Thursday, 21 July 2011

Guest Post by GCU Artist and Author, Susan Alison

Today's post is an 'interview' with Susan Alison, watercolour artist and author. 

Susan has illustrated her replies to my questions with some of her dog and cat illustrations. And you can see more of Susan's lovely watercolour paintings by clicking on these links - 


I asked Susan: 

When did you begin painting?
I took up painting as a serious endeavour twenty years ago when I needed to earn a living from home. I lived in the Forest of Dean at the time, so it was no hardship studying all those trees and expanses of water and trying to get them down on paper. It was incredibly naive to think I could earn a living from it just like that though! And, I couldn't - but I gave it a pretty good go, and my first painting sold from an exhibition in Monmouth Museum (ie a 'proper' venue) so I was pretty chuffed about that. I painted that particular picture twenty-three times before I was happy with it, and it is still engraved on my mind...

Most of my paintings back then were landscapes - I still paint some vistas but nowadays there'll be a dog in them eg 'Good Morning, Morning' in which a Border Collie says hello to a new day.




My circumstances changed and I stopped painting, taking it up again five years ago when I decided that surely there was a way through the internet to make it work.

The most valuable thing I've learned from my current experience is that you simply can't tell upfront what is going to sell. This means that, if you have to sell your work in order to keep doing it, your most important characteristic is persistence. I paint to sell. It's my job. All kinds of artists succeed and all kinds fail, and I fancy the main difference between the two is persistence - the presence or the absence of it. You just have to keep pounding away at the keyboard if you wish to succeed online.



Did you go to Art College or have any formal art training?
My art training has been a do-it-yourself learning curve.


I've had no formal art training. I believe there are some things (for me) that are better learnt on the job, and painting is one of them. I could spend a long time learning about how to do it instead of just doing it. Not only that, but I learn something new from every painting I do, so the training goes on for ever, although I've never again painted a picture twenty-three times...

What is the most valuable thing you've learned and who taught you that?
The most valuable thing I've learned about painting is to fight the fear that comes with a nice, new, clean, expensive piece of watercolour paper - just splash the paint on, and then resist the urge to fiddle with it. I learnt this from Edward Seago (see below). I also used very big brushes when I started out, which gave me lots more confidence.

What is your favourite medium and why?
My favourite medium is watercolour. It doesn't smell; it's quick to apply, quick to dry; easy to wash out of your hair and off the furniture. What I really love about it, though, is its translucence. Some very skilled oil painters can get close to that effect by painting it, but watercolour owns that effect and doesn't have to put it on. Its very nature is translucence and it only gives it up if one insists on messing with it.


Who is your favourite artist/illustrator etc? Have you been particularly influenced/inspired by any other artists? When I started out I was fascinated by people like Whistler, Sargent and Edward Seago because of the luminous quality of their work. I don't look so much now because I don't want to be influenced by anyone else and I don't want to subconsciously pick up other people's ideas. Mind you, I do sometimes watch the changing parade of cards on the front of GCU and marvel at the varieties of artistic expression. There will always be something new. That's how I feel, too - no matter how long I live I'll never live long enough to paint all my ideas. My inspiration comes to me now from my surroundings, wherever I am, in everyday life, but especially from nature and animals, particularly dogs. They can find joy where no one else can.

Where do you sell your paintings?
I sell my original paintings, mainly ACEOs, (Art Cards, Editions and Originals, sometimes called Artist Trading Cards or ATCs), but bigger sizes too, on eBay, along with prints, greeting cards, coasters and books.

My ebay store is here ;
there is also a store on Etsy
but my images can be found on several print-on-demand websites like

Which came first - writing or painting? 
Writing came first, but then I felt compelled to illustrate what I'd written, so it’s a close run thing. My very first book was called 'The Cat' and was illustrated in wax crayons. This cat had many more than the usual nine lives and firmly believed that raspberry ripple icecream cured seasickness. I still paint cats now, so maybe the original one was a foretelling of what was to come... 

These days, my cats are into so much more than just icecream though, whether they're stalking harebells...


...or line dancing to soothe 'their achy breaky hearts'. 





I would love to write and illustrate my own children's books but so far I haven't managed to fit that ambition into my life. The closest I've got to that is doing the cover art for my first grown-up book:



'White Lies and Custard Creams' is a romantic comedy with a dash of mystery - and, yes - there's a dog in it... (Well, there was bound to be...) It's on Amazon for Kindle for $1.59 here:  and for 97p here
:

Which is your best-selling/favourite greeting card? I'm quite fond of my whippet and greyhound painting of an egg and spoon race which has made a successful greeting card and print.

Although my cool surfing Labrador dudes comes a very close second...



 People seem to appreciate my less frivolous paintings too:

‘Forget me not’ ,


‘Wistful’ 



and ‘To Sleep, Perchance to Dream’. 



What is your next project or your plans and hopes for the future?
I have my second romantic comedy novel, 'Out from under the Polar Bear', finished but for a final polish, and I have to paint the cover art. That will be uploaded to Kindle before Christmas and I want to upload a new book every year from now on.

The painting of pictures will go on as usual. I really need to get more organised about using the images though, so maybe 'getting organised' should be my main ambition for the forseeable future...

In the meantime, everyone's support is much appreciated. 

I have a dog and cat artwork blog here: Monty and Rose and I'm on Twitter and Facebook if anyone would like to keep me company there, too. I love to hear from people and there is nothing more encouraging than when I get a response from someone telling me how cheered they are to see my pictures. 

You keep me going and I thank you very much!


41 comments:

Red Rose Digital Art said...

What an interesting interview! The illustrations were wonderful too. Susan is certainly very talented.

Cheers,


Rosanne

Penny Grubb said...

Fascinating interview and I loved the illustrations. I have a Susan Alison print on a tote bag - one of my most useful, as well as artistic, possessions, and also quite a conversation piece.

Border Collie Trust GB said...

Congratulations Susan, good interview and I know our supporters are always pleased with all your goods that we sell online
All the best
Border Collie Trust GB

montyandrosie said...

Thank you, Rosanne! I've just checked out your blog - what a fab photographer. One day I'll get to grips with my camera...

montyandrosie said...

Penny - how lovely to see you here! I remember that bag - it's the Solidarity one - yes? - the one with 53 dogs in it - at this distance, I can't think how I ever finished that painting...

montyandrosie said...

Hello Border Collie Trust GB!!! How lovely of you to say so. Thank you. You do such a fab job of helping Border Collies (and their close relatives) - it's great to be allied to your cause.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you all for your comments and I'm sorry, Susan, I had to dash out unexpectedly before I had a chance to thank you myself!

montyandrosie said...

I thank you, Judy, for being such a fab hostess!!!

Thank you for inteviewing me and using up space on your blog with the result! Am chuffed to be here.

brendathour said...

I really enjoyed reading about Susan and her adorable art work. Her paintings are so much fun to see. Congratulations to her for her first, and now soon second book cover. Very cool.

Judy Adamson said...

I'm afraid something weird is going on with some of the links in this post. They work when I test them but don't once it's published!

If all else fails, you can always google 'Susan Alison' and I'm sure you'll find what you want that way.

Very sorry about this but nothing I change seems to be helping.

cjhardy said...

Lovely whimsical illustrations,Susan. Thanks for sharing your gifts and marketing savvy. Thank you, too, Judy for this enlightening interview

St George Salon of Art said...

Wonderful to get to know more about Susan! I have been a huge fan since I joined GCU! I never fail to end up at her store when looking for dog cards to post on my pet lover's website. Her creative ideas when combined with her artistic talent are just a perfect match for me! Off I go to share this interview on Twitter and Facebook! Thanks for having her Judy.
Doreen Erhardt
http://www.facebook.com/SalonOfArt
http://www.twitter.com/SalonOfArt

Cindy said...

Wow! You're my new inspiration, Susan! Your dedication to your art shows tremendous devotion that I aspire to achieve someday. And realizing the talents that you have and capitalizing on them is also something I hope for. :-)

Thank you, Judy, for having Susan as your guest blogger, and, Susan, for sharing a very beautiful and fascinating portion of your lovely world.

CyndiLou said...

Beautiful article! Thanks so much for sharing and posting!
Cyndi
cyndilou.blogspot.com
CyndiLou on Facebook

montyandrosie said...

Thank you, Brenda! I've taken the opportunity to tour around your blog - and join it - it's fascinating to see what you see when you're out and about in your country. One day I shall visit. Oh, yes I will!

Thanks for your comment ref my book cover. The novel itself is also mine and I hope to have the second one out in time for Christmas. It's written but needs finishing off a bit and then a cover design done for it.

montyandrosie said...

Thank you, cjhardy! I'm taking this opportunity to tour around everyone's blogs - one day I want to become better acquainted with coloured pencils. I shall come to your blog(s) for tips.

montyandrosie said...

Doreen - what a lovely thing to say - thank you very much! And thank you for spreading the word. It's so fab to have such support from fellow artists.

montyandrosie said...

Cindy - you're very welcome! What a lovely thing to say. I have joined your blog - am just saying because it's my dog Rosie's pic that appears instead of my photo, which can be a tad confusing...

sandrarosedesigns said...

What a wonderful artist you are! Thanks for sharing your story.

montyandrosie said...

Thank you, CyndiLou! I want a locker now so I can come to you for ideas to decorate it...

montyandrosie said...

I thank you for reading it, SandraRose!

art2cee2 said...

What a wonderful interview Judy! Susan's work is just fantastic! I thouroughly enjoyed all the beautiful doggie artwork!! :-)

posyrosie said...

Wonderful interview and illustrations. Rosie Cards

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Crystal - I love Susan't artwork and wish I had her talent with watercolours! I think my absolute favourite is the cat among the harebells, but then I'm more of a 'cat person' at heart.

Judy Adamson said...

Thanks, Rosie, glad you enjoyed it :)

L J Grove said...

Loved the interview! I've been a fan of Susan's for years :-) I can't wait for the second novel. The first one was such an entertaining read. Keep up the good work, Susan! Thanks for posting this interview in your blog. I'll see if I can share the link on Facebook too.

Naquaiya said...

Susan is a bombshell of talent and her illustrations are very engaging and charming. This interview was great and I want to re-read it several times to soak it all in. I love Susan's art and Judy you did a great interview. Egg and spoon race was great and brings back memories of my kids in pony club. excellent all around!
http://justwatercolor.blogspot.com
http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/naquaiya

montyandrosie said...

Thank you for saying such fab things, you all! It's very encouraging.

montyandrosie said...

Laurie - how lovely to see you! I'm so glad you enjoyed my novel. The second one is just about finished - some polishing and dithering to do - that's the text bit. The cover art is a source of great indecision still...

montyandrosie said...

Sorry - Laurie - meant to say thank you for sharing link on Facebook. It's very kind of you!

montyandrosie said...

Crystal - just love your pic of Maddy on the boat. Great blog all round, but of course it was the dog sailor that caught my eye.

montyandrosie said...

Naquaiya - thank you for your wonderful comments! You've put a grin on my face. I also totally love your scratchboard pic 'Have a seat by a great window' - fabulous! The only trouble is, I'm now thinking - hmmm - scratchboard - I haven't used scratchboard for years... No, no, I mustn't get carried away with something else when I'm not keeping up with stuff already... Great blog!

sue and david said...

Hi Judy, we'd just like to thank you for your fascinating interview with Susan Alison. She is our favourite ebay artist and we love all her paintings, especially the ones she does of "our" breed - Welsh Corgis. We now feel that we know her so much better and you have probably told us more about her than we could ever have discovered ourselves. Thanks again.

Judy Adamson said...

You're very welcome!

Lesley Cookman said...

I have various Susan Allison pictures in odd spots all over the house, including the one that illustrates me, a whippet (or is it a greyhound?)with a cigarette and a glass of red wine called A Writer's Life.

Not to mention the fact that Susan also created the lovely map that appears in the front of all my books and on my website. And there's a dog and a cat in it - naturally.

And I love the harebell cat and the trees. Thank you Judy and Susan.

Jan Jones said...

Lovely interview and fabulous paintings. Thanks, both.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you both for taking the time to leave your comments - I'm sure Suan will be very appreciative when she gets back from the conference she is attending in Caerleon this weekend.

Gill Stewart said...

I've loved your paintings for ages Sue, great to hear more about the process you went through to get where you are. Lovely interview.

Anonymous said...

Susan is such a talented artist! And I was fascinated to learn about her story in the art world. Many thanks for this article.

Caroline Praed

montyandrosie said...

Thank you for your comments - you're all fab! And thank you, Judy, for being such a brill hostess!

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