I asked Abstract Impressionist Artist, Susan Marx to describe her painting process. I find that the more we know about an artist, her inspiration, influences, thought process and techniques, the more we can appreciate and value their work.
Follow me and the artist as she walks us through her process:
It all starts with a blank white canvas set on an easel. Whenever she is able to, Marx prefers painting 'en plein air' (out of doors). If that is not possible, she paints in her studio. Her biggest inspiration has always been through nature, and that inspiration follows her into her studio when she paints abstract paintings (see below). And so, we will often find her, in nature, drawing that inspiration from the colorful gardens in her native New Jersey or on her many travels abroad, eagerly transferring the beauty that surrounds her to the canvas she has at hand.
Once the canvas is set up on her easel, Marx then lays out the paints: white, yellow, warm red, cool red, warm blue, cool blue and sometimes green. Her palette starts out with dabs of paint from each of their respective tubes and quickly transpires through her brushes into blends of each color mixing with the others (above left).
She is generous with her paints, consciously setting out enough of each color so she doesn't have to break her train of thought to replenish them.
Music is also an inspiration for this artist. If she is driving to a spot to paint en plein air she will put on a Phillip Glass cd to listen to while she is driving. The music of Phillip Glass provides the artist equal inspiration in her studio before she even starts painting, and it continues to provide inspiration while she is painting. Listening to the music of Phillip Glass brings the artist to a place deep within herself, much like mediation does for others.
She takes a couple of deep breaths and begins. She starts by putting one color down on the canvas, then another color and she keeps doing the same in what she describes as a 'stream of consciousness' painting.
"Because I paint and paint and then react to what is on the canvas"
She paints very quickly, so that she is painting out of emotion rather than intellect.
"I paint and paint and paint, and then I come up for air, look at the canvas from a distance, and then attack it again."
Each painting is an adventure. She has no idea when she begins what the end result will be. No preconceived notions, drawings or blueprints. She never titles her paintings beforehand or tells herself what she wants it to look like beforehand. The subject of the painting reveals itself through the process of painting. When she deems the canvas is finished, she signs the painting and then names it.
*signature, then title.
ABOUT SUSAN MARX
It is easy to identify the alluringly colorful abstracts that typify Susan Marx’s new work, as she has a style that is her own. Originally a plein air impressionist painter, Marx has since shifted to abstract impressionism, a term coined by Elaine de Kooning. This style allows Marx to expel realistic subject matter while retaining the “feel” of nature. “These paintings are paintings from the inside of my head, deep down in my subconscious,” Marx says. “Painted from what nature leaves with me.” When painting, Marx allows herself to be led by emotional sensations rather than an intellectualized plan. Perhaps you could call it stream of consciousness painting. She paints at a passionate, furious pace with large brush strokes rarely waiting for prior layers to dry. The work becomes a sort of chemical reaction, concluding in an explosive collision of color and texture. Marx often leaves blank spaces on her canvases, most typically at the edges. It is a decision, she says, that “lets the painting breathe.” For Marx, process and intent are one and the same. “My paintings are conversations,” she says, “between my eyes, my head, my heart, my gut, and the canvas in front of me.” Marx is most interested in capturing the essence of a piece, bringing color and emotion together but leaving enough space for the viewer to engage his or her imagination. In this way she hopes to bring the viewer into the painting itself, to extend the story of the piece beyond artistic intent and physical content. Of her own role, Marx says, “I paint as a result of my radical amazement at the beauty of the visual world.” If you asked her who her muses are, she would reply: the Impressionist Monet and second generation Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell. Susan Marx received a BFA in painting from Boston University. She likes to continue her education by taking frequent painting trips to France: Giverny many times, Honfleur, Étretat, Rouen, Arles, St Rémy and Provence. This summer, she will paint in Paris.
Marx lives in New Jersey and has traveled extensively and exhibited widely. Her paintings are influenced by the nature that she enjoys, experiences and paints in her native New Jersey. Her works may be found in collections throughout the US and abroad.
Visit Susan's website at: Susan Marx website
*painting shown is Color Song, 30x24, acrylic on canvas