SUGAR AND SPICE
Mixed media art by Susan Birth

Dreamscapes

Worcestershire artist Susan Birth uses mixed media techniques to create colourful dream-like imagery inspired by her surroundings. Susan enjoys experimenting with multiple styles, continually discovering new ways to fascinate and intrigue her audience. We spoke to Susan about her motivation, her many creative influences and her plans for the future.

Why do you create?



As a youngster I loved to spend as much time as possible creating art. I so looked forward to and indeed adored my A-level art lessons and making art was also my number one free time activity. But back then, I didn’t really understand why. That’s just the way it was.


Lavenders Green


However, I was good at languages, and my career took off in that direction – language teaching which I didn’t enjoy much at all, and then translation which I did quite enjoy, some of the time, mostly when translating texts that gave me scope to be a little creative. All through those years I still painted whenever I could squeeze a little time between work and family. But developing one’s art practice requires longer stretches of time – time to think, time to explore.


I’m driven to depict aspects of the world around me that intrigue me.


Now, much later in life, and having ‘learned my trade’ and worked as a professional artist for nearly 8 years, I’m starting to understand the ‘why’ a little more. I am truly at my happiest in my studio making art. When I’m not there, I miss it so much. But why? I think it’s because I’m driven to depict aspects of the world around me that intrigue me. It’s this intrigue that informs my art and conveying it is what it’s all about for me. One definition: a mysterious or fascinating quality, and this is what attracts me.

How and where do you work?



Previously I worked in a converted bedroom in my home but for nearly four years now I’ve occupied one of the studio spaces at Bevere Gallery on the edge of Worcester. Our studios are open to the public Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. We love welcoming visitors, showing them around our studios and shared artists’ gallery and chatting about our processes and techniques.

Over the years I’ve loved experimenting with different mediums and techniques to find those that work well for me. So, for example, I’ve found that playing with mixing up collage and paint gives me a certain freedom to interpret. Simply throwing down some colours and seeing what develops is another avenue I’ve explored, and a great way of creating a captivating image that’s perhaps drawn from somewhere in my subconscious, something I’ve experienced in life or possibly in dreams… Representational? Yes, sometimes, always interpreted in my own way. Semi-abstract? Certainly – the intention generally being to create a dream-like mood. Abstract? Yes, sometimes, and challenging, which is good.


Once I’m absorbed in creating, I find it very hard to drag myself away.


Very recently I’ve learned some new ways of creating and using collage papers and building up texture and interest using more and different layers. This is exciting me now and I can’t wait to incorporate these new ideas into future work.

It’s no secret among my family, friends and fellow artists that once I’m absorbed in creating, I find it very hard to drag myself away. Sundays and Mondays are non-studio days and by Tuesday I’m craving the studio fix.

Where do you get your inspiration?



I have been drawn to intriguing aspects of a landscape or cityscape, of a wild garden, exhibits in a museum, a poem, art seen in galleries and/or books, particular combinations of colours, textures, shapes, mood… Something that grabs me and fills me with the longing to express it. There we have it. I want to create something beautiful that intrigues me and intrigues others. No deep messages here!


Worcestershire Black Pear

What influences your work?



I’m not generally influenced specifically by other artists, by the need to find buyers or to please an audience. For me there’s no point in adopting that perspective. Instead I follow my own pathways. I may work assiduously for several months on a series of paintings because I’m truly enjoying the processes and outcomes.

Then I might suddenly veer off that course because I so want to paint some flowers… I’m never short of ideas and inspiration and have never experienced any kind of ‘block’, touch wood... While I’m working on one series, the next is building and developing in my mind. I love what I do and feel very lucky that my buyers love it too!


I’m never short of ideas and inspiration ... I love what I do and feel very lucky that my buyers love it too!


Having said that I follow my own pathway, I do also enjoy the challenge of a commission and over the years have worked on several commissions for both public organisations and private customers. This challenge is all about how to follow the brief and yet interpret it in my own unique way.

Where do you sell your art?



I sell my original artwork directly from my studio. Many customers prefer being able to get to know the artist a little rather than buying from a city gallery without any artist-buyer engagement. However, I’m not one for hiding away in my studio all year round. I put myself out there too through involvement in art trails, art fairs, exhibitions, competitions, community and charity projects, etc.

How do you promote yourself and your work?



I started to use social media only when I started my professional art business and have become mediumly proficient at using it to promote my art. I used to belong to women’s networking groups and also Droitwich Arts Network. I found their events quite useful for making contacts and some sales. Sadly I don’t really have the time any more to devote to this type of networking. I am a member of The Arts Society Worcester however, and am currently doing their social media for them. So, social media and art events such as art fairs and exhibitions are my main means of promotion.

I have been invited to be featured in Living magazines and other publications for free; always good for general promotion. I currently have artwork in a show home in Ombersley – a different kind of opportunity. I’ve always made sure that interested visitors and buyers are invited to be on my monthly newsletter email list. The list is very long now, and sometimes leads to renewed interest and sales.


Wilder Seas, Porthleven


I have special postcard-size business cards printed with images, made for visitors to pick up in my studios and at art fairs and exhibitions, as well as standard-size business cards. Lastly, I like the fact that my art can help local charities and I donate items for auction and/or sale, as well as creating art specifically to help raise funds for good causes. I try to do something in this line at least once a year.

Involvement in charity and community projects is also a great way of getting my artwork known. This year I sent in an application to paint a penguin for Waddle of Worcester and was delighted that my design was accepted. Working on a Wild in Art sculpture is something I’ve never done before but it’s a new challenge and I know that it will open up new connections. It also contributes massively to helping St Richard’s Hospice.

What are your future ambitions?



My ambitions are to develop my art practice by learning and adopting new techniques and subjects, to keep painting LARGER and to do more art fairs.

Do you have any advice for other artists?



I would always advise artists starting out to get to know and meet with other artists in the local area – a great way of finding your ‘tribe’ and it’s amazing how just chatting in the pub can provide useful info and spark new ideas. Creating art can be a lonely business otherwise.

I would also advise artists to positively look for opportunities and to take up opportunities to promote their art, etc. Not every opportunity is a good one, but it’s definitely worth looking closely at all avenues.


Thank you Susan Birth for answering our questions. If you'd like to see more of Susan's work, you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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