© Susan Sorrell Hill

© Susan Sorrell Hill

The long work of transferring a preliminary drawing to a one-and-a-half times larger canvas is finished. Now to vacuum up the zillions of eraser crumbles in my studio’s rug and break out the oil paints! At some point, I plan to paint this image in a 16×20″ watercolor format too. Really looking forward to that one.


“Alice, Falling”  (work-in-progress, shown as the 16×20″ pencil drawing on tracing paper and also as the scaled-up watercolor pencil preliminary drawing on 24×30″ canvas)

Artists often develop what might be called ‘a visual language.’ They become known for recognizable (but still often mysterious) symbols, and many also revisit ideas and subjects that continue to hold challenge and fascination. Alexander Eldridge’s houses and eggs, Van Gogh’s numerous self portraits and sunflower paintings, Gustav Klimt’s multiple visions of mermaids, couples entwined, and pregnant women, Michael Parkes‘ goddesses and beasts, are just a few that come to mind. But the tendency to repeat subject matter goes back much further than our records of well-known artists and their works. Archeologists, mythologists and art historians, including notables Joseph Campbell and Marija Gimbutas, have written extensively on the clear evidence that creatives of the ancient past (who rarely signed their art) worked with common themes and universal subject matters (which are still common today), whether in sculpture, painting, ornament, or pottery. It seems that beneath our surface individuality, there are similarities that run deep. It is somehow comforting to know that we humans are all thinking about, wrestling with and exploring the same things…

"Parlor Persona" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Parlor Persona” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Persona  is a theme I’ve painted from several times. The first version, “Parlor Persona” was painted in oils in 1995, as part of my Transformation Series. Sold to a collector long ago, this particular painting is still one of my favorites. With the up-front disclaimer that every viewers sees—and should see—something personal and a bit different in an image, here is one interpretation for this painting: a wild-ish female figure (note the hair) stands on a luxurious carpet in the middle of a well-furnished parlor or living room. There is art hanging on the wall behind her which is, in fact, changing from wallpaper to dark forest. This mysterious figure, wrapped in a magical robe or drapery, holds a shining mask before her face, a mask that is striking in it’s smiling perfection of female beauty. What do I think it all means? The title holds the clue. Without having ever intended a specific scene or composition before I began, this image feels like a symbol of a particular human dilemma: the hiding of one’s deep nature behind a socially-acceptable mask of smiling blandness. How sad that this might be necessary!

In a second version of the persona theme, this time in a smaller watercolor format, the same draped figure stands within the white space of the paper’s background. The surrounding space implies that she stands somewhere within the great expanses of time, without specific place or reference to era. But the night sky that opens up behind her head is the real change in a revisitation of this theme. This figure is slowly dissolving into the beautiful, timeless vastness of space, just over her shoulder. Here again, that subtle theme of what a person truly is behind a socially-approved mask or persona… but this time on a grander scale. The figure represented is not simply wild behind the mask, she is something much bigger, much more unknowable. This version hints at the depths and breadths of the Soul, the inconceivable Mystery of being human and Spirit at the same time.

"Persona" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Persona” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Persona is a subject of contemplation that I find myself returning to over and over, and I am sure that there will be many more paintings inspired by this idea. ❦ What do other people see in these two versions of the “persona” theme, I wonder?

“Parlor Persona”    (oil on board )

“Persona”   (watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, pen & ink)

SusanSorrellHillMuseum-quality prints (optional mats and framing) for both “Parlor Persona” and “Persona” are available here.

"Burning" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Burning” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Mini-news ~ More print size options now in the Watercolor Gallery. Optional matting and a selection of frames are also available. Visit the shop here. Tip: click on the “view all thumbnails” link for an overview of available images in each of the watercolor, works on paper and oil galleries.

Thanks for stopping by!

Update (6/12/14):  My Artspan print shop is now closed…

Spring Greetings, dear readers!

The mini-news of the day: there are now nifty links on my Artspan (print & gallery) site to my three favorite Artist Interviews so far. They’re really nice conversations (with me, the artist) and loads of images, all in one place. I’d be delighted to have you visit them here. While you’re visiting, sign up for the email list to receive hot-off-the-press news about new prints in the shop.

Update (6/12/14): My Artspan print shop is now closed…

A grueling few days spent in Digital Land this week, but now (feeling like a new mother after a harrowing birth) I’ve got a smoother-running, easier-to-navigate website that features my works in watercolor, ink & pencil, and oils. Same general look, but new and improved! It’s the center of my digital universe, with links to prints, originals, blog, occasional news, loads of favorite books and my contact info. Stop by for a test run here.

I’ve been thinking about that saying, “A picture’s worth a thousand words” lately.

Being relatively facile with the back and forth between left and right hemispheres, I do enjoy pairing imagery with thoughtful essays here on this blog. But since my posts have become so wordy—when originally the blog was intended as a showcase for my art—sometimes I wonder if my readers engage more with the words and merely glance at the art? Is the art being viewed as mere decoration for the words? I wonder too, if my essays are keeping readers engaged at the intellectual level, when my art’s intent is really to encourage people to make their own synaptic leaps of insight, without prompting. Pictures being worth thousands of words is a nice turn of phrase, but as an artist in this Information Age, I’m wondering if pictures (and to be more precise, my pictures) can still truly stand on their own, truly speak, without words to illuminate them?

I think I’ll try a little experiment: posting art sometimes with few or even no (gasp!) words to accompany it. Never fear, there are more essays in the works too. As always, your comments will be much appreciated!

Below are new prints (and their originals), now available in my Artspan shop’s Watercolor Gallery here. (Click Galleries, then Watercolor, then click the thumbnails link on that page to see all of the available images at once. Or just scroll through the image bar at your leisure.) You’ve seen a few of these images on this blog, but these have been professionally photographed now and look great!

All of the below images are watercolor, pen & ink, sometimes with a bit of colored pencil and/or gouache.

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Inner Wisdom, no. 2″ c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Persona” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“The March Hare’s Nightmare” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Bremen Town Musicians” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“The Blessing” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Little Suzie, with probably her first book. Circa age two?

Little Suzie, with probably her first book. Circa age two?

I have a long-standing relationship with books. It’s really more like a love affair actually, with a passion that has never cooled. Sure, the Internet is a vast source of information right at my fingertips and only a question, word or phrase away…but it is the deliciously slow unfolding and divulging of a book’s treasure that keeps me coming back, forever in love.

Books find me–the perfect books–like an answer to a heart’s call. I keep a Wish List on Amazon and often within months those same books show up in my life, whether through the funds out of nowhere to buy them new, through a gift or loan, or through a thrift store or yard sale. Magic!! Other people have this kind of attraction with parking places or money, I hear…

  1. Here’s just some of the things I love about books:
  • Books let me fondle their creamy pages, feel their delicious weight, and stroke their shiny or textured covers without ever once feeling used or abused, at least to my knowledge.
  • Books are content to be themselves, unique and not needing any reassurances from me.
  • Books don’t complain or care about wrinkles, sagging or aging. Indeed they often become more valuable with age. Good role models, yes?
  • Books don’t need me to make an appointment to see them.
  • I can laugh out loud, disagree, reject or walk away from a book, and there are no apologies necessary. I can even throw a book at the wall, though I wouldn’t ever. I don’t have to watch my P’s and Q’s or be tactful. I don’t have to give a book a certain amount of attention and time in order for it to feel loved. They are always there waiting patiently, and a book never holds a grudge.
  • I don’t have to clean myself up in any way to have a face-to-face with a book, no matter how expensive that book was.
  • I can ask endless questions of their pages and indexes, wear out their paper with thumbing…and they never get irritable or say, “Times up!” A book freely offers me entertainment and the full depth of whatever wisdom it possesses, and with no apologies. Unconditional love at its finest.

I, in turn, admire, appreciate and respect them immensely, turn to them often, praise and recommend them, lavish money on them when I should be paying bills, and give them an honored place in my home.

Relationships with people, on the other hand, are harder. Why can’t people be more like books, I sometimes wonder…

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll.
How frugal is the chariot
That bears the human soul.

“There Is No Frigate Like a Book”  by Emily Dickinson

SusanHillAnd ten points to the person who can identify the title of that book I’m holding in the photo! (My memory is not that good…) Click the image for a larger view.


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