I first saw the colorful paintings of Susan Medyn when she emailed me about being on the Whimsicalpaintings.com website. I was instantly taken by her unique paintings brimming with imaginary animals lounging or romping in festive landscapes of pattern and color!
Each painting seems to tell a story about the relationships of the animals to their surroundings. I love how they draw me in and make me look for the details such as the little birds in the trees or faces in the flora.
Below are some questions and answers for you to read more about Susan and her work.
I started painting 37 years ago. I was dating an artist and he spent many late nights working. I found I could not keep myself from playing with the art materials and began making imaginary creatures. I quickly found myself compelled to create, using ink and watercolor as my medium. I initially began making drawings that were meant to be bits of stories of my life but quickly transcended into fantastical landscapes filled with flora and fauna of my own making.
What do you like about working in watercolor?
I love the play of color on the paper, the absorbency, the ability to work nearly anywhere and the look I am creating.
You are using colorful, whimsical imagery filled with fantastical creatures and fauna.When did you begin painting in this style, and what inspires you?
I made my first adult painting around 21 or 22. It was an imaginary creature gradually transforming into other creatures. I still have the first dozen paintings I made. I sometimes put them out at open studios for comparison. I’m inspired by nearly everything. The old fashioned bathtub drain toggle always looked like a face to me. Leaves on plants are mini jungles. I particularly love incorporating neolithic figures and images from the greek orientalizing period. Indian patterns and Polish decorative egg patterns all seem to weave their way into my works. I love going to museums. I get lost looking at paintings by the old masters. Rusted metal found objects are magnificent patterns and imagery. I am inspired by book plate covers, pattern books, animals in art, old postcards. I don’t know how, but my work flows from hand to paper and my memory play with designs. Three years ago I made a commitment to paint daily — as though I don’t already have enough paintings. I have made over 800 paintings in my 36 years as an artist.
Can you explain your creative process?
Whether on paper or Aquabord, I always start out making my drawing in with a number 3 pencil. I make a rough outline of a landscape and then fill the page with a few central creatures. From there a story evolves where I add other creatures listening in or chatting one another up. I often try to hide several within the landscape, sort of a peek-a-boo, like when you suddenly realize there is a snail on a piece of kale you have picked, or a bird in a bush you have walked by. I revise my drawing several times. I erase the pencil marks and decide on my color scheme before inking it with a crow quill pen. I paint the principal creatures and then work from there.
“I do like when people find my work curious and funny and visually pleasing.”
How do you want someone to feel when he or she views your colorful paintings?
Sometimes I add a story to my painting and find this helps the viewer to understand my work. But mostly I am making images that I am driven to create. I do like when people find my work curious and funny and visually pleasing. That is how I find it. I am disappointed when people ask me if I ever considered illustrating a children’s book.
How important is the title of a painting to you and when and how do you title a piece?
A lot of thinking goes into my titles. I usually go through several names before I settle on one that feels right.
I understand that you do some work as a therapist. Do you have any thoughts on art and healing that you can share?
Yes, I am a therapist and have been seeing individuals and couples for 23 years. I believe art and the process brings a level of understanding to aspects of one’s life. I recently had a bout of cancer and later realized my chat room name was “paintingmywaythru”. Nothing deep there, but it was an almost an unconscious expression of how I was going to use my time to get through treatment. Children especially make art to express their feelings and yet as we begin to grow up it is as though drawing and painting are left behind. I believe laughter, self exploration and self expression are tools to healing.
You have a section on your website called the Hurricane of ’38 photos. Can you tell us what that is about?
One day I happened into an antique store in Rhode Island that had the craziest things. The owner manner was unnerving. Showing me one thing to another, even showing me a 50’s bar he had for sale in his basement. As usual was drawn to the stacks of paintings and photos. I found a small packet of pictures taken with a Kodak Brownie camera. They showed the aftermath of the Hurricane of 1938 which devastated Rhode Island. I asked how much they were but the owner tried to get me to buy an autographed photo of a former baseball player. I was ready to leave when he named a price. I sent them to The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration for them to copy so that they could be in their public record.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists who are just starting out?
Work as hard as you can. Do what you love. Don’t be afraid to experiment, create everyday, push your limits, take time to reflect and evaluate. Your goals and your abilities may not be in sync for quite awhile but be kind to yourself and keep on working. Listen to advice from other artists, keep what feels right for you and store what doesn’t. Take classes, play, listen to your creative spirit, spend time in museums, think outside the box, learn the language of art.
What’s your current or next art project?
I am working on 6 paintings right now. 2 are commissions, 1 a small work, and 3 are larger sized dense jungles that I am painting for an upcoming exhibit in Belgium.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Although I have a day job 3 days a week, I do look forward to a point in my life where I can focus mainly on painting. I love making art. I love gardening, fishing, swimming, traveling, being with my family and 2 cats, enjoying time with friends and looking at the landscape. Reading is my main escape and I can’t go a day without picking up a book.
Thank you Susan for the great interview!
If you would like to see more of Susan’s work, visit her website at http://susanmedyn.com/
On her website, Susan says subscribe to her blog posts by “email for a chance to win a giclée or another goodie monthly.” How fun is that?