Many years ago, a delightful woman named Susan rented Les Murets from us for a week in the summer. I remember this vividly for several reasons, including her distinctive, clever and funny emails and the fact that when we met for the first time (discovering that we were neighbors in Atlanta), I spilled a full glass of red wine all over her white jeans. Undeterred, Susan — who at the time was an Emergency Room doctor — announced that there were bigger problems in the world than stained white jeans and refused my insistence to replace or at the very least, dry clean her jeans. Instead she wrote me a spirited email the next day to say that thanks to Oxyclean, the stain was gone, and all was well. Cool lady, I thought, check check.
Fast forward a few years to discover that Susan, seeking solace from a medical profession that was taking its toll, started teaching herself to paint. Not surprising for an over-achiever, her paintings were good, and she began to sell them … well. We were excited when she sent us her images, and with every one, we could see a style and confidence developing, and a profound sense of peace and gratitude that came across the canvas. We loved the simplicity, the rawness, the exploration of light and the linear and graphic compositions. When she sent us the latest bench series and the structures, we said, “That’s it! We want to represent you!”
And so it is with great enthusiasm that we wholeheartedly welcome our newest artist to Huff Harrington Fine Art. Read about her here … and you will be hooked on Susan, and her art.
Susan, tell us about your background: Where did you grow up?
- St. Louis, MO with a mom, a dad, an older sis and a younger sis
As an ER doctor for most of your professional life, you’ve had a rather unusual journey to becoming an artist.
- I’ve been painting since childhood but knew as early as kindergarten that I wanted to be a doctor. The whole gist of my education was science, science, science and a little math. I remember one required art course in high school taught by a very austere nun that wasn’t very inspiring. That was the extent of my art education. College was a degree in chemistry, about as non-arty as it gets. Medical school about the same unless you consider anatomy drawings to be art. Then residency and no time for anything except a tiny bit of sleep. Then my early career as an Emergency Medicine physician which left no time for anything. Somewhere in the early ’90’s I read “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” and was truly stunned at what I created. I still have my sketchbook and it is pretty cool. That was a turning point. I don’t remember what I painted when I started but it has grown and blossomed from there. My parents gave me an easel 20’ish years ago and I still use it. There were years when I did nothing creative. Then, a magical dream happened in mid January 2016. The dream featured an off set icing spatula and a lot of paint. Et Voila….here I am.
How did you become hooked on painting?
- Hmmmmmmmmmm…..It is a meditation of sorts….quiet, tranquil, a bit like a long run when training for a marathon……I think it must generate endorphins which means I’m really and truly hooked. I cannot seem to get enough of painting.
- I’ve been married to David O’Brien who is a retired transplant surgeon for almost 30 years. I have 5 wonderful, grown stepkids, all of whom are married and have 7 grandkids. They live all over the country. David and I have a rambunctious and adorable 8 month old yellow lab named Noah. He has been covered in paint several times in his short life. I think his favorite color is blue. I have two sisters and their wonderful kids and husbands and now, a great niece and nephew! My dad, a true rocket scientist, is almost 90. I’ve joked that my only claim to fame is that I’m the daughter of a rocket scientist.
How do you get your inspiration?
- I honestly don’t know how inspiration works. All the years of Emergency Medicine give me the sense that I need peace and serenity and open spaces and quiet and time alone and that is what seems to come out on my canvases.(Ed note: Susan often talks about the solace and solitude that comes across her paintings, and that there is a distinct difference between being alone and being lonely.)
Describe your work studio and space.
- My studio is my basement. It’s now painted completely in Sherwin Williams Highly reflective white and there are 12 LED can lights and one window. I occasionally listen to music but really love listening to books. I find it totally weird that I can listen to a book AND paint at the same time. It seems that it shouldn’t work that way. I just finished (for the second time) “All the Light You Cannot See”. Now that I write this, the visual imagery of that book impacts me greatly—the Northwest coast of France, old villages, ancient homes…..
What is your technique and how has it evolved?
- My technique is first I imagine a composition then I sketch it. I find that I love painting from 2D to 2D. My brain doesn’t seem to be able to paint 3D to 2D. I work on the background which is extremely important to me. Then I transfer my sketch on to the canvas. One of my early epiphanies was that I need to paint from the background forward. I’m sure that is a basic tenet of a formal art education but I felt like I’d discovered life on Mars when I worked that bit out for myself.
– Place to travel: Europe, particularly France and Italy
– City : Paris, of course
– Hotel: Hotel Regina in Wengen Switzerland with a view of the Monch, the Jungfrau and the other mountain whose name escapes me….:)) (Ed note: It’s the Eiger!)
– Restaurant : recent best meal was at Bistro Niko
– Drink: Chateauneuf du Pape
– Book: always changing but right now “All the Light You Cannot See”
– Movie : La Vita e Bella
– Painting: There is a painting in the museum in Cortona, Italy of the Annunciation by Fra Angelico—-stunningly beautiful
– Artist : If I have to name just one, it is Vermeer.
– Real or fictional dinner guest: I love all the women in my 20 year old bookclub and our meetings are always insightful, joyful and totally fun
– Go-to room in your house: basement studio
– Happy mood song: Happy by Farrell
– Way to unwind: paint and exercise
– Favorite quality in others : non-judgement
– Wish I were better at: being an extrovert
– Guilty pleasure : fountain diet coke at QT
– Happiest when …painting, playing with Noah and hanging out with family and friends
Anything else you’d like to share about your life as an artist?
- I love it and I am so very happy. I hope it lasts for 50 more years.
So do we, Susan! And Happy 4th to you and all our readers.
P.S. Join us July 14th from 6 to 8 p.m. as we unveil new works by Susan Kinsella and other artists, including Nancy Franke, Lesley Powell, Allison Chambers, Sarah Robertson, Amy Dixon, Helen Farson, Laura Shubert, and our guest artist, Alice Williams for our annual Bastille Day show at Huff Harrington Fine Art.