Archive for December, 2013

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is reflect.

I don’t remember where I first came across the idea that everything in one’s environment is imbued with Spirit and has messages to give, but it’s a belief central to Native American and Aboriginal world views. That we are connected to everything and all of it is an aspect of our own psyche is also reflected in Carl Jung’s theory of the Collective Unconscious. All of these posit a friendly universe, not a hostile universe, where everything that is happening and speaking to us has our best interest at heart. Comforting…this idea that everything is trying to tell us, “You are loved!”

This philosophy has also influenced my approach to making art. With each drawing and painting, I try to allow (yes, I know ‘try’ and ‘allow’ are oxymorons, but bear with me) an image to develop on its own, to let it reflect what’s going on in the hinterlands of my mind and heart. The most timeless images and surprising visual connections can happen this way, and it is a most satisfying way to work.

Which brings me to this post’s painting, “Man with a Bee.” This image is very straight-forward on the face of it—simply an amusing picture. But if I look deeper with the aforementioned philosophy, the message is deeper. “Be.” Be myself, be present, be happy, ‘be’ as the goal, be here now (or Else, with that bee so close!). All good messages for the ending of one year and the start of a new one, yes?

I love this time of year, aside from the usual insanity associated with the holidays. The meeting of endings and new beginnings, the ‘turning of the wheel’ is the absolute perfect time to pause and reflect, and twenty-some years ago, I adopted a personal ritual to mark the occasion. Every year on New Year’s day, I lay out a Celtic Cross Spread to see what the upcoming year may hold. Are you familiar with a Tarot reading? A certain number of cards are drawn from a shuffled deck and each card will address a specific question or issue (the past, the future, hopes and fears, etc.). A ten-card spread gives a complete overview–a year’s worth of insight and food for thought. It takes a bit of time to read all the individual cards’ descriptions in an accompanying book and write down a synopsis for each question, but it’s time well spent. Then I pull out last year’s card reading and compare them. What cards show up in both, what are the common or divergent themes, what issues have evolved, what cards are brand-new this year? It’s always a real eye-opener and a confirmation that there is indeed a pattern unfolding in my life. An excellent ritual, so much nicer than getting plastered or running my charge card up.

If Tarot piques your interest, but you’re not ready for the full layman’s plunge, there are several online Tarot sites where one can pose a question, pick a specific Tarot deck and particular spread (single card, three card, ten-card) and receive a brief summary of the reading’s interpretation. Tarot cards of any deck are always visually intriguing and layered in significance, and artists of the past and present have outdone themselves in creating meaningful beauty. My personal favorite is Aleister Crawley’s Thoth deck, illustrated in watercolor by Lady Frieda Harris and completed in 1943. This is the deck that cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, uses in her profoundly informative book, The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols. This is the book I started with and still use.

❖ However you celebrate and mark your ending and new beginning, I wish all of you a peaceful season of change and much joy and prosperity of all kinds in the New Year!

“Man with a Bee”     (watercolor, pen & ink)

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"Demons to Tea" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Demons to Tea” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Seasons Greetings to all of you, especially the Art Lovers out there!

Just in time for Christmas, two framed prints from my new print-on-demand site have found happy homes and walls. Thank you so much, D. Z. and J. L.!

"Life in the City" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Life in the City” c. Susan Sorrell Hill


Are you an artist looking for a beautiful and fluid website platform with a shopping cart to showcase your work? Or would you love to have a relatively simple way to offer your art as open edition, museum-quality prints with many optional choices of sizes, surface, mat and frame? Artspan.com is a classy solution to both of these dilemmas. If you’d like to take it for a test drive, use my Referral Code 95769 for an extra month of trying the site out for free. (That’s a total of two months free for new artists and one month for the referrer. Yay!).

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

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"Persona" c. Susan Sorrell Hill

“Persona” c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is spirit.

‘Tis the season for gentle reminders and reassurances


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. ❦ If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. ❦ Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. ❦ Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. ❦ Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. ❦ Strive to be happy.

This brilliant summation was written by the American writer, Max Ehrmann in 1927. Still works, yes?

SusanHillAs promised ages ago (and I’ll get better at this) — photos of the painting in progress:

“Persona”    (watercolor, pen & ink,gouache)      ❅❅ Prints and the original will be available at some point…

Traced down, inked, stretched and resist masque in place. Now for the watercolor washes...

Traced down, inked, stretched and resist masque in place. Now for the watercolor washes.

The first watercolor washes safely down and the resist masque removed.

The first watercolor washes safely down and the resist masque removed.

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is pattern.

really  like making patterns. Drawing the elements, arranging and interweaving them just so using tracing paper, and making it all fit and flow perfectly is my idea of a good time. I may have mentioned that I was a textile designer in a previous life? Two years of training and a year of freelancing through a studio in San Francisco. Making seasonal designs using specific colors and subjects was challenging and fun, but as it turned out, not the ultimate cup of tea for me. For one thing, there was the “working on spec.” For those of you unfamiliar, what that means is making a whole lot of work to a deadline and with specific requirements, but without pay up front and only paid if and when the design(s) sold, which was always quite ahead in the future. I suppose that could all work once one got well beyond the beginner stage and the ball was rolling, but suffice to say, it was a little rough as a start-up.

Ultimately, though, what led me away from a career in Surface Design (any art designed for a surface: textiles, rugs, paper goods, clothing, etc.) was the lack of meaning. Now, I like a pretty, well-designed thing as much as the next tastefully-inclined person, but I was seriously missing Story, and Decorative Art just didn’t fill that void for me.

In the twenty-some years since that venture, I have come to understand that Narrative Art is where my heart lies most comfortably and happily: art that tells a story, implies a message or something of that sort. My love of pattern is still very much alive and well, though, and I include it wherever I can. You may have noticed the patterns on characters’ clothing, on the rugs, borders and the interior walls of my art? The best of both worlds!

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply–cover art, circa 1985         (pen & ink)

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is refrain.

Sometimes—just sometimes—I can step way back from life (and in particular, my life) and see the larger harmony of it all. I can see how each event, each person contributes to the warp and weft of the fantastically complex web we call Life. I can see how the little irritations and so-called failures, the inequalities and seemingly major differences, the dramas and conflicts are all perfectly right. I can see how all contribute to the music that Consciousness is making with itself. Sometimes I can see that. Most of the time, I’m lost in the clamor, bustle and bruising of my individual life. But then suddenly a ray of light pokes through it all—no, not nearly often enough— illuminating the truth: All truly is well. Something much larger and wiser than I is running the show here. I relax and just do the next thing, knowing I will forget again. And so it goes…

The refrain from Leonard Cohen’s song, “Anthem,” expresses it nicely, I think:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

“Bremen Town Musicians”      (watercolor, pen & ink, gouache, colored pencil)

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