We’re thrilled to kick off our Summer Artist Interview Series with NJ-based artist, Susan Jarecky! My boss, Linda Wehrli received Susan’s gorgeous email newsletter filled with delightful paintings of landscapes, hummingbirds and horses and immediately suggested we reach out to this brilliant artist for our July Artist Blog Interview. Susan graciously accepted the invitation. We’re excited to present our Artist Interview with Susan Jarecky!
JLS. What is your style of painting referred to? For our art students, would you please describe what this style means or represents?
SJ. My style of painting is Impressionism. This means I paint loosely ( an “impression”) using brushstrokes, textures, and colors to describe the scene, leaving details to the viewers’ eyes to “fill in”. After 33 years as an architectural illustrator, which involved A LOT of detail in the renderings, I decided to be a “painterly” oil painter. When I picked up the brushes in my late 40’s, I worked very hard to “loosen up” with the help of a painting coach, taking weekly lessons with a prolific and very wildly loose painter, Hyatt Moore. He helped me undo my tight rendering tendencies, therefore, settling on impressionism as my style of choice.
JLS. Very cool! It must have felt freeing to go from structural drawing to loosely painting! Much of your recent paintings feature landscapes, figures, and still life. What is the story or inspiration behind your choice of subject matter? Do you create the paintings off the top of your head,on location or look at personal photographs?
SJ. The theme of my work is always about ruralness, wide open spaces, and the American landscape. I mostly like to paint farm scenes because I was grew up in Southern California in the 1960’s and 70’s before there was a lot of development. We had a cabin in Big Bear and I spent a lot of time there and was always a mountain girl. My four older brothers also lived on ranches in Oregon. I would spend my summers with them and loved the wide open space, the animals, and of course, horses!
My paintings are always from places I have been. I do paint on site (en plein air) to capture color from nature that is lost in photography. In the studio, I have learned to edit my photo references and not “copy” them verbatim. Great compositions need the artist’s discretionary eye. I often put aside my photo references if I find myself studying them too closely. They are simply a reference. I might add animals “off the top of my head” like cows or chickens to give a scene more interest. I like to paint the figure in live model sessions. I have done detailed portraits of my granddaughters, but otherwise prefer being a landscape painter.
JLS. Thanks for sharing. Agreed in that photos are there just for a reference! Our students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. May I please inquire, what is your preference for paints and brushes? Do you use oils or acrylics? Do you paint on canvas board, panels, or…? Do you finish with a varnish or leave as is?
SJ. My preference in oil paint is M Graham. This paint is the best I have found in color saturation and viscosity. The paint has a buttery texture which I really like. It is walnut oil based with non-toxic binders so there is no smell or risk of becoming allergic.
Rosemary “Ivory” brushes are what I paint with. I also use hog bristle brushes, any brand, to draw and “scrub in” my first layer. Although I am an oil painter, I have used acrylics to block in a painting when it’s a large scale. This method helps speed up the process of dry time when working on a large format painting because the wait time to dry is much faster with using acrylics. This initial layer is thin and establishes the larger shapes and design of the composition. I don’t worry too much about the values because I just want to focus on covering the canvas with the underpainting.
I like all surfaces, i.e., canvas, panel, board, etc. If I work on 12×16 or smaller, I prefer Canva “Plein Air” boards. They come in 3 sizes, are thin but durable and have a great surface to paint on, tooth with a slight slickness that the paint glides over. I recommend these to every level of painter. They come in pads of 10 and are very affordable. I always varnish paintings with Gamvar, by Gamblin. This protects the painting from UV, enhances the colors and preserves the painting. It makes for a beautiful final touch!
JLS. Thanks for letting us know. I had never heard of M. Graham paints, but I will definitely check them out. Are you represented by any art galleries or do you work solo?
SJ. I am represented at a gallery in Evergreen, CO called Stoneheart Gallery. I am also a member of a gallery in Piermont, NY, the Piermont Fine Arts Gallery, where I am getting my name out here on the East Coast. I also have a website. I encourage you to join my e-newsletter by going onto the website and signing up! I send a newsletter to my subscribers on a quarterly basis and show my latest paintings and keep in touch about shows, etc.
I also am on Instagram and Facebook, so you can find me there as well and follow me- links to those are also on my website at the bottom of the page. I use Fine Art Studio for my website host. They are a company with websites designed specifically for artists and I have been with them since 2007.
JLS. Wonderful! Thanks. For our students, what do you believe are the pros and cons of gallery representation?
SJ. Pros are they sell your work and it relieves the headache of collecting money and shipping. It builds your collector base and gets your work out there. Cons are, you don’t have control, you do not get to know who the buyers are or their information, it’s a hassle to ship paintings back and forth to the gallery, and to keep track of inventory. You have to have a lot of trust in the gallery to be ethical and pay on time. I have had very good relationships with galleries and am actively pursuing galleries on the East coast. It is very difficult to get into galleries without a referral.
JLS. Thank you for sharing your experience with gallery representation. It indeed seems like there are benefits but some struggles as well. At what age did you realize you wanted to be a professional artist?
SJ. I was always an artist and began drawing horses from an early age. At age 9, my mother enrolled me in private oil painting lessons, and I had a lot of influence from people in my life that exposed me to the arts. Being an artist is who I am. I don’t let level of skill and success define me – at least I try not to. There are a lot of failures along the way and so I encourage everyone to stay positive and simply enjoy the process of painting, or whatever art form you enjoy, which may include many.
JLS. Wise words. Did anyone try to talk you out of venturing into an art profession? If so, how did you handle it?
SJ. My parents always encouraged me to stay in the arts. I was surrounded by women who understood my talent and nurtured me. It is important to keep art as a hobby unless an opportunity arrises that launches you forward. At age 19, while attending Cal State Fullerton as an art major, I answered an ad looking for illustrators. It began as a 2 week internship to see if I could draw, and this opportunity became my profession for the next 33 years. I worked 6 years for the company and learned everything I could and then went out on my own. I worked as a protege for a world renown illustrator and my career took off! I was drawing, designing, painting in watercolor, and running my business as a young woman with 2 children. It was a very busy life but it gave me life long skills and much discipline to take with me into my current career as an oil painter.
JLS. So cool! My boss, Linda Wehri attended Cal State Northridge, majoring in Business Administration. 🙂 Sounds like you had a great support system. So important. I understand you were born in California. How did you end up settling in Wyckoff, NJ? Do you find that the city influences your artistic approach or subject matter?
SJ. Last year, my husband and I moved to Wyckoff, NJ to be near family- our daughter, son-in-law, and two little granddaughters, Giuliana (4) and Isabella (1). We knew if we didn’t live close to them, we would miss out on so much! Relocating was difficult as we purchased a house that needed a full renovation. So, again, my design skills came in handy and we now have a house that we enjoy and is filled with art. We go into New York City from time to time to the museums and to peruse art galleries. I highly recommend all artists to study art by going to museums and galleries. I always am inspired by them! I study all art, not just Impressionism. I like to see what other people do and discover a wide variety of techniques. Sometimes, I will experiment and push myself to be more abstract.
JLS. For sure! We love studying the old masters. That’s so nice you are so close to NYC and have access to all the great museums and galleries. Did you study art in college, attend masterclasses or are you self- taught? What are the pros and cons of studying at a university vs. self-taught? Were any masterclasses memorable? With whom did you study?
SJ. I studied art in college by first taking courses as a high schooler, then went to University as an art major. As I said, I landed at being an illustrator between my Sophomore and Junior years, and so I quit college at that point. This is a very unusual circumstance and, although it worked out to be a good choice for me, I would recommend students to finish college. Self-taught is an odd term – I definitely was self-motivated but learned from others all along the way! I still learn from others but take the initiative to study on my own. I occasionally do intensive workshops from highly skilled painters, i.e., Scott Christensen, Mark Kerckhoff, and Colley Whisson. If you look up these artists, you will see how they influenced me.
JLS. I like the term “self-motivated”! Especially important for young artists. Do you teach any workshops via Zoom or in-person?
SJ. I have taught workshops in person. I’ve also done a few Zoom and in-person demonstrations(s). From the point of view as both a student and instructor, in-person is the way to go for workshops. Although, I did once do a 6 week workshop online (not Zoom) through a series of videos and live chat with an instructor. He would give weekly assignments, which I uploaded, then he would critique. It was very effective and I learned some very useful skills.
JLS. Nice. Thanks for sharing. What is some advice you can give the young artists studying at Pastimes?
SJ. Try new things! You should always be kind to yourself and allow for failures. I have a ton of bad paintings under my belt, more to come, and great paintings that happen in between. I have found a love for ceramics as another outlet for creativity and skill building. I like to sew, knit, craft, cook, and even paint a room in my house…all creative, all fun! It’s all about the JOY of DOING, and challenge!
JLS. Love that! Very insightful. Art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, my boss Linda Wehrli, partners with CoachArt to provide free art classes for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you might like our readers to learn more about?
SJ. I do not have a specific charity. The way in which I give back, is I personally mentor young artists. I see in others what I had as a child and will spend time talking to that child. That’s where the imagination is pure and able to be molded. I am so grateful to all the people who mentored me and I find this to be a rewarding experience to give back. Also, whenever possible, I share my enthusiasm with the public about art and its importance in our world. Art is NOT a luxury, it is a necessity and everything we have in this world is because of art and artists. Even science was born from art going back to cave drawings. It is part of our survival and is responsible for our quality of life. I have donated countless paintings to charitable auctions and am happy to gift my paintings to friends and family.
JLS. So lovely! What a great way to give back. Do you have a favorite quote or mantra you turn to for inspiration?Paint truly from your heart and the wonder of your eyes, and the viewers will be delighted. - Susan Jarecky Click To Tweet
Thank you for the inspiring interview. All the best to you and yours.
Want to learn more about this brilliant artist? Check out on her website, Instagram, and Facebook page!
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.