Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring Blog Art Exhibition Susan Sorrell Hill - "Allowing an image to flow from one's heart"

Choices, change and introspection is only a small part of what describes her new work - Susan Sorrell Hill is a painter and illustrator full of surprise and magic. In this blog art exhibition on TYT she exclusively presents her new paintings and speaks about taking a break from blogging. Susan gives very personal insights about why she focussed on the themes fear, magic and change in her artwork this past year. Susan Sorrell Hill lives in Northern California.

Susan Sorrell Hill
You've been working on a series of new paintings this Spring. What kind of emotions did you have during this journey?

Susan: Iʼd spent the better part of the last two years working on the illustrations and dummies for two childrenʼs books that I wrote...and then taking various steps to bring them to the attention of publishers and agents. The childrenʼs publishing market is a confusing blend of change and chance these days, and most of the old routes to publication do not seem to apply anymore. So despite loving book illustration best of all forms of art, Iʼve not found my book illustration niche yet. I decided that it would be a good, sane idea to focus on more personal work for a give my imagination a looser reign...and see where that led.

A friend pointed out that these eight new paintings seem to be addressing fear of one sort or another, and I suspect that she is right. When Iʼm not painting for a book project, the initial drawing for a painting evolves out of my stream of consciousness: Iʼm not trying to express a particular thought or storyline. However, things that are brewing in my own thoughts, dreams and feelings, as well as what Iʼve been reading about or observing in others makes its way into the drawings. Themes such as limitation, obstacles, choices, change and introspection are common in my work, and a lot of that comes out of the uncertainty of ʻart as a career.ʼ
Susan Sorrell Hill

Essentially dream images, these paintings can be interpreted in many different ways. I like this way of working very much, and am frequently surprised at the images that come through. They often tell me a story that I didnʼt even know I was thinking about. And though the style of these non- book paintings is very much like an illustration, I think that they have more depth and layers of meaning than an illustration that is specific to a particular storyline.
Susan Sorrell Hill
My favorite artists have all been illustrators, not large-scale oil painters, so perhaps it is natural that my favorite way of working has come to be works on paper that are intimate in size...and images that seem to tell a story, though that story may remain mysterious.

What role does the word "choice" and "journey" play in your artwork?

Susan: I suppose that you could say that I am an introvert at heart...and that contemplation has played more of a role in my life than physical activities. Consequently, I am fascinated by the world literature and philosophies that explore the inward Journey of Life, which is ultimately about the growth of a personʼs Soul. Iʼm drawn to things like Jungian psychology and archetypes, symbolism, the Tarot and Rune oracles, and all things ancient, myth and fairytale...because all of these, in their particular way, are expressing universal truths, obstacles and lessons that apply to every individualʼs life. On this Journey, choices have far-reaching consequences, and circuitous routes to our mysterious destinations are common. I hope to express some of all of this in my seems important somehow to make visual symbols out of such deep subjects.
Susan Sorrell Hill
Your new work also shows some of your characters in fear... in one painting you can see shadows trying to take a hold of something. What do your characters experience in your paintings? 

Susan: Perhaps it is not so much Fear that is expressed in my work, as it is an exploration of fearful situations...and the equanimity (or lack of) with which fear can be faced and mastered. In one painting, shadows seem to express the fact that demanding or threatening or shaming voices will always be around, and there is no rest unless one leaves the room! In another, a small, beautiful tree thrives in the very center of an overbearing environment. And in another, a man runs across deep water, safely oblivious to the toothy creatures nipping at his heels and swimming below. He seems to carry some sort of guardian creature on his shoulder. I suppose you could say that my characters are wrestling with the issues that Life presents.

Susan Sorrell Hill
Magic and art... do you see a connection?

Susan: I came across a quote years ago about the idea that words are the most powerful form of magic (it may have been Starhawk?), and I see that this idea has now been incorporated into the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part Two, spoken by the wizard-professor, Albus Dumbledore. He said, “Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
Now certainly there is truth in this idea, but I would expand it a bit more, and say that symbols (of which art is comprised) are the most powerful form of magic...because symbols (and words are symbols too) have the power to change consciousness, for better or worse. Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist, writer and lecturer, explored this viewpoint extensively.
Susan Sorrell Hill
Susan: I have always thought that artists could (should?) best honor their gifts by putting positive symbols, positive magic into the world, rather than adding to the darkness that is already here. I think that I am attracted to fairytales because these tales imply that, despite the darkness, there is always a hidden path, protection and guidance, and a positive outcome to life, if only one does her very best and perseveres.

Susan Sorrell Hill
On the purely material level, allowing an image to flow from oneʼs heart, oneʼs unconscious thoughts and feelings, oneʼs dreams absolutely feels like Magic, even before anyone else ever reacts to the artwork. What else could the creative impulse be called but magic?

 A while back you took a break from blogging. What was it like?
This digital era has brought the new Social Networking wave too: Facebook, Twitter and blogging seem to have suddenly become part of every serious artist’s career plan. But being technologically-challenged, I was very adverse to the idea of writing a blog. Then I saw the movie, Julie and Julia (“Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession...intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book”) and thought well, maybe I could offer some fruits of all of my contemplation and reading, and show my artwork as well. Who knows what showing up beyond the reaches of my little town could bring?

I do like design and beauty very much, so putting together a blog (and a website) is very artistically satisfying. And I do like putting words and pictures together, being a story- lover at heart. Once I launched my new blog, Dream & Vision: life through the eyes of an artist, I was pleasantly surprised by all the positive appreciation and wonderful connections with readers and artists all over the world!

But blogging and social media take a lot of time to do well and consistently...and so far, I have not found them to be very useful in practical terms. Perhaps it gathers momentum? For me personally, blogging weekly is way too much time spent in front of a computer screen, and it takes me away from what I really love: drawing and painting. I’m finding a better balance now by posting great career news flashes, plus writing once in a while just for fun. Of course, “balance” is a flexible thing by nature, so my blogging activity could be different in the future!

Susan Sorrell Hill
Thank you for asking all of these interesting questions, Susanna, and for posting my words and artwork once again on your wonderful site, Trade Your Talent.

My first interview with Susan Sorrell Hill, from January 2011
Susan's website 
Susan's blog Dream and Vision


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