Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Judy Adamson - Susan Alison interview - artist to artist

Last month, wonderful artist, Judy Adamson, ‘interviewed’ me for her blog (And actually posted the result too – what a fab hostess she is!)

I am reproducing that post here in roughly the same format. (‘roughly’ because I can’t pass a piece of writing without tweaking it…) (my own writing, that is – I wouldn’t tweak someone else’s…)

 Susan Alison, watercolour artist and author (who lives under the paw)
Links on the www if you wish to see more of Susan’s work:

Follow her on her Border Collies, Monty and Rosie's blog  - for regular artwork updates    

Judy asked Susan:

When did you begin painting?

I took up painting as a serious endeavour twenty years ago when I needed to earn a living from home. I lived in the Forest of Dean at the time, so it was no hardship studying all those trees and expanses of water and trying to get them down on paper. It was incredibly naive to think I could earn a living from it just like that though! And, I couldn't - but I gave it a pretty good go, and my first painting sold from an exhibition in Monmouth Museum (ie a 'proper' venue) so I was pretty chuffed about that. I painted that particular picture twenty-three times before I was happy with it, and it is still engraved on my mind...

Most of my paintings back then were landscapes - I still paint some vistas but nowadays there'll be a dog in them eg 'Good Morning, Morning' in which a Border Collie says hello to a new day.

My circumstances changed and I stopped painting, taking it up again five years ago when I decided that surely there was a way through the internet to make it work.

The most valuable thing I've learned from my current experience is that you simply can't tell upfront what is going to sell. 

This means that, if you have to sell your work in order to keep doing it, your most important characteristic is persistence. I paint to sell. It's my job. All kinds of artists succeed and all kinds fail, and I fancy the main difference between the two is persistence - the presence or the absence of it. You just have to keep pounding away at the keyboard if you wish to succeed online.

Did you go to Art College or have any formal art training?

My art training has been a do-it-yourself learning curve.

I've had no formal art training. I believe there are some things (for me) that are better learnt on the job, and painting is one of them. I could spend a long time learning about how to do it instead of just doing it. Not only that, but I learn something new from every painting I do, so the training goes on for ever, although I've never again painted a picture twenty-three times...

What is the most valuable thing you've learned about painting and who taught you that?

The most valuable thing I've learned about painting is to fight the fear that comes with a nice, new, clean, expensive piece of watercolour paper - just splash the paint on, and then resist the urge to fiddle with it. I learnt this from Edward Seago (see below). I also used very big brushes when I started out, which gave me lots more confidence.

What is your favourite medium and why?

My favourite medium is watercolour. It doesn't smell; it's quick to apply, quick to dry; easy to wash out of your hair and off the furniture. What I really love about it, though, is its translucence. Some very skilled oil painters can get close to that effect by painting it, but watercolour owns that effect and doesn't have to put it on. Its very nature is translucence and it only gives it up if one insists on messing with it.

Who is your favourite artist/illustrator etc? Have you been particularly influenced/inspired by any other artists? 
When I started out I was fascinated by people like Whistler, Sargent and Edward Seago because of the luminous quality of their work. I don't look so much now because I don't want to be influenced by anyone else and I don't want to subconsciously pick up other people's ideas. Mind you, I do sometimes watch the changing parade of cards on the front of GCU and marvel at the varieties of artistic expression. There will always be something new. That's how I feel, too - no matter how long I live I'll never live long enough to paint all my ideas. My inspiration comes to me now from my surroundings, wherever I am, in everyday life, but especially from nature and animals, particularly dogs. They can find joy where no one else can.

Where do you sell your paintings?

I sell my original paintings, mainly ACEOs, (Art Cards, Editions and Originals, sometimes called Artist Trading Cards or ATCs), but bigger sizes too, on eBay, along with prints, greeting cards, coasters and books.

but my images can also be found on several print-on-demand websites:

Which came first - writing or painting?

Writing came first, but then I felt compelled to illustrate what I'd written, so it’s a close run thing. My very first book was called 'The Cat' and was illustrated in wax crayons. This cat had many more than the usual nine lives and firmly believed that raspberry ripple icecream cured seasickness. I still paint cats now, so maybe the original one was a foretelling of what was to come...

These days, my cats are into so much more than just icecream though, whether they're stalking harebells...

...or line dancing to soothe 'their achy breaky hearts'.

I would love to write and illustrate my own children's books but so far I haven't managed to fit that ambition into my life.

The closest I've got to that is writing my own grown-up book and doing the cover art for that:

White Lies and Custard Creams is a romantic comedy with a dash of mystery - and, yes - there's a dog in it... (Well, there was bound to be...)

It's on Amazon for Kindle for $1.57 here

And it's on Amazon for Kindle for 97p here

Which is your best-selling/favourite greeting card?

I'm quite fond of my whippet and greyhound painting of an egg and spoon race which has made a successful greeting card and print.

Although my cool surfing Labrador dudes comes a very close second...

People seem to appreciate my less frivolous paintings too:
‘Forget me not’ ,


and ‘To Sleep, Perchance to Dream’.

What is your next project or your plans and hopes for the future?

I have my second romantic comedy novel, 'Out from under the Tiger', finished but for a final polish, and I have to paint the cover art. That will be uploaded to Kindle before Christmas and I want to upload a new book every year from now on.

The painting of pictures will go on as usual. I really need to get more organised about using the images though, so maybe 'getting organised' should be my main ambition for the forseeable future...

In the meantime, everyone's support is much appreciated.

I have a dog and cat artwork blog: click here for regular artwork updates and I’m on Twitter @bordercollies for more chat than links, or @SusanAlisonArt for more links than chat.

There is also a Facebook fan page here - it would be fab if you 'liked' it!

I love to hear from people and there is nothing more encouraging than when I get a response from someone telling me how cheered they are to see my pictures.

You keep me going and I thank you very much!


Celtic Cat said...

Thank You for an interesting article. I love learning about the artist behind those adorable paintings.

montyandrosie said...

Thank you very much! Lovely of you to leave a comment - and such a nice one!

The Bear's Blog said...

WONDERFUL! Your work is amazing.


montyandrosie said...

Thank you! Your Lulu and Flora made me laugh. I STILL have a grin on my face.

City Life to Ranching Wife said...

Love this! I am announcing the winner of the Border Collie card set giveaway tomorrow evening! Lots of my followers loved it! I think I want a set for myself. :)

sandbyte said...

great interview. love your artwork (we have some on our wall). I checked all the links, but these three don't work:

click here for my Greeting Card Universe store

and here for my Zazzle store

here for SusanAlisonArt on Cafepress

montyandrosie said...

Love the pics of Pyrenees on your blog - Tank looks like he's having a right laugh with himself! Just let me know where to send the Border Collie cards and I'll be onto it!

montyandrosie said...

sandbyte - thanks for checking the links - I need to do battle with them again - drove me nuts yesterday trying to work out why some didn't work. Have followed your blog - I wonder what it is about blue butterflies in particular that make them so fascinating. I have some of your postcards on my mantelpiece... Fab pics.