Susan's "subject matter, context and medium...present a coherent artistic vision"
John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

"Great stuff. Love your work."
Seymour Chwast

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Monday, May 30, 2016


Out of the Woods, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inches

 I AM ALWAYS AMAZED by the multifaceted meanings of English language words. Take for instance the word hatching. The definitions given by the Merriam Webster dictionary include:

1. to cause young to emerge from the egg, as by brooding or incubating.

2. to bring forth or produce; devise; create; contrive; concoct: to hatch a scheme .

3. drawing of fine lines in close proximity, especially to give an effect of shading; also: the pattern so made.

I started the above painting of a girl with approaching wolf a while  ago.  I was stumped as to how to finish it so it has been incubating in a corner in my studio.

It caught my eye recently. Though unfinished, the painting is going in the same direction as the paintings I am making currently.  I discovered a sketch of a wolf in man's clothing taped to the back of it. Because of that find, I knew exactly how to complete the painting. In my excitement, I lifted the painting quickly and placed it on the easel with a loud thud.

Wolf in Man's Clothing, pencil on paper, 3 x 5 inches

To emphasize that I've-got-it moment, I  thought I heard applause. It was a thunderous flapping of wings, made by a startled dove leaving his nest in my window box. Upon closer inspection of the window box,  I could see that a female dove was sitting on an egg.

I thought about the symmetry of it all. At the very moment I was hatching my idea for my painting, mother  Dove was hatching her egg.

I started work on my painting and with the quieter hatching work of penciling in the basket, the male  dove returned to keep us both company during our respective hatching.

At day's end, I  went to bed thinking about the similarity between me and the doves and nature and humanity.  It was then that I realized we are all equal. I demonstrate that  harmony between human beings and nature in my paintings.

It tickled me and supported my realization to think that while I was being warmed by my feather duvet, the dove's baby was being warmed inside its egg by the "duvet "of his mother's luxuriously feathered body.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fresh Start Thursday

DJR, digital painting #1

IT'S FRESH START THURSDAY (FST). When you see a post marked FST, you know I will be showing you something that I never did before, or if I did do it, not very often, and I definitely didn't show it to anyone and I'm not that great at it, but that didn't stop me from doing it. (That's gotta be a FST for longest run-on sentence I ever wrote.) Hey, even Picasso had his "bad" days. However, if someone gave you a "bad" Picasso, would you say that you didn't want it? Today's painting is my first iPad painting ever. I drew and painted directly on my IPad with colors and brushes from out of thin air. I didn't (and still don't) really know how to use iPad painting programs. The original art stays in the ether, but if you like it, I can make a print of it for you or of any of my paintings for that matter. Just let me know.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Shape of Things

Coming of Age, acrylic on linen, 24 x 18 inches

FIGURE STUDIES  are an important  part of our history of art.  They have been around since  the time of the cave drawings at Lascaux, France, where many depictions of human figures were discovered along with the animals and symbols.

I suspect these figures were drawn by men because in early America at least, women were not even allowed to draw from live models.  Until the 20th century, women were restricted to drawing from plaster casts. The  American painter Mary Cassatt (1844 -1926) had to leave the country and go to Paris to learn to paint. She felt she was not learning anything at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, because she, as a woman, was not allowed to draw from live models. At the time it was thought to be bad and even dangerous for women to do so. I guess that would have been called an artist's lament. 

I am happy academics are more enlightened now because one of the most thrilling work that an artist can do is studies from the live human form. I am very lucky because in my undergraduate days I studied drawing under the late, great Jack Potter, a famous artist in his own right. He relentlessly reminded me and my classmates in life classes that we were not drawing people or anatomy, but rather shapes. In his class we were not even allowed to refer to the anatomical names for body parts. For instance, we could not say, "The model's right elbow is out of line."  We had to refer to the model's  "shape," not her  "elbow." If we did, Mr. Potter would remind us, "The model has no elbow, she has a shape."

That was the major breakthrough in my drawing. If you think about it, a  shape, or in this case an angle, is a lot easier to draw than a "flexed arm." It is far less intimidating when you don't have to consider skin texture, hair,  muscles, tendons, nerves, bones,  joints, fingers and so forth. In addition, by simplifying, one achieves a more spontaneous drawing . Once you have the overall shape, you can go back and put in as many of the visual details as you need to tell your story.

Figure Study, drawn with paint on canvas

I hope you like the shape of things!

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Pills, Pen and ink on paper with digital color, 7 x 5 inches xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


BILLY is frilly
and Willy's so plain
Don't see how Willy
can get rid of pain.

I pay the big bill
when I've got a chill
for it's more than a thrill
to cure what's ill.

Ate a cheesesteak in Philly
Got cramps willy nilly
Bill was not there, so I took a Willy
Turned my cramps into a dilly.

It may sound silly
to like Bill over Willy
Which  makes me a pill
Like Billy and Willy.

Rx - If reading this has given you a headache, take two Willies and  call me in the morning -
Dr. Susan

Sunday, May 15, 2016

She's Leaving Home

Leaving Home, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches

IN LEAVING HOME, I have focused on the concept of “wings,” as reflected in insects, birds and even human beings. I combine elements of reality and fantasy in ways that shed a new light on the interrelationships between humans and the natural world around us. Sometimes the division is clear; on other occasions the two worlds melt into one.

Detail of the Village, right corner of canvas

Above you can see a closeup of the village that she's leaving (lower right corner) with parents waving goodbye It looks like Chagall himself painted the village, but he did not. It was I!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mistaken Identity

ONE DAY, I was in the basement at our cottage, Foxglove,
 and I saw a scorpion.


 I DID! –even though Foxglove is in Connecticut! Well, that made me very anxious because I thought it would probably try to kill me. So I called our pest control company, Master Shield, and requested they come to my house immediately to take care of this urgent, life threatening problem. This is what their technician said to me. "Lady, we're not coming; we don't do scorpions, only plain old-fashioned Connecticut bugs."

I told my husband of my problem. He said, "They can't do that. We have a contract with them. I paid for emergency house calls." Please note. My husband DIDN'T EVEN CARE THAT WE HAD A SCORPION IN THE HOUSE. He only cared that he wasn't getting his money's worth. In a huff, he called Master Shield himself. The technician reiterated that if a scorpion were in the basement, they don't do scorpions. To which my husband replied "And would you believe my wife if she told you that the Loch Ness Monster was swimming in our lake?"

This is what happened next:

Master Shield was here within the half hour; found not a scorpion but a plain, old-fashioned Connecticut bug, a mole cricket in our basement and per my request, left it well and alive in the basement, where it still resides today.


Wait.  Gotta go. I think I see something ... moving ... swimming ... in  ... the ... lake. Oh, it's probably nothing ... just a log ... or ...  maybe ... it's ... somethiiiiiiiiiiing.............ELSE.  Gotta call Master Shield and tell them!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Severed Cords

Severed Cords, pen and ink on paper, 8 x 11 inches


HAPPY MOTHERS DAY.  I actually liked it better before the umbilical and telephonic cords were cut. Nonetheless, I hope you are having a heavenly day in heaven. Probably all the days there are heavenly, so what do you call it when it is a special day? Earthly?  I would love to know, but unfortunately we never get to talk anymore what with you in heaven and me on earth.

With all of the new technology, I can't believe I can talk to someone in Mozambique on Facebook, which is thrilling in it's own way, but I cannot talk to my Mom! I'm amazed that some brilliant astrophysicist has not yet figured out how to enable us to talk to those we love after they leave the planet.  After all, we (or at least those of us who are old enough) have watched astronauts walk on the moon.  We saw them take one small step for man in boots so unattractive it made me cringe.

What about doing this for mankind? Let the people who are missing their mothers talk to them. I think that would be a worthwhile scientific endeavor.  I would rather spend money for that than to watch one small step in some majorly ugly boots. Which one would you vote for? I know my vote is going for talking to my Mother.  Her name was Babe Bisgood and she was more interesting than any astronaut.

Since no one else seems to be working on it, I have applied my astonishingly unscientific, nontechnical mind to the problem.  Hey! You never know–a fresh outlook and all. I'll never be hired by NASA. I've got a different kind of mind.  I think I've got it. I'm confident it is original thinking.  What if we simply dial our old phone number from when we were children (In my case, SPencer 9–6134–wish I had my childhood Princess telephone on which to call)  Your parents and you carry the old number with you like sort of a primitive precursor of the bar code.  Why do you think you've never forgotten your old phone number in the first place?  This is the reason. It's just that nobody ever realized it before. I am not even thinking of becoming famous here. I'm just thinking about talking to my Mother.

OK. It's Mother's Day and I'm going to try it. I'm calling.  Here goes ... S.P.e.n.c.e.r. ... It's ringing ... that's a good sign. Hmmm ... no answer. Well, maybe Mom's out for Mother's Day.  I hope so and I hope she is having a wonderful time.  There is no recording asking me to leave a message, so maybe there is no voicemail in heaven.  Maybe God's not that into technology.  I should think not.  After all, He's very old.

No answer ... that's OK  No problem, Mom.  Love you and catch you tomorrow.


Monday, May 2, 2016

An Artist Thing

An Artist's Thing, pen and ink on paper, digital color

YOU MIGHT NOT THINK SO, but painting is a lot like cleaning. In painting you start with a surface (the canvas), apply media to it, swirl it around a bit, and then polish it with glazes. By doing this, you are changing and improving the surface of the canvas. After you complete your work, there is an image on it. It is now pleasing to look at. In cleaning, you also start with surfaces–say a window. You squirt some Windex on it, swirl it around, and polish with a dry cloth. You have altered its surface so that it has a high sheen and you can see your reflection in it –that's an image.

All my life I have been going for the image. I am told that when I was a toddler, I would have a fit if I got even one nano-sized spot of chocolate ice cream on my dress. I would scream and beat my little fists on the floor until my mother changed my dress. She apparently didn't understand why a little girl would care so much about a slightly soiled dress. She did not yet know that I would be an artist. Artists go for the image.

Detail of Susan the Immaculate, pen, ink on paper, digital color

A few years later, Mrs. Gordon, our housekeeper would yell at my brother and sister because their rooms were habitually littered with empty soda bottles, half-eaten tuna sandwiches, dirty underwear and the odoriferous remnants of chemistry experiments gone bad. (They did not grow up to be artists.) She would tell them, "Look at Susie's room. Everything is so neat and clean in there. All I have to do in there is pull up the bed covers." You can imagine how this endeared me to my siblings. But that really was all Mrs. Gordon had to do. My room was the precursor to my canvas.

As a teenager, I took so many baths (I am now down to a maximum of two a day) that my father began calling me "Susan the Immaculate"–and we weren't even Catholic. I was just going for the freshly-scrubbed image. My parents still didn't know that I would become an artist and neither did I. I just thought that I would be really clean.

Perhaps I went too far when I was straightening up the upstairs bedrooms in my parents' house. My father once had one of his surgeon buddies sleep over at the house. They both left their false teeth on their respective bedside tables. I didn't like the way that looked so I put their dentures in the bathroom cabinet. It was pretty funny the next morning seeing two world famous surgeons searching around, grumbling "Where'd we put our teeth!" (Actually, it sounded like "derew ew tup ruo hteet!")

When I got my first apartment, my friends knew that they were not permitted to leave their hand bags on the floor. I explained to them that it was tantamount to taking a handful of red paint and hurling it at one of my paintings. Neither the handbag nor the paint belonged. They were not part of the composition. If the handbags were pretty enough, my guests could put them on the hall table.  But if left on the floor or ugly, their handbags would be whisked away, or "hidden" as my husband now calls this behavior, not to be seen again until their departure. My smarter friends always chose a apretty bag when coming to visit and asked, "Is this pretty enough for the table?"

 Susan the Immaculate, pen, ink on paper, digital color

In graduate school at NYU, although I had a near-perfect GPA, not one professor ever commented favorably on my paintings. Professor Humphreys said "Wow!" once, but that's because it was a nude (who looked remarkably like me) with butterflies coming out of her stomach. However, at the beginning of every studio painting class, when my fellow students were running out to buy a canvas, or were out of cerulean blue, or in the most egregious cases forgot that it was a studio day altogether and did not bring their brushes and paints, I was always highly complimented. Numerous professors asked their classes "Why can't you be more organized. Look at Ms. McLaughlin. She has her paints all mixed because she keeps them all in air-tight jars so they don't dry out, her canvas is already sized and primed, she's researched her subject and she is blocking in her paint rough already. And you are first going out to the art supply store?" I know this sounds more like kindergarten than grad school, but it really happened. One of my fellow students, with paint dripping all over her, once announced that she had tried and failed to imagine me with even one spot of paint on myself. A practicing psychiatrist who for some reason was auditing one of my studio classes declared me "pathologically neat."

One day shortly after I graduated, I was surprised by none other than the head of NYU's painting program himself. He came upon me as I was exiting my personal studio at the school. After not making a single comment about my work the entire year, he said to me, "There are some mighty exciting paintings in that studio of yours." Before I could even thank him, he followed with, "Would you mind getting them out of there along with your easel and paints. I've got two students coming in tomorrow from Japan and I need the studio for them." He didn't really like my paintings, he didn't even like my organizational skills, he just liked my leaving!

To this day I cannot start painting until everything in my studio is clean, shiny and perfectly arranged. I would be more concerned about what might appear to be the manifestations of obsessive–compulsion disorder, had I not read a biography of Willem de Kooning. Luckily, I had learned that every Saturday morning, the great artist would strip the wood floors in his studio, and clean and polish them himself. He thought it very important that his floors shine. Before he could start reflecting on his canvas, he wanted to see his reflection in his floors.

It must be an artist thing.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Paper Gown

Paper Gown, pen and ink on paper, digital color

I WALKED INTO the fancier-than-I-usually-go-to -party and spotted my doctor, the love of my fantasy life. I tried to act nonchalant, but when our eyes met I blushed all over. This is one of the disadvantages (other than having people thinking you're a vampire) of being a fair-skinned redhead. You wear your emotions on your skin.

I had had many pleasant conversations with my doctor in his office while he examined me. My first visit had been an emergency necessitated by stomach pain. He actually saved my life by putting me into a cab to the hospital in time for the life-saving surgery I needed. Apparently, an ambulance would have been too slow. I live today not only for him, but because of him.

Over the years I have devised a strategy to neutralize my emotional response to my annual physicals. I dig my fingernails into my scalp.  (See above) I need the agony of nails in flesh to cancel out the ecstasy of his touch in order to appear even remotely normal. You can imagine how I feel when he says, "Please take off everything but your underpants and slip into the paper gown. I'll be back in a minute." Once, I thought I caught him studying my face. (He might have been looking for indications of brain deficiency) but other than that we are just two people in a pleasant enough, though strictly doctor/patient, relationship.

But back to the night of the party. He maneuvered his way through the herd of socialites towards me. Without a word, he guided me into a more private part of the townhouse. Finally I got a, "Hi, so nice to see you, Susan." He put his arms around me, pulled me toward him so that our bodies touched and then hugged and kissed me for what I suspect is not an acceptable length of time for a mere greeting.

"Why Susan, you're hyperventilating, your heart rate seems a little high, your forehead is hot and your cheeks are flushed," said the doctor. "Are you feeling all right?"

I replied, "I feel a little weak in the knees."

In answer he said, "Take off every thing and slip into the paper gown. I'll be back in a minute." He disappeared but, almost as an afterthought, stuck his head back into the room and said, "Oh, and please remove your underpants. "

That didn't slow down the heart rate!