Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Feature: Suzie Seerey-Lester

"Setting Off" by Suzy Seerey-Lester

Today I'm bringing Suzie Seerey-Lester.  Suzie Seerey-Lester is a distinguished wildlife and landscape artist whose works depict large mammals, birds of prey, magnificent underwater creatures and environmentally sensitive tableaus.  She is a master in the art of Plein Air painting and is in the process of painting throughout America. 

To see more of her work visit her website.

How did you get your start?  What's your artistic journey so far?

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but moved to Springfield, Virginia when my parents divorced – I was about 3.  We lived with my grandmother who was a wonderful inspiration to me.  

I was the first woman Scuba Diving Instructor Trainer in the early 70s, while I was still in High School.   That’s when I really started to paint.  I was lucky enough to see whales, sharks, dolphins and all the magical creatures that live in the sea.  So I decided to paint them so I could share them with the world.  I wasn’t very good.  I took the paint right out of the tube, never mixing colors!  I did sell quite a few paintings, even though they were very primitive.

I continued my career as a Diving Instructor for 18 years, including working for the CIA.   I taught CIA agents, FBI, Park Police, and local police, how to do “special” things underwater.   I trained President Gerald Ford’s Secret Service Agents to dive as well.  So I traveled to exoitic locations to teach diving, and continued to paint on the side.

In 1990, while living in San Diego, I took my first real art class. It was amazing to me that you could make things look close up, or far away with the use of color.  You could make things round, or in perspective.  I continued with the school every weekend that I was home. By this time I was working for DHL (international courier company) traveling around the world.  In 1994 a friend suggested I take a painting class with her, in Guatemala!  So I did!!  John Seerey-Lester and Alan Hunt were the instructors for the 35 students that traveled to Tikal.  The first night John explained that a group of four students with go with him at 4:00 am to climb a 200 foot tree to see the canopy wake up – toucans flying by, parrot waking up, and the temples come out of the mist.   I was in that first group.  It was magical!!  

I continued to do mixed shows and museum exhibits both domestically and internationally, including some shows that John was showing in as well.

I became a professional artist in 2000 when I married John.
"Morning Flight" by Suzie Seerey-Lester
If you could live anywhere where would you live?

love the gulf coast of Florida, on the beach!   To me that is paradise.  As artists we could live anywhere.  John choose to live in the Venice area when he arrived from England in 1980. I had lived in San Diego for 25 years, but loved the quiet life in Florida. With more birds than people.

What's your favorite thing to paint and why?

My favorite things to paint are old barns and birds, and sometimes old barns with birds!!   I feel that these barns are our vanishing treasures and need to be captured in paint before they disappear.  I love the light coming thru the slats of the barn or the open door flooding the floor with the brilliant morning light.  There are so many interesting things to be found in barns.   Birds are just so elegant and beautiful – in Florida we are surrounded by wonderful birds – Great Blue Herons, Rosetta Spoonbills, Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, Wood Storks, Barred Owls, Egrets, Ibis, just to name a few that we see almost every day.
"Nosin Around" by Suzie Seerey-Lester
Could you talk about your painting techniques?

I paint in both oils and acrylics, depending on what I am painting.   If I want strong bright colors, I will use oil.   If I am painting atmosphere – mist, rain, snow, etc., I will use acrylics.     In both oil and acrylic I start with a Masonite panel.  I then apply at least one coat of mid gray gesso.  This seals the panel, gives a tooth to the surface (some “pre gessoed” masonite is so slick the paint won’t stick – its like painting on a refrigerator), and the surface is now a mid-tone.  When painting on the mid-tone, I can immediately see my whites, my darks and mid-tones.   When painting white birds (in acrylic)– like ibis or wood storks, I will use the gray of the panel as the base for the shadow of the bird.  So the white part of the bird may have 100 layers of white gesso, while the shadow area will have reflected light and warm colors in fewer layers.  The same with snow.  I use the background as the shadow, and layer the gesso over the shadows. I paint with acrylic in thin layers, over and over, which gives the painting that soft feeling.  Acrylic also gives me the control to paint in lots of detail, quickly.  When using oil, I also paint very thin, so I can change shapes easily.  When I am happy with the painting, I will start to apply thicker paint.
"Morning Mist-Great Horned Owl" by Suzie Seerey-Lester
Do you have go-to paint/colors, what  are your favorites?

My pallet, in both oil and acrylic is: Payne’s Gray, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Transparent Brown (acrylic), Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow, Cad Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Viridian, Titanium White (oil) Gesso (Acrylic).  We use Rembrandt Oils and some Richeson Oil colors, and Rembrandt Acrylics.   I use a lot of Payne’s and raw umber.

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

My favorite artists are Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh – the old masters, and Andrew Wyeth.  Because my jobs allowed me to travel all over the world, I was lucky to visit some of the best museums. The Louvre, in Paris, The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, in Amsterdam, Dali in Barcelona, and of course all the wonderful museums in the US.  I love Vermeer and Rembrandt for their use of light, and Andrew Wyeth for his minimal use of color.

My biggest inspiration as an artist is my husband, John Seerey-Lester.  He is one of the world’s top wildlife artists and an incredible artist.  He has taught me most about painting than any else.  He inspires me to get better and better, to paint every day.  We paint side by side every day, and feed off each other as we paint.  If he sees something that needs to be worked on (in one of my paintings) he makes me figure out what is wrong, so I can correct it.  What a great way to learn.  We are each other’s extra set of eyes.  
"Out of Gas" by Suzie Seerey-Lester

What have been some of your crowning achievements?

Some of my crowing achievements are: 
  I wrote an award-winning book: My Painting Is Done, Now What Do I Do?   It is a business book for artists.
Exhibited in Birds In Art 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011
Master Artist two man show at the Waterfowl Festival 2012
Exhibited in Artists for Conservation 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Honored by the NRA for my artwork at the 2013 Women’s Leadership Forum.
2012 Artist Magazine Annual Art Competition, Finalists Award, with an honorable mention in the wildlife category for Sudden Flurry
2011 Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition, Finalists Award, with an honorable mention in the wildlife category for Swan Song
Top 100 in Paint America for two different paintings, Juror’s Award in Paint America for the judges’ favorite painting of the entire show, 
Judges Award from LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, 
Artist of the year for The Ocean Foundation,
Two Top 200 and Top 100 in “Arts for the Parks”, 
The Bennington Art Museum, Animals In Arts Tour, 
Coos Bay Art Museum, where she received an Award of Merit, 
Grant’s Pass Museum, 
Florida Museum for Women Artists first juried show, 
Society of Animal Artists - Art and the Animal Show 
Honored by The Raymond James Companies as their first “Women In Arts” wildlife artist.
Two-man show in a castle outside Barcelona Spain in 2002 and 2004.   
Member of Strathmore’s Who’s Who.  
Artwork published in “The Best of Oil Painting” book. 
John & I were on the cover of Wildlife Art News, 
Featured in Sporting Classics Magazine, and the SKB News.  
Sold paintings at Christie’s and Sotheby’s Art Auctions in London, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and the Honolulu Zoo.  
Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA), Artists for Conservation (AFC), Oil Painters of America (OPA), American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA), The Wildlife Artists Association (WAA), a founding member of Southern Plein Air Artists (SPAA), and The PhArtists.  
"Swan Song" by Suzie Seerey-Lester

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years?  Dream big here:)
  1. I would love to win a $400 million lottery so I could set up an anonymous safety net for artists in need.  If an artist has big medical bills – to pay them without them knowing.  If an artist looses a love one, to help them with counseling or paying their bills.  If an artist is about to loose their home, to step in and save it for them, again with out the artist knowing who helped.
  2. I would love to build a home with a separate studio building.  Custom designed studio for what works for us, at least 3000 square feet.
  3. Have one of my painting sell in excess of $100,000.00.
  4. Have a book of my paintings published.
  5. Get better painting my favorite subjects.
What is your advice for other artists whoa re just getting started in their career?

My advice for an artist just starting is to do your best work.  Do not let anything go out of your studio unless you are proud of it.  No mater what (deadlines, cash flow)– make sure it is your best work. If you start taking short cuts, your work will suffer.

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

The best advice that I received as an artist is to paint every day.  The more you paint, the better you will become.

"Born Storming" by Suzie Seerey-Lester
Chocolate or Vanilla?

Dream vacation spot?

Favorite Author?
James Patterson

Favorite Movie?
Out of Africa

Romance  or Comedy?

Favorite dessert?
Red Velvet Cake

Night owl or morning person?
Morning Person

This was fun, thank you so much.


  1. AMAZING WORK even though she prefers Vanilla!! LOL
    Her work is so outstanding...I really need to see her blog after this comment....and after reading #1 on her list from what she wants to happen in the next five years, I can see she's a beautiful person as well. Thank you, Carrie for sharing...

  2. Loved seeing her art. Thank you, Carrie.