Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Feature: Suzanne Berry

Self-Portrait 10 x 10 by Suzanne Berry
Hi Everyone,

 It's time for another edition of Friday Feature.  This week I'm proud to feature Suzanne Berry.  I came across Suzanne Berry through this wonderful blogging world!  I think I was first mesmerized by her bug paintings and have since become one of her biggest fans.  Her works are amazing!!  The amount of detail, color, light, and emotion that she is able to capture on he canvas leaves me awe struck every time I see one of her masterpieces.  Aside from her mad talents she is also very real and raw with her blog posts.  She shares with us her ups and downs.  I find everything about Suz inspirational and am thrilled to call her a friend.

To see more of her works check out her blog and website.  She is offering a fabulous sale right now, you don't want to miss it.
"Betrayal" 20 x 20 oil by Suzanne Berry
How did you get your start? What’s your artist journey so far?

If by “start,” you mean painting full time for a living – in November of 2004, my long term job as a graphic
designer at the Long Island newspaper Newsday was eliminated, and we decided that I should give it a try. I was terrified, but thought if I began with specific niche commissions – pet portraits in this case – I would hopefully ensure some income and hone my skills at the same time. My very first day in my little make shift studio was nauseatingly terrifying. I’ll never forget that feeling. To that point I had had only a single burst of creativity a few years prior, but really hadn’t created art on a regular basis for more than fifteen years (and decidedly not in oils, which incidentally terrified me). However, as time went on, I found that my experience as a graphic designer really helped my concepts and compositions.

"Give I'm An Inch" 36 x 12 oil by Suzanne Berry
The other “start” was at my mom’s kitchen table when I was about 8 years old. My brother, father and I had a block lettering contest, and I won! After that I just began drawing all the time – because I recognized it was
something I could do and it felt good!  My journey so far has been satisfying, frightening, anxiety-ridden and joyful. Most especially right now. It’s a complete and absolute gift that I get to do this everyday, no matter how much I whine about it.  For the first time in my artistic life, I’m painting. Interpreting with emotion. Not rendering subject matter as accurately as possible. And it feels wonderful. The freedom to not have to match EXACTLY what I’m looking at is a hard won, lengthy process that I’m still working through. Also, I’m not going in thinking, “I want this to look like so and so’s work.” I’m finding a voice and a style of my own, but realizing as I progress, that those things will only evolve authentically if I continue working consistently. You really can’t sit down and decide on a style, at least I can’t.

Where were you born?

I was born in Mineola, Long Island, New York, and grew up in Westbury. I’ve lived on Long Island all my life.

"Lady In Red Too" oil  24 x 36
 If you could live anywhere where would you live?

In a sprawling farmhouse with a huge, well lit, stone wall studio in Ireland, about half an hour outside of Dublin.
Clearly, I’ve been giving this some thought.

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

I’m just fascinated by the planes and structure of the human face. I find myself painting in my head while talking to people, noticing the warm shadows and where and when they turn into cool ones, light and shadow playing on the features, the distance between the eyes, etc. My husband, Tim – better known as “himself ” to my blog followers– is an artist as well, and even while watching TV we’re always de constructing faces and commenting on structure. This also includes figurative work.

"Waiting" 24 x 36 oil on canvas by Suzanne Berry
 Which of your paintings was the most enjoyable to paint? Which was the most difficult?

Wow, that’s a difficult question. I’ve had a recent sudden burst of creativity, and I think to date, I’ve enjoyed
painting “Waiting” the most at this point. The reference I used was from a site called “A Day Not Wasted,” and I just fell in love with the photo. I’m my own worst enemy – very critical and insecure – so when I actually like a painting I’ve done, it’s a treat!  And, speaking of working from photos, I believe I’ve finally let go of my ongoing “from life or from photography”debate. Everyone does what works best for them and if I need to defend working primarily from photographs, then I shouldn’t be doing it should I?  On the other hand, the most difficult was my very first commissioned portrait done in my twenties. A co-worker asked me to paint his wife. The reference photo was not flattering, and not knowing any better at the time, I painted EXACTLY what I saw. Bad idea.  He brought it back to me saying he thought it was best, so as to “keep her from putting her foot through it!”
Ouch! Valuable lesson there.

Do you have a favorite artist? Who has been your biggest inspiration?

It’s a tie between John Singer Sargent and Nicolia Fechin. I think Sargent has been the most influential throughout my life, although I don’t believe my work reflects that at all. It’s funny, I’ve been playing guitar off and on for years, and I find that the same thing happens. I’m influenced by very specific musicians, but what comes out doesn’t reflect them at all, which is both frustrating and gratifying at the same time.
Going back to Sargent, I used to spend hours at a time just analyzing his strokes. I read that he would stand and study the subject for great lengths of time and then suddenly rush to the canvas and capture a shadow, highlight or mid tone perfectly with one stroke. I think besides exceptional skill, artists on his level have infinite patience and drive.

"The Exhibit" oil 24 x 36 by Suzanne Berry
 What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist?

Actually, Tim is not only one of my favorite things, but I also consider him to be crucial to my sense of well being and success as an artist. Artistically and musically, he’s attracted to what challenges him, what makes him feel uncomfortable. I tend to find a comfortable place and want to stay there. He challenges my safeness, opens my mind up to a lot that I would normally not be drawn to. I’m excited about growing as an artist now where I used to be concerned with just painting the next pretty piece as realistically as I could. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, I’m still doing that because I like it, but now there are other roads open to me. I’m very stubborn and don’t like change, so it takes me a while to come around and see what he’s saying, but it provides a lot of fertile ground for growth, not to mention some very extensive, interesting and sometimes heated conversations.

Do you ever get artist’s block? And what do you do to overcome it?

I get blocked almost after every micro-burst of creativity. Without fail, if I’ve done one or two paintings in a row that I am satisfied with, an unsolicited period of adjustment inevitably shows up. I call it the Dread Mahockiss.  Boom! Suddenly the brush feels like an alien in my hand, the paint greets the canvas as if they’ve never met before, the voice keeps repeating I’m a fraud and I’m overcome with a sense of complete and utter failure. I get nauseous and my entire self concept comes into question. Sounds dramatic and it my head. I’m beginning to understand those periods more lately and am realizing that the phone call is coming from inside the house. It takes just a short objective listen to the voice to realize it’s just a way of retreating, going back in, maybe recharging the batteries. It would be nice if I could find a less dramatic and less painful way to do that though wouldn’t it?  I also spend a lot of time online visiting my favorite artist’s sites and blogs and looking for new ones. This online artist community is incredibly supportive and inspirational. It is so gratifying to connect with someone you’ve never physically met and find that you can discuss fear, exposure, criticism and the like on the common ground of being artists.

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

1. I’d like to be successful enough with my art to allow Tim to leave the corporate creative desert and work on following his dream, to give back the gift he’s given me.

2. I’d like to be successful, whether that means internally or externally. Clearly I’d like to keep a nice roof over my head so there’s that but I’d love to, at some point, enjoy working and enjoy my work on a consistent basis, no matter what I produce.

3. I’d like to be painting really large canvases! I’m talkin’ over 6 feet.

4. I’d like to be playing music with Tim, his brother Conor and a real drummer—instead of skippy the drum machine—to a live audience. Nothing big, something small and intimate. Just jamming and enjoying the moment.  Tim is also an incredible cook. A big dream of ours is to own a funky little place somewhere equally funky, with our art on the walls for sale, incredible meals created by Tim on the tables and jam on a small stage while folks enjoy their vittles.

5. I’d like to have peace of mind on a consistent basis, no matter what is going on around me. I would like to
say, see a peaceful world but clearly, we’re not really good at that as a race so, I figure if I can achieve peace on a smaller level it might affect the whole in some way. And I’m a firm believer that we experience outside what we’re feeling inside, so I’m goin’ for some peace of mind. I’m pretty much done with self-created chaos and drama... at least for the moment that is.. I’m a tad emotional, so I’m working on it.

"Allie" oil 12 x 12 by Suzanne Berry
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

Listen to your inner voice because I believe it’s really the only one that knows what’s best for you. You might
make some mistakes and go in the opposite direction that you’d like to but it’s all part of the journey. I’m still very much on that journey and for the first time in my life I’m enjoying the accommodations. Oh and try to be supportive of yourself, something I’m just beginning to work on. And realize that if something someone says about your work upsets you, look at it, square in the face and have an honest dialog with yourself about it. I’m finding that if my buttons are pushed, I need to examine the buttons, not the one pushing them.

What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?

Just shut up and paint!

"Cheek to Cheek" oil 16 x 20 by Suzanne Berry

Chocolate or vanilla?

Sunny beach or rustic mountain retreat?
Somewhere in the middle so I can access both easily.

Book or movie?
Both, depends on the mood.

Favorite author?
Hard to say. I really enjoy well written biographies. I’m fascinated by what makes people I admire tick... artists,
political figures, musicians.

Favorite movie?
Right now it’s The Hangover, the first one. If it’s on cable we’ll watch it wherever we come in. There are so many.
Raising Arizona, Fight Club, LA Confidential.

Romance or comedy?

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Night owl or morning person?

Cake or Cupcakes?
Cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop online. Visit. I’ll say no more.

Hope you enjoyed the interview!  Big Thank You to Suzanne:) 

See you Monday,


**I give Crystal Cook credit for coming up with a majority of these interview questions


  1. Great interview, I read every word of it!
    As a beginner painter, and self-taught on top of it, my self-esteem and motivation are very shaky. It's most inspirational reading that even a painter I admire and follow has her internal battles. Thanks Carrie for posting the interview, and thanks Suzanne for all the advice and for sharing your personal feelings. :)

  2. Oh I LOVE this!! I was so hoping you'd have Suzanne on. She is so dang inspiring, not to mention crazy talented! I adore her work and her blog. Great interview. :))

  3. I'm ashamed to say I was unaware of this amazingly talented artist until I read your interview with her. I slipped away for awhile and went over to her blogsite and now am totally hooked. Thanks for introducing Suzanne and her wonderful paintings to the unenlightened. :^)

  4. Wonderful! Love Suzanne's work and fun to learn more about her and her amazing talent! This is an awesome series and I look forward to each one. Thanks for doing them Carrie!

  5. carrie, i cannot thank you enough for this gift of the spotlight! you are incredibly generous and i appreciate it more than words can say! this is a great feature and i look forward to getting to know you and so many other artist as well!

  6. Thanks for this post! I'm a huge fan of Suzanne's work and her "ramblings" (her word, not mine!). Loved your interview questions, Carrie, and Suzanne's open and genuine responses. Looking forward to more Friday Features!

  7. These are all so amazing!! The one with the candy corn is just unbelievable!! How do you do it?!
    Happy Halloween weekend!
    xo E + J

  8. Your choice to highlight Suzanne and her work was perfect, Carrie!
    I love this series and the peek it allows us into other's journeys, thanks!

  9. Great interview Carrie!! Suzanne is an absolute amazing artist! and I LOVE her work!

  10. I've been following Suzanne for a very long time and am continuously blown away by her paintings. She is a remarkable artist isn't she? And such a lovely and encouraging person too :0)

  11. Really enjoyed this interview! Suzanne is not only talented but extremely articulate and thoughtful! Also enjoyed the interview with Kelley! Lots to digest and think about!

  12. I love Suzanne's honesty about her work and herself. She's totally real. And her work just always knocks my socks off.