Susan Paladino was interviewed by fellow New England Wax member Donna Hamil Talman recently.
Donna: How do you work?
Susan: Sometimes I start with a couple of simple ideas – I will like a particular shape, color or line. Sometimes I have a sketch and sometimes I will use an image I create in Photoshop. Since the program allows various layers, I can quickly test out some ideas of color and shapes without getting too definitive. Sometimes I will use a photograph of a tree because I like the structure of the bark and it will morph into various things. Doing some of this preliminary work is a great jump start for me; although, when I actually start the painting, it inevitably turns into something I had not planned on at all. It is mysterious to me, no matter what I do with the computer, the work often morphs completely but for maybe a few elements. I feel free to move things around, adjust colors and shapes to see how they interact, see what they become. When I work in a series, I will look at a work I already have done and pick up something from it, and that will again change what I have in front of me. I know things are working when I let the painting become what it wants to be.
Donna: Do you use other mediums?
Susan: I started out combining encaustic with my printmaking. For many years, I only did printmaking and taught workshops. But as time is moving along, I am more satisfied focusing on painting with encaustic and perhaps using some oil pigment.
Donna: Describe one of your pieces and what you were thinking as you created it?
Susan: This summer I was listening quite a bit of Joni Mitchell, especially Hejira. It influenced the diptych pictured here.
It is the first work in a new series, which is continuing to evolve. I have yet to name the series because I’m not totally sure where it is going. It is hard to talk about one piece, since one piece leads to another. The other piece here is somewhat of a magnification and simplification.
Out of the Loop, 16″ x 16″
Both of these works reflects my growing interest in non-objective. I feel an affinity to soft geometry and, although there is a simplification, I still want to maintain a richness. I realize that the imagination needs to be open, welcoming to change and possibility. Certain motifs seem to follow me and now I feel more free to experiment and magnify them.
Donna: Has your practice changed over time? How and why?
Susan: I started with encaustic a few years ago and wanted a studio that would be very convenient for me. It is a basic set up in my home, a condominium in downtown Boston. I love that it is always near me and even as I walk from room to room I can look at work I have done or am about to do. Previous to this, I worked in various printmaking studios. Although what I have now is very small, it has everything I need. My husband and I bought our place in 1988 – before the market took off. Not too many artists live around here because of how expensive it is. Yet, I have a strong community of artists that I have met that work with the encaustic and feel more positive about our interactions each year.
Donna: What is that community?
Susan: Well, besides N.E.W., one of the positive additions this year has been getting involved with an online encaustic critique group called Raising the Bar. We are 12 artists that use encaustic. We post work and give feedback and/or give a formal critique. One of the desirable aspects of printmaking is that it can be collaborative, working in a studio with other printmakers. It has been great to be able to post and ask for a formal crit on work and get feedback very soon from artists that I respect. It is somewhat informal, but has a serious side to it. Even though I have been doing it for a relatively short time, I feel they are my studio mates and friends.
Donna: What is a formal critique? Can you tell us a little more about Raising the Bar?
Susan: DAIJ — Description, Analysis, Interpretation and Judgment. I won’t define these, but it gives you the idea. It is at times informal and we do post things other than critiquing, but the group has a strong purpose and constructive side to it and everyone is enthusiastic. Kathy Caldwell is the leader of the group. We will be doing an article in ProWax Journal very soon and may actually help other artists with this idea of an online critique group. I know for myself and others, we are all becoming better writers and more insightful in communicating about our work and critiquing others. It helps to push us to make our own work better and what more can you ask?
Donna: What would we be surprised to learn about you?
Susan: Many years ago, I had a small business creating pillows for designers and homeowners using antique fabrics, and I also had a stand in Quincy Market. It was one of my experiences where I learned a lot about retail. I worked with a well-established designer and she would have me go to the Design Center to select fabrics. I loved spending time looking at beautiful, high-quality textiles and selecting samples from the Design Center for drapes and furniture. Some of the fabrics were like pieces of art.
Donna: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Susan: As for as my studio practice, I take off time during the summer to usually explore a new technique by taking a workshop in something that I have a keen interest in, even though I do not necessarily incorporate it into my work. This summer I took an eco-dying workshop which was re-energizing. Right now, I am very excited about where I am and what I am creating — that means so much to me.
Donna: Have you any new venues to show your work?
Susan: Thanks for asking. Gallery Blink has been a new gallery for me to show my work. It is unusual in that it is a sophisticated popup. The owners, Gil and John, transform their home in Lexington into a wonderful and large gallery space to showcase work from many artists. The atmosphere of this setting gives people the chance to envision what the work may look like in their own home. They do a great job at presentation and space the work very professionally.