Painting is a wonderful excuse to sit with something I find fascinating. I can spend hours watching the Damariscotta River, wondering how the tide, current and wind combine to create wave patterns, or staring into the tanks at the Fisherman's Co-op, marveling at how stunningly beautiful crustaceans can be. Time stops as I watch a pollinator at work or take in the smells, sounds and shadows of a landscape. Painting enables me to dwell in a state of intense focus, and as a science educator, painting is often an act of discovery.
In my studio, I work with the interplay of negative space with human and animal forms, and rely upon strong composition and value structure to help convey the complexity and beauty of what I've seen. I want the animals themselves to be recognizably realistic, but experiment with minimizing the context of their environment and using abstraction to encourage viewers to take a closer look.
When I travel, painting en plain air allows me to sit still, develop a sense of place and become enthralled by the light or birdsong, and absorb the sounds of a different language. Because speed is essential as the light or weather changes, I draw in pen instead of pencil to prevent myself from erasing a first impression, and I employ a looser style.
As a resident of South Bristol and Portland, ME, I relish Maine’s dramatic light, landscapes and ever-changing seascapes, and particularly enjoy the solitude and stark beauty of winter. But in addition to depicting the landscape I treasure, I hope to create paintings of species which are important to the coastal economy, but that we too often take for granted. Whether outdoors or in my studio, I continue to indulge my own need to look and learn, I will seek to paint the familiar in ways that will encourage others to stop for a moment and stare along with me.
A career educator with a B.S. from Cornell and an M.Ed from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Susan oversees programs at the Harvard Ed Portal that enable Harvard students to gain experience teaching while serving the surrounding community. She has taught secondary school biology and prior to that worked on several PBS science documentary series. Susan lives in Portland and mid-coast Maine, and commutes to the Boston area. A fervent believer that art is essential to communicating information about the natural world, Susan enjoys engaging all ages in interdisciplinary pursuits that connect art, science, health and outdoor education.
Copley Society of Art, Boston, MA
Umbrella Center for the Arts, Concord MA, Kat O'Connor, 2012 - present
Art Students League of New York, Workshop with Wendy Artin, 2019
DeCordova Museum School, Lincoln MA, Kat O'Connor, 2004 - 2012
Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Cambridge MA, 2000 - 2004
Plein Air Workshops with Kat O'Connor at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, 2018 and 2020; Brunswick, ME, 2017; South Dartmouth, MA, 2016; Skopelos, Greece, 2014; and Cinque Terre, Italy, 2009
Copley Society of Art, Winter Members Exhibit, "Winter Colors"
Copley Society of Art, 2020-21 New Members Exhibit
New England Watercolor Society 2021 Regional Exhibit, 3rd Place, Vernon, CT, Juror: Anne Crouter, AWS
River Arts Gallery Exhibit, "Wild Things," Damariscotta, ME, Juror: Jorge S. Arango
Copley Society of Art, 2020 New Members Exhibit
Concord Art Association: 2020 Members Juried 1 Painting and Sculpture, Concord, MA Jurors: Emily Eveleth and Penn Young
Belmont Art Association: "2020 Vision: What We See," Belmont, MA, Juror: Gillian Ross, Gallery Twist
Solo Exhibit: "A Closer Look," Habitat Education Center, Belmont MA, September 2019
New England Watercolor Society 2019 Regional Juried Show, Portsmouth NH, Juror: Antonio Masi
"02478," Belmont Gallery of Art Juried Exhibit, Belmont MA, 2015
Solo Exhibit: "Pathways Through Light and Shadow," Habitat Education Center, Belmont MA, June 2013
Solo Exhibit: "Susan L. Johnson Watercolors," Kitchen On Common, Belmont MA, 2009