Susan Melrath
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I love paint. I love pencils, pastels, paper and glue. I love to make marks and arrange them, like a musician composes a song… a choreographer organizes dancers a chef combines flavors. 

Inspiration for my paintings comes from many places, but it often happens right in the studio, sparked by play. That’s what’s happening on the surface, anyway. Below the surface is a whole different story. The realm of the subconscious is only accessible when a painter allows for chance in her work. Taking risks, experimenting, and playing is a part of the painting process that thrills me. This is where I discover surprises and unexpected imagery. This the stuff of dreams, metaphor, magic. It unfolds when I am courageous and let the painting tell me what it wants. We have a conversation. I ask, “this?” and it answers, “that.” Often, I don’t know what the painting will become until it’s close to completion. It’s a little like having a baby. I gently guide, and respond to what appears. In many ways, my painting practice mirrors my life and teaches me. Am I being too controlling? Am I really doing what I love? Am I being clear? 

This process is a stark contrast to the way I learned to paint, and to how I painted during my early career as an illustrator. That was all about accuracy and precision. I can still paint a portrait, a landscape, or a still life that looks like a photograph, but it just bores me to tears. That’s not to say that I don’t like a challenge! I love commissioned paintings that need to fit a space or color palette in a room. But generally speaking, I have learned from my painting practice, that life is to be experienced, not controlled. As a colleague reminds me, “more painty, less thinky.”



My roots are in illustration, although there is nary a trace of it in my current work. After graduating a four year, commercial art school in Philadelphia, I enjoyed many successful years as a freelance illustrator. My clients included IBM, Simon and Schuster, Time Life Books, and Miami Herald to name a few. When my son was born I quit working for a while to raise him. This is when my desire to paint deepened, and I stole time here and there to slip into the studio. What I discovered was a world of magic and metaphor in a painting process that has become a way of life. My son is all grown up now, and I have been painting solidly for over a decade. I've been honored with grants and a residency, and with having my work included in public and private collections. Best of all, I have discovered my love of teaching, a vehicle for sharing the magic. 




EDGE Professional Development Program for Visual Artists; Seattle, WA

Hussian School of Art; Philadelphia, PA

University of Dijon; Dijon, France

Oxford Area High School; Oxford, PA

Work Experience

Freelance Illustration: Clients included IBM, Simon and Schuster, Time Life Books, Miami Herald, JC Penney


2019 Oxford Arts Alliance; Oxford, PA; “Abstract Thinking;” solo show

2018                   Bradford Gallery; CCAA; West Chester, PA; three person show

2014                   Bluestone Fine Art Gallery; Philadelphia, PA; solo show 

2012                   Lucia Douglas Gallery, Bellingham, WA

2011                   Sightline Institute, Seattle, WA

2008                   City of Woodinville, City Hall, Woodinville, WA

Group Exhibitions

2018                   National Juried Show; 2nd Place Award; Juror Al Gury

2016                   National Juried Show; Juror Jennifer Samet

                          Oxford Arts Alliance, Oxford, PA

2015                   National Juried Show; Juror Dr. J. Susan Issacs 

                          Oxford Arts Alliance, Oxford, PA

2014                   Inflorescence; Kirkland Arts Center; Kirkland, WA

2013                Simon Mace Gallery, Port Townsend, WA 

                          TK Corridor Gallery, Seattle, WA

2012                   Centennial Center Gallery, Summer Art Exhibit, Kent WA

                          Lucia Douglas Gallery, Bellingham, WA 

                          Columbia City Gallery, Seattle, WA

2011                   UnPlugged, ArtsWest Gallery Seattle, WA

                          Driven to Abstraction, UpFront Gallery, Issaquah, WA

                          Flora and Fauna, EAFA Gallery, Seattle Design Center, Seattle, WA

2010                   Portraits, Ida Culver House, Seattle, WA

                          EAFA 35th Annual Exhibition; Bellevue, WA

                          Along the EDGE, MV Arts Center; Maple Valley, WA

                          To the Edge, ArtEAST Gallery; Issaquah, WA 

                          Safe Harbor, Port Angeles Fine Arts Center; Port Angeles, WA


2017                   C. X. Carlson Trust Teaching grant 

2016                   Oxford Mainstreet Inc. exterior mural

                          Oxford Mainstreet, Inc.; Oxford Area Foundation

2014                   Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT

                          NLAPW; Shirley Holden Helberg Grant

Public Collections

        Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

Oxford Mainstreet, Inc.; Oxford, PA mural

        Swedish Art Collection; Seattle WA 

        Group Health, Seattle

        Heathman Hotel, Kirkland, WA

        Tacoma General Hospital; Tacoma, WA