Ep 17 Featured Image Podcast

On Being You – Susan Melrath – Ep 17

February 16, 2022


One of the ways we clarify our creative expression is by sharing what we are learning along the way with others. By teaching. For most artists, this could feel like a distraction from their art. However, for some, doing so becomes almost essential in figuring out their art and life. 

Join me, as we dive into the remarkable world of Susan Melrath. Firstly, she’s an extraordinary artist. But secondly, she holds that rare ability to teach how she does what she does in her art and life. Her straight-ahead clarity has not only helped me but now thousands of others in her lead coaching role for the Art2Life Creative Visionary Program. Susan can jumpstart just about anyone who is considering embarking upon the creative path. I think you just might find her story not only inspiring but revelatory. 

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Listen if you are interested in…

  • Being a problem solver and unlocking possibility [2:22] 
  • Susan’s story and how she got unstuck [6:00]
  • Diving in and letting things happen in your art practice [17:32] 
  • How an artist finds their visual vocabulary [20:58]
  • How realism changed Susan’s art [26:27]
  • Thinking of your art practice as an experience [29:59]
  • Creative challenges, the feeling of Susan’s work, and the practicality of art-making [34:52]

Ask the right questions

It’s such a gift to be able to see through the eyes of an artist. I want to echo Susan’s gratitude because it’s so true! Being an artist is an incredible gift achieved by asking the right questions. When I first began to mentor Susan I asked her: What do you love? What’s important to you? What lights you up? She had never taken the time to ask herself these questions. Without the inquiry it becomes incredibly easy to follow a path that is seemingly laid out for us. We can spend way too much time trying to fit into boxes that meet the expectations of others. 

Embrace the unknown 

Certainty is great, but it doesn’t make great art. Teaching other artists has taught me that we need to focus on ourselves before we can focus on what we’re creating. Stop worrying about making art that is Instagram-worthy. Start trying to make art that is worthy of your authentic self and everything else will follow. That’s exactly what happened when Susan stopped trying to make things that “looked like” she was letting go, and instead, just let go! Because illustrators often know what the final piece is going to look like before they start, Susan spent her entire commercial art career in a safe, creative bubble. She knew exactly what was expected of her and became very good at achieving these results. Switching to fine art allowed her to explore the feeling of being present with her work which resulted in a far more personal expression. 

Clarify your voice

Susan loves realism because it provides her with a structure to play with. She doesn’t have to guess at what shapes to use to express herself and feels this constraint provides an even greater level of self-expression. Surprisingly, realism allows her to do whatever she wants with the painting and feel total freedom to reinvent the elements she’s using for her work. It’s way more interesting for Susan to have some boundaries and limitations instead of something completely abstract with endless possibilities. Having a clear problem helps her know exactly what doesn’t work so that she can figure out what does. The results are stunning! I think being able to narrow down the practice of our art is an important step in finding our way. Choosing a focus that feels right and allowing ourselves to create whatever comes out in the process is essential for self-discovery. You don’t have to choose one focus forever, however as a strong bold first step, it’s a great way to bring clarity and authenticity to your work. 

Also, be certain to sign up for the free Art2life Workshop by clicking here!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Susan Melrath

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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