I happened to meet artist Suzie Burgess by chance (as it often happens) while dropping in on the Menlo Charity Horse Show in August. I saw her HUGE paintings from a distance and had to check them out up close. I found Suzie (and her adorable children) just as intriguing as the artwork. The kids told me about their recent scare evacuating because of the Carr Fire near their home in Redding and Suzie and I talked about the logistics of moving her very large pieces of art. I knew after a brief chat, I had to share Suzie and her gorgeous art with all of you. Enjoy!
How did you become an artist? What is your story.
Art was something I could always do! Other subjects in school just did not come as easily. So… naturally I gravitated towards what I was good at. I battled with anxiety quite a bit as a child, and art class truly centered my being and enabled me to just be who I was.
Is creating art your day job? If not, what else do you want to do?
It sure is! Coming to the studio everyday is truly a unique and wonderful thing. My studio space is an oasis where time slows down and everything becomes very simple. When I’m not at the studio I’m with my two girls, my husband, or my horse 🙂
What is your favorite medium to work in and why?
I learned to paint with oils starting in high school and that’s been my medium ever since. There’s something about mixing paint colors that in and of itself is has it’s own rhythmic dance. It’s smooth and rich and satisfying to work with.
How did you end up working so large? What is it about working large scale that appeals most to you?
I’ve ALWAYS preferred to paint large! For me the process is more dynamic when I am walking from one side of the canvas to the other or climbing a ladder to paint. It forces me to stay loose and not get too wrapped up in details. Before I started painting horses I did figurative/portrait work, they were life size or larger as well. When I spend time with a person one-on-one, I truly value be completely present with them…experiencing every part of them. Likewise, when you have a connection with a horse they are completely present with you…sometimes it’s like they see through you. This experience translates in to my work. When a painting is hung in a space it’s literally like they are with you.
Do you have any artists that have really inspired your work?
Degas, Picasso’s early work, Toulous Lautrec…also Richard Diebenkorn, Chuck Close, Deborah Butterfield.
How did the horse become your primary subject?
Oh…well probably a love affair. I was a portrait painter for years and was feeling a significant lack of inspiration. Instead of painting I would be out with my horse and other members of the herd in the pasture. I would spend hours just observing and photographing them. There is something about being around horses that brings me so much peace. They encapsulate beauty, power, mystery, playfulness, grace, and kindness and that is one incredible combination. So four years ago when my second daughter was 7 months old I decided to paint three large paintings of horses and see how it felt. A part of me came alive that I had never experienced… I had found my passion.
How did you develop your current style?
I have always been drawn to light, color, contrast, and simplicity. My professors always said “don’t be afraid to put a lot of paint on your brush.” I love working loose but then defining certain parts of the horse to bring it to life.
How do you get inspired? What is your creative process?
Deciding on a goal ALWAYS inspires me. I have loved having shows where people come and HAVE an experience. I hang paintings in barns and have food and wine and REAL horses led “inside” the gallery to interact with the people and the paintings. Seeing people have an experience and come alive and connect with the work is SO inspiring to me. Initially of course… just going out and being with/photographing the horses is inspiring. I am very sensory and tactile so I become invigorated when I experience (move, touch, smell and see) the beauty around me.
What is your history with horses? Tell me a little bit about the most important horses in your life.
The wild west is a part of my family history. My great, great aunt rode side saddle in the ‘Oklahoma Land Rush.’ My grandfather, a cowboy in Arizona, broke horses and worked cows for a living, and my grandmother always had special connections with her horses and would teach them tricks!
I think it’s just in my DNA. I grew up in the woods of Massachusetts and inherited my sisters Appaloosa named Kicki. I would ride bareback in the fields . In my early teens I worked at a dressage barn in exchange for lessons and loved it. From then on I would find horses to be around wherever I went… It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I owned a horse again. My cousin did a ‘Long Ride’ from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean that took two years… Her journey inspired me to get back into horses and currently I have a very special horse named Solomon. He is magic.
What is your favorite part of being an artist? Any parts you don’t enjoy quite as much?
I love the part when I first lay down paint on a big canvas. I start to see the piece literally come alive and it’s a blast! I love beauty and I love horses, so combining the two is a win win. The part that is challenging for me is the marketing/selling/promoting. It’s a COMPLETELY different part of the brain!!
Do you have any plans for any upcoming shows or competitions readers can see your work in person?
I don’t currently. But if anyone wants to have a show in their barn….let me know!! I can do commissions of the horses in their barn and then have a party/show on completion. Anyone is always welcome to visit my studio here in Redding CA.