A little bit about the artist:
I'm a painter who works in Boston, originally from the Philadelphia area. I grew up in an average suburban middle class family. Two cars, two parents, two kids, cats and dogs, public school. I remember being kind of a sensitive kid. I didn't mind spending time alone and I liked to draw. It was an independent, private activity that only required a pencil and paper, and it was free. If it was something that required lessons, I probably wouldn't have done it. The point of it was that I needed to figure things out myself. Everything, really, you experience is an influence on your work. The things that caused you to wonder as a kid, what happens to you, it all informs how you relate to your surroundings, and therefore, your work.
Everyone relies on their senses, but I think many painters, especially, have a particular sensitivity to theirs that is best understood physically and processed visually. I think artists have a pre-verbal understanding of things that have particular meaning to them, and it's germane to their grounding. At least that's the best way I can explain why I do what I do.
|Work in progress|
I went to Tyler School of Art, in Philadelphia. My dirty little secret is that I majored in graphic design because I knew I had to get a job when I graduated and you need a design portfolio to get design work. Even so, I spent more time painting. That's where I felt comfortable. All my studio electives were painting or drawing. I loved art history too. Nobody in my family participated in any of the arts. I had no idea why some things were art, I only knew it was more than drawing a picture. It bothered me that I didn't know. My junior year in college I studied in Rome, where I was floored by seeing Cimabue, Duccio, Giotto, Montagne, Fra Angelico and Filppo Lippi (the list goes on... and on... ) life-size, in their intended context. The Early Renaissance painters. To this day it influences my sense of abstraction.
At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?
Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?
Can you describe bit about your work in general. My paintings are constructed, disassembled, cut, glued, stapled, repainted, stuffed or flat, free-standing or squashed. I use new materials and recycled parts from old paintings. I have plenty of failures, but I don't think of them that way. Unsuccessful canvases will be taken apart and bring something of value to a new piece. Process is basically my driving force. The activity of using information supplied by the materials I use is more important than knowing what it will ultimately turn out to be. My emotions guide me, the best of which are surprise and disgust. These are my best motivators.
|Two Sides to Everything|
What is your work about?
I call myself a painter even though my work has become more sculptural in the last decade or so. It usually has some relationship to the wall, but sometimes it ends up on the floor. I use typical painting supplies: acrylic, oil, enamel, casein, flasche — many kinds of paint and mediums. They each have their own quality and my work is about painting.
My studio is in a warehouse in Hyde Park with many other artists. It's a mixed use building and we are just a small portion of it. I really need the work and storage space because I save so many materials, mostly wood, stretchers, different kinds of canvas and linen, and boxes — a lot of boxes, and styrofoam shapes. I save whatever looks like a good size or shape. My studio is about 700 s.f. The ceilings are very high because it's a gigantic building. But I don't have windows. It would be nice, but I use all the wall space.
|Teach a Man to Fish|
Do you involved with any arts groups or communities?
I'm a member of Kingston Gallery. It's an artist-run collaborative in Boston. We limit our membership to 20 artists so that everyone has a role in running the gallery. As members we help each other hang shows depending on what the exhibiting artist needs. It would be overwhelming to make the art and do everything a commercial gallery does to promote a show.
How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?
I'm enjoying being at Kingston because I can continue to experiment with my work and let it develop in its own time without too much emphasis on sales.
Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you?
I'm inspired by work that holds my attention, makes me think and feel something. It makes me want to push my work further.
Do you have any web links/site/blog etc. you'd like to share that show your work?
I feel like I'm the last artist on Earth to get a website up and running. It's a little embarrassing. I've had a tight schedule for a long time now, so it keeps getting pushed back. It's in the works now though, and should be finished, well, by fall, to be realistic, because I am doing it myself. When it's ready, you can find it at: www.susanstillscott.com
Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Sure, I get stuck. You're not pushing yourself hard enough if you don't ever get to a place where you just don't know what to do. It's a mental thing so what I've learned to do over time is relax. I mean really relax — like, take a nap. I found an abandoned sofa in my studio building that is so comfortable that if I curl up on it, I'm out — comatose. Honestly, it has been the best thing. It's like rebooting my brain. At one time I felt I had to spend every moment physically working in order to be productive. Eventually I figured out that you can be doing a lot when you're not doing anything. If I'm engaged in creative work, there's plenty going on subconsciously. Getting stuck means I need to get out of my own way. However, I do stay in the studio. The thing is to get my mind to another place, not my body.
Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
I work all the time, or I am looking at art. And I take good care of my family — it's easier to get more done when they're happy.
|All Dressed Up|
What are you reading right now?
I recently finished Marcia Tucker's autobiography. She was an extraordinary person at an extraordinary time in the 1970's art world. My eleven year and I are reading Where the Red Fern Grows together. We read together almost every night — a habit we started when he was very little. There are so many great books for kids — classics, that I never knew about at his age. I really enjoy them. And of course, there are always art books. I spend a lot of time looking at the pictures.
Do you have other jobs other than making art?
Every artist I know wears more than one hat — many hats. But I think you are asking me if I am paid to do something else. To that I'd have to say no, not right now anyway. For fifteen years I did graphic design, both full-time and free-lance. For part of that time I had a job share with another artist that worked out well for three years, until the agency we worked for went through a major reorganization. She and I made sure it went smoothly by staying very organized, informing each other about every detail on every job. In a way, it also meant putting our egos on the back burners. It was a rare opportunity and we both needed it to work for the sake of protecting our time in the studio.
|A Well Used Studio|
Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
In five years? I think it would be great if I am fortunate enough to still be doing what I'm doing right now. I hope more people see my work, find it interesting and want to see more.
Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
I do. I will have a solo show in New York (City) opening at Heskin Contemporary on March 3, 2011 that I have been working on since last year. It will be up through April 9. In May 2011, at Kingston Gallery in Boston, I will have a small solo show. In addition, there will be a show of my smaller paintings at John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY this summer. The dates have yet to be determined.
Thank you, Susan!