“When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise.” –Henry Miller
And what’s all the fuss about Paris in the Spring? We’re excited to bring you a peak inside the world of abstract floral and botanical artist Susan Nethercote and yes… you guessed it we are traveling to Paris in the Spring 2020 with Susan!
Curl up in your favorite chair with a cafe au lait and enjoy our visit with Susan.
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your art.
A: I am an abstract floral and botanical painter and creative educator living in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia with my husband and two little girls. I live in a glorious 1860‘s Victorian and work out a large studio in the very heart of our home.
I paint primarily in acrylics and mixed media. Our beautiful and ever-changing garden is my constant inspiration, and nothing gives me greater joy that working out on the verandah on a fine day while my girls play in the garden.
My abstract floral and botanical work seeks to capture and communicate the dynamism and magic of nature through fluid, expressionistic and colorful interpretations of nature’s treasures. To me color is medicine and flowers are a universal language of the soul. I am endlessly fascinated by how art is able to access the parts of ourselves for which we have no words. Making art is, for me, taking a walk with the soul of nature.
Q: Can you describe a time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do?
A: Creativity has been the axis of my life for as long as I can remember. My Mum was very creative growing up, so there was always some kind of craft project going on around my house and I was always deeply immersed in one way or another. When I was 15, I begged my parents to let me take an oil painting class with a local lady in our town. This was my first big immersion in painting, but I was soon side-tracked by studies in the final years of high school. When I went off to University, it was to study Art History. I couldn’t get enough of learning about what made the great artists tick. I retrospect, I think I was creating some kind of map for my own future. I loved academia, and stayed with it for 6 years, getting a scholarship at Melbourne University where I studied, and continuing on to do postgraduate work and start lecturing and tutoring. Eventually I figured out that I was studying creative people because I wanted to create. At the time, I was deep into making jewelry and clothing as a hobby. One night, after waking up in a cold sweat with a clear understanding that academia was not for me and a creative path was, I left Uni and I started a clothing label called Manque Design. I started out at a very grass roots level- selling it at local markets and festivals. I was also painting, but this wasn’t something that I was selling at this time.
Manque ended up doing quite well, and I ended up with stockists all over Australia, my own flagships store in Melbourne, along with a studio/warehouse in a groovy inner-city suburb. After about a decade though, when faced with having to do IVF to have my first baby, I packed up my life as a fashion designer in Melbourne a burned-out, hot mess. I had two beautiful girls, picked up a paintbrush again, and my creative life exploded in completely unexpected ways. Before I knew it, Manque was pushed to the sidelines, along with a coaching practice that I ran for creative professionals, and my painting really took off. My greatest surprise was that art healed me in ways that I could never have imagined. And an even bigger surprise, was the sense of joy, peace and happiness that it brought to those who bought my art. It is my great honor to embrace the life of an artist and spend my time bringing forth beauty and grace in the form of paintings that enrich the homes of my collectors. And it is my joy to share with my students how I go about my intuitive painting process with an abandon that I firmly believe is completely accessible to anyone.
Q: Tell us about a day in the life – or a day in the studio, to be precise! What does it look like (and feel like)? What can you share about your process or routines?
A: I tend to have different days in the studio dedicated to different tasks. Generally, it’s an admin day or a painting day. On an admin day, I often have my studio assistant Laura in, and she will be doing anything from editing photos, and uploading work to the website to graphic design for one of our offerings to packing and shipping. This year, Laura and I have also recorded a podcast together first thing when she arrives, and we are having our cup of tea. While she is working, I will often be responding to emails, writing copy, preparing commission proposals, or planning future directions in the business. I also have a second assistant Steph come in and she edits my podcast and uploads it and also helps with a number of other content-creation oriented tasks with a focus on social media and online education which we are hoping to launch this year.
On a painting day, I try to be home on my own so I can disappear into my creative zone. I love to light a candle, diffuse some essential oils, and get down to work with either commission projects or personal work. As a Mum, I’ve also become very good at working in stolen moments. But my preference is to carve out some decent chunks of time to paint.
Q: Where does the magic happen? What does your creative space look like? We’d love to see some photos, if you’d like to share.
A: I work out of a very large studio that stands right in the center of my 1860’s Victorian house. It is an extraordinarily beautiful environment to work in. It has a large bay window, overlooking my garden and has beautiful natural light.
This unusually large space for a domestic home, was the combined formal dining and reception room of our grand old house in Ballarat, Australia. It is the space where I paint and run my art business. I also love to welcome collectors here by appointment to peruse available work.
I love that I can have a roast cooking in the kitchen, the kids doing their homework in the living room and just zip into the studio to daub on a painting. And I adore that I can snip a few blooms outside in our beautiful cottage garden and bring them straight inside to sketch. As a lover of beauty and connoisseur beautiful spaces, I absolutely adore the energy that this grand space brings to my painting. So much so that I decided that it was simply too good just to keep to myself. So, every couple of months I offer it up to five other creatives to join me for a day of painting in my ‘Studio Insider Workshop’. I feel incredibly blessed to have this space, as it enables me to undertake the often-large-scale commission work that takes up much of my time.
Q: What piece of equipment, tool or color could you not live without?
A: My iphone 7 +. It has a brilliant camera in it, and I could not do without it for taking quick studio snaps for social media, but also have used a number of high-quality photos taken on this phone for my website.
Q: Where do you derive inspiration?
A: Well, flowers, obviously! But just nature in general. Connecting with nature is a spiritual practice for me. I love the calm and connection to something magical I feel when in nature, and I do believe it is these feelings that I am channeling that come through in my art. I’m also a huge fan of art history and have derived so much direction and understanding of my own challenges as an artist but reading about the lives of artist’s past.
Q: Do you have any routines or rituals that get you into the creative zone?
A: As I mentioned, I love to diffuse essential oils when I paint, and it has become quite an important ritual for me to choose and essential oil that resonates with the kind of work I am creating. I also have some beautiful playlists on Spotify that cater for all kinds of painting moods.
Q: Does your creativity ever stall? What do you do when that happens?
A: Yes! Sometimes this can happen, because I’ve been working too hard and am feeling burnt out. If that is the case, I try to take a break and do something to fill my creative well such as spending time in nature or going to an art gallery. Travel is the best cure by far for me for burnout. But if it’s stalling because I’ve reached a difficult patch in a particular piece, I try not to force it, but rather do something else to give myself a rest and just be with the painting until it ‘speaks’ to me. Often this will happen in snippets and I’ll be doing very short painting sessions to bring it to completion as the next step reveals itself. I’ve learnt to put down the brush when I feel really stuck and not liking what is happening. Returning to it later when I can see some beauty and possibility usually yields the best results.
Having said that though, sometimes it works to just to make my best next move and trust that it will lead me where I need to be. There are a lot of contradictions that I negotiate in my art practice, Lol!
Q: How does travel inspire your work?
A: Travel is an extremely important source of inspiration for me. I am a massive Europhile and the place that inspires me most would have to be France.
The long history of art there, the incredible museums, the food, the elegance, the beauty around every corner just lights my artist sensibility like no other place. Teaching art retreats there is an absolute dream come true for me, and I cherish the time that I spend there and always return with my creative well full.
Q: What do you love most about teaching?
A: I love meeting my students where they are at. I teach people how to find the unique gestures that most naturally emerge from their body and am a big believer that when we tune into this and be present in our body and the pleasure we feel when we make certain marks, that this is the wellspring of our unique creative language. I absolutely love helping my fellow artists deepen this journey for themselves and find the visual expression that feels most true for them.
Q: What are you most looking forward to during this workshop?
A Paris! It’s my favorite city in the world! And I cannot wait to see how our museum and site visits inspire our studio explorations. I have had some pretty magical painting breakthroughs in Paris, I swear, there is something in the water there that inspires artists like no other place.
Q: Do you journal or sketch?
A: Actually, not much. I prefer to work on loose paper, or pads where the paper can be removed.
Q: If you could take only five items to create with while on vacation (not necessarily a workshop – any vacation), what would they be?
A: 300 gsm watercolor paper, a watercolor set, an aqua brush, a black fine-tipped pen
Q: So many of us believe our art can only ever be a hobby. How did you make the leap from passion to profession?
A: I have a long history of turning my passion into a profession. I have earned my living from being creative since I was 26 years old. I am just as passionate about entrepreneurship as I am about creating and have always worked very hard to monetize the processes, I love so I can do more of them. It’s not easy, but it can definitely be done. I have always felt most times, when I put myself out there and took a risk, that the universe has provided. I feel very very blessed to have had this experience.
Q: What mediums would you like to pursue but haven’t yet?
A: Oil painting. I was originally trained in oils and have recently delved a little back into it. But I would like to delve a lot deeper.
Q: Any tips for balancing creative time and administrative duties?
A: Admin can be a bit of a bottomless pit. I think it’s really important to carve out specific time for creative work and stick to it. Otherwise its’ too easy for admin to creep into it.
Q: If you could share an afternoon with any artist, dead or alive, who would that be?
A: Probably Monet, so I could quiz him on color
Q: Favorite books that help keep the creative juices flowing?
A: My all-time favorite would have to be Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’. This program has never failed to help me find answers when in a creative slump.
Q: Where can we find you and your work?
A: My art can be found at susannethercote.com and my education business is found on susannethercotestudio.com. My podcast at susannthercotestudio and on Instagram @susan.nethercote