The Heart Trails of ARTrails

Oct. 13, 10am and ready for visitors

The signs have been taken down, the studio transformed from gallery showroom to painting studio and classroom, and the stories of the past two weekends  keep floating up from a richly aromatic memory stew.

There was the young man who proudly sported a hawk feather in his cap, added to his bright green t-shirt, making him look like a modern day Robin Hood.  As he gazed at all my bird paintings and nest collection he shared his story of discovering a fully intact but dead, red tailed hawk at road side.  A native American man appeared and let him participate in the ceremony of honoring the bird and harvesting the feathers for a ceremonial headress.  The magic of those moments for this young man in his coming-of-manhood years rested like a blessing on my studio.

One visitor, a woman who had moved to Costa Rica in her retirement said that she treated herself to a trip back to Sonoma Co. each year during the ARTrails season in order to get her art fix for the year, since she had not found a similarly dynamic art culture in her new home.  She spent quite a while in my studio, took pictures in the garden, and bought my book, Conversations With the Muse, hoping to take it back home with her and find others who would do summon the creative Muse with her.

At one point there was a steady stream of people coming in my door until they were shoulder to shoulder and I was suddenly breathless.  I asked if they had come on a bus together.  One of them explained that they were an extended family, enjoying their annual reunion by driving a caravan of cars to ARTrails studios!

Then there was the couple who stood a long time gazing at my painting Because the World Needs Angels and finally decided to buy a print of it for their home.  But when they spoke to me of their wishes, a torrent of feeling was released that left both them and myself in tears.  The painting was part of the healing they needed following a year of intense family loss. There’s something about this painting. . .a kind of reassurance that even when our loved ones cross over, their spirit will still be accessible to us.  I’m thinking I’ll hang it across from the chair where my 93 year old mother sits each day pondering the gifts of the end of life.

Of course it’s always interesting to see who buys the art.  A little girl in pink is the proud owner of Jester Bird, a pink painting from the Party Chick series, which her mother bought for her.  And an older couple on a fixed income bought Entwined on layaway because it illustrated the creative source for them. A pregnant woman picked my Mother Hen painting from the bin, and her mother bought it for her. It’s a very gentle, serene image of a hen and chicks, not my typical cocky rooster or jazzy party chick painting.

And then there was the lady who had brought her friend and stayed for a while, looking through my books and visiting and planning to come paint with me.  The following day she showed up again bearing a gratitude gift bag of sweet cherry tomatoes and succulent raspberries from her garden, sprinkled with flower blossoms and chocolates-just what I needed to sustain me for the last few hours of the open studio.

On the last day, in the final two hours of open studios a cool wind blew up heralding our first real rain of the season, which left a glistening freshness to everything by the next morning.  I’m left with a feeling of sweet serendipity about this open studio and  gratitude for the way that viewers give my art new life again and again.  Thanks to those of you who are among them.

Some of the paintings I’ve mentioned here are in my online gallery if you want to see them.



    1. One can never anticipate the reasons people might have for purchasing the art, which is why the artist has to focus on pleasing herself first, but always hoping someone will appreciate the effort!


    1. Yes and I think there are so many different narratives possible for each piece of artwork, both in the creation and the viewing by others. I try not to make too much of a story out of my paintings but allow then to speak for themselves. Then I can stand back and listen.


  1. I loved reading your stories of your open studio guests. What a gratifying experience! I’m so glad that you shared it. I then browsed through your gallery. Your paintings are beautiful, Susan! Are you working with watercolors only? Where are the prices in your online gallery? Thanks again, Rosi


    1. Hi Rosi! I am mainly working with fluid acrylics and acrylic inks now, adding collage and different kinds of texture – “mixed media”. But I painted with only transparent watercolors for about 12 years and so my style incorporates many of the watercolor techniques with the very fluid and transparent acrylics. I haven’t been keeping my online gallery up to date enough with what has sold and not, so it is better that I quote prices on request.


      1. Thanks, Susan. wish I were out there so I could work with you in one of your workshops. Maybe I will just do that one day! I work with acrylics. Is there a particular type which is called fluid acrylics or do you just mix them so they are fluid? I haven’t tried the acrylic inks. Fun to chat with you.


  2. Rosi, I use Golden Fluid Acrylics and use a bit of water to make them more flow-y. I also like Daler Rowney acrylic inks and Higgens waterproof inks, both are permanent, like other acrylics and come in fun colors.


    1. Thanks so much, Susan, for sharing your information and inspiration! I’ve also been suing Golden Fluid – really like them. Looking forward to trying the inks now.


  3. Susan, just dropped by since I’m a big fan of yours. I wanted to say that I love the special quality that your paintings have. They carry that “poetic” quality that is so hard to capture but that everyone recognizes when they see it. (great picture of you too!)


  4. The affirmation we receive from people that our art is powerful and evokes deep responses – this makes creating SO worthwhile! What a lovely experience you’ve had – one which I also relate to and experience often in my gallery) … =D


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