Susan Rudisill Studio
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Susan on the Rogue     Susan Rudisill

 

Biography

Raised in Pennsylvania, Susan Rudisill graduated from Swarthmore College, and, later, studied at Philadelphia College of Art; the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture; and the Vermont Studio School. Rudisill has worked professionally in folk arts education, arts management, social services, publications, and graphic design.

As a child in a family that encouraged both traditional and non-representational art, she drew constantly and always intended to be an artist. After a few post-college years in New York City, she moved to rural West Virginia and has since spent most of her adult life in remote -- sometimes very remote -- rural communities there and, since 1999, in Oregon.

Her evolution as an artist results in great part from the interplay of years of working on her own in relative isolation, interspersed with intense, focused study under such artists as Sidney Geist, George McNeill, Harriet Shorr, Paul Georges, Michele Stuart, Wolf Kahn, and most recently Erik Sandgren. Particular influences from the past include modernists like Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, Emily Carr, plus the Abstract Expressionists and the Impressionists.

Rudisill’s approach emphasizes drawing from observation, with the figure or landscape as subject. Apart from working with representational subject matter, abstract matters of space, line, planes, and composition drive her exploration. For the past four decades she has primarily worked on location (aka "en plein air"). Currently, she has shifted her focus to the challenging study of the figure in the landscape and to experimenting with new media and techniques.

 

 

 

Artist Statement

To make art is to set out on an adventurous journey. With sketchbook in hand, I explore, examine, dissect, and reconstruct the formations in front of me. The raw energy of the moment sets the pace.

For me, making art has always been experience-based, the exploration of places. Lands in transition, where wilderness meets backcountry, interest me because they reflect the interaction between humans and nature. In addition I study people, their movements, and their relation to the space around them.

Ideas and images incubate, percolate, sometimes for years. I do research, study maps, search out local history and lore, learn the names of wildflowers. I work in series: images of springtime orchards over decades, rivers for twenty years, fishing for five; an occasional series on grief builds on my response to current events.

While I love the seductive qualities of color and oil paint, drawing always comes first. The process of drawing intensifies my personal vision. The physical act and gestures of drawing pull me in until I feel I am creating a world on the page with the varied marks, the figure/ground relationship, the rhythm of shapes and spaces, the flow of lines.

My favorite medium is charcoal. I’ve enjoyed oil paint for years, and more recently have begun to work in acrylics, or sometimes mixed media, combining pencil or charcoal with pastels or acrylics.

Currently I focus on three main challenges. These are:

Challenge #1 – to keep the initial energy alive as the work evolves. Up to a certain point, my frame of reference and inspiration lie in the external subject. Eventually the problems to be solved exist on the plane of canvas. Emotional or spiritual energy link the two, and take the work deeper. From the time I was a teenager I mainly worked on location, en plein air, but more recently I have undertaken larger studio work based on sketches and memory, which again, develop in directions dictated by the work itself. This requires constant vigilant attention to the original inspiration.

Challenge #2 – to incorporate the human figure in the landscape. I focus on people at work, such as fishermen, making many studies, trying to convey the essence of the moment. I enjoy the narrative and visual aspects of both individual gestures and interactions between people.

Challenge #3 – to master the materials (art medium) chosen for the job. Fluidity, density of color, texture, responsiveness, and, I confess, logistical convenience, all factor in my choice. Painting with acrylics for the first time, for example, has been both frustrating and liberating.

I had a very traditional art education, but have great love and appreciation for non-representational work. My work comes from the modernist tradition, inspired by Marsden Hartley and Milton Avery, but also Kathe Kollwitz, Emily Carr, Matisse, Cezanne, the abstract expressionists, and many others. I hope to always learn and grow as an artist.

 

Susan doing what she loves