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 try to depict the essence of what's in front of me, whether in my studio or while taking 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 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. In addition to depicting the landscape I treasure, I hope to create paintings of species that we too often take for granted. Whether outdoors or in my studio, I continue to indulge my own need to look and learn, and seek to paint the familiar so that others pause 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 educational outreach programs for youth and teens at the Harvard Ed Portal and works with Harvard students on teaching and science communication as they serve the surrounding community.
Susan has taught secondary school biology and prior to that worked on several PBS science series. A fervent believer that art is essential to conveying information about the natural world, Susan enjoys engaging all ages in pursuits that connect art, science, health and the outdoors. She is a Signature Member of the New England Watercolor Society, and an Associate Member of the Society of Animal Artists and the Copley Society of Art.
Copley Society of Art, Boston, MA
Gestural Figure and Essential Still Life Watercolor, Juracon, FR, Wendy Artin, 2023
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
New England Watercolor Society, 2023 Regional Exhibit, Pawtucket, RI, Juror: Vlad Yeliseyev
Maine Art Gallery, "Working Maine," Wiscasset ME, 2023
Society of Animal Artists 63rd Annual Exhibition, Wheeling, WV and National Tour, 2023
Copley Society of Art, Winter Members Exhibit, 2023
New England Watercolor Society, 2022 North American Open Juried Exhibit, Juror: Soon Y. Warren, AWS, NWS, TWS
Copley Society of Art, Winter Members Exhibit, 2022
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
New England Watercolor Society, Signature Member
Copley Society of Art, Boston MA, Associate Member