“Art keeps you very humble. As I look through the years at my body of work, I see peaks and valleys in my art. I am always challenged by it. For me, art provides an immediate learning experience…and a way to keep learning.”
Susan Whiteman, Artist
Associate Member: Pastel Society of America
Artistic inspiration comes in many forms. For Susan Whiteman, it was time spent walking through the woods with her father growing up in rural upstate New York. “I love the trees and sky. My dad knew trees and whenever we walked through the woods he would identify tree species for me. Trees are so resilient and long lived, with a gracefulness or raggedness that evokes many different feelings….kind of a metaphor for life,” recalled Whiteman. Her childhood doodling and writing emerged as a way to document what she was learning about animals and trees. Her love for nature continued to blossom and by the time she was 8 years old, she had completed her first illustrated book, Pagi the Polar Bear.
Over the years, Whiteman’s desire to broaden her artistic talent led her to several great instructors and artists beginning with her high school art teacher, Ms. Barrett, who taught classes on perspective and the technical elements of painting and drawing…skills she continues to use today. Other artists that helped to shape her work include notables such as pastel artist Sangita Phadke, for her meticulous detail and theatrical lighting; and Stan Sperlak for his luminous light and pastel techniques en plein air. “I was working in oils and acrylics when I took a day-long workshop with Sangita Phadke. She incorporated all the elements of shaping and blending that I used in brush-paintings, and it was really eye opening for me. Instead of drawing with pastels, I began painting with them. She was my catalyst for moving forward in pastels,” noted Whiteman.
Stan Sperlak also influenced Whiteman’s work. “I watched a demo of his at a local artist’s guild and his very loose style encouraged me to get a little more aggressive with my pastel application…it really took me away from being too fussy. He also emphasized the obvious but sometimes overlooked qualities of perspective that there is to clouds and sky. That reminder and his bold application of color were very inspiring to me,” added Whiteman.
Today, Whiteman is at the top of her game creating breathtaking beauty and softness in her paintings with a master’s touch that could only be achieved by someone who truly understands and loves nature. When asked about the creative process, Whiteman shared the rollercoaster sensations that she often goes through before she is satisfied with a piece. “When I’m painting, there is certainly a meditative state that I go into along with a full range of emotions throughout the process…from despair to excitement.” Her body of work, which depicts a painterly eye for landscapes, flora, and fauna, reveals as much about her unique style as it does her true appreciation of the environment.
Whiteman was recently inducted into the Pastel Society of America (PSA) as an Associate Member, a select group of approximately 1,000 pastel artists from the United States and abroad to receive that honor. She considers this one of the most significant things that ever happened to her regarding her art, but has no intention of stopping there. She continues to press the edge of the envelope with her mastery of pastels and has her sights set on achieving the PSA’s Signature Membership sometime in the future.
The artistic inspiration that ignited a young girl’s imagination years ago is very much alive today as Whiteman continues her quest to accurately portray the quiet beauty of nature. As a Pediatric Certified Medical Assistant (CMA, AAMA), she divides her time between Saranac Lake, NY and New Jersey with her husband, son, birds and dogs. She is also very active in the Saranac Lake arts community as a member of the cooperative gallery, NorthWind Fine Arts and Saranac Lake Artworks. To learn more about Susan Whiteman and her work, visit her online at http://susanwhitemanpastels.com.