painting in the natural world. In her artist’s statement, she recalls one of the earliest dystopian movies, 1973’s “Soylent Green,” about a futuristic earth in which nature has been destroyed. People who volunteer to commit suicide to reduce overpopulation, though, are first treated to a beautiful film that recalls the world’s vanished natural wonders.
If the world as we now know it were to end, Valentine notes, and she was one of a small number of survivors left to try and “raise it from the ashes,” ideally her contribution would be to “create some works to communicate the world’s former beauty.”
As a longtime practitioner of yoga, Valentine also says “I stand when I paint. It gives me the freedom to constantly step back to see what I've done. It also feels more engaged than sitting.”
Hampshire Life: What is your creative process like?
Susan Valentine: I switch the focus of my subject on a regular basis. In my last series, "Keeping Our Heads Above Water," I painted Leverett Pond, a favorite subject, from a different perspective. Inspiration hit in a whole new way once I was sitting on the water in my kayak. I had my phone for taking pictures, and I loved the way the vertical view afforded space for the pond bottom all the way to the sky.
I chose that format in an 18” x 36" canvas to begin a series. I would say about half of those got their images projected onto a titanium white surface and painted directly in three or four sessions. The other half got drawn directly, with colored pencil, freehand. Some onto a toned canvas, some on white.
H.L.: How do you know you’re on the right track?
S.V.: When the work is fit to show to my critique group, a hand-picked group of trusted and talented artists. Taking the work in from their perspective has always been very helpful.
H.L.: What do you do when you get stuck?
S.V.: I move on to the next (dry) painting or take a walk or find someone to hang out with. Getting “stuck” is just a step in the process. It usually means I want too much too soon, and putting it aside works more often than not.
H.L. How do you know when the work is done?
S.V.: Standing in front of a painting in the gallery today, I noticed it wasn't signed. It had hung in several exhibits over the past year but wasn't "finished" enough to sign. "Done" can be pretty arbitrary!
H.L.: What is your dream project?
S.V.: I’d love to be approached by a brick and mortar business to paint 10 or 12 large paintings. I have several in my stable — floral triptychs measuring 9 x 5 or 7 feet. I’d be happy doing more of those. I’d also love the opportunity to do some large landscapes or still lifes.
— Steve Pfarrer
Susan Valentine’s next exhibition takes place June 1 to July 2 at Leverett Crafts & Arts, 13 Montague Road in Leverett. The show will include works from “Keeping Our Heads Above Water,” other landscapes, still lifes and florals. A reception/open studio takes place June 11th from 4-6 p.m. More information at www.barnesgallery.org and www.susanvalentineart.com.