Susan Melrath
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I’m just going to tell you like it is, without the esoteric mumbo jumbo.

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.