Author Archives: Susan

About Susan

an artist inspired by landscape

You Are Here Show at the John B Aird Gallery

“You Are Here” is a show at the John B Aird public gallery created around the theme of exploring our individual approaches to navigating urban space and emotional experiences.

This show intersected nicely with one piece from a series I am creating — the piece shown above, titled “Takonto Imagined Post-Anthropocene.”

To create the piece above, I deconstructed and reconstructed a city guide map. I was thinking about the ways in which Toronto has changed and the ways in which it will change in the future as a result of climate change, political changes, and social changes. I know that Toronto will not float away as an island, but that was the metaphor that consistently came to mind as I explored what to do with this map.

This map also contains a cartouche, which is the name for the label that appears in the top right corner. Map cartouches typically show symbols of the place in the map, as well as mythical associations for that place. So appropriately, this cartouche has the CN Tower, a streetcar, the iconic city hall silhouette, and the city’s flower, a columbine. Will these symbols survive the current changes, or will they be markers of what we had and lost?

The name, Tkaronto, is the original indigenous peoples’ name for this place.

I love printed maps and everything about them, and they have provided the foundational materials for a series I am working on called The Cartography of Late Capitalism.

Light Party

The Light Party Show was a huge success. This show brought me back into working with some wonderful artists I have worked with in the Trapeze collective in the past, and also a few new faces. Barbara Bailey, Karen Bailey, Bonita Johnson and Diane Taylor-Sexton were all part of the Trapeze collective. Fred Fowler, Tobi Asmoucha, Amanda Rowe, and Jiri Tomiska were new to me when I joined this group.

We had a wonderful space at 2014 Dundas Street West, and the weather was perfect, allowing our guests to enjoy the outdoor terrace behind the gallery.

We curated our own space, and I was pleased to have one of my pieces nominated for the front window. That’s me in my “hanging the show” clothes! Before dashing home to change, get buffed and polished and return to host guests at the opening.

If you ever wondered if you are welcome at an art opening, the answer is yes! We love to have a crowd, that’s what makes it exciting. And we want to show our art to people, so we really appreciate anyone who takes the time to join us at a reception.

A one night show is a lot of work, but also great fun. We had everything packed up to go shortly after 11 pm.

We have another group show planned for 2021, on the theme “Home.” Stay tuned!

Bayview Art Tour, 2019

I participated in the Bayview Art Tour this year for the first time. It was fun to set up my courtyard garden as a gallery, with a tent just in case it rained.

Good thing we had the tent, because it did rain! But people dropped by anyway, to look at art, eat cookies, drink coffee and wine, and talk about art and life.

The tent worked! Thank goodness for Canadian Tire and Coleman. Note one of the paintings is in a plastic bag on the easel!
With rain in the forecast, I had things a little bit jammed in the sunroom!
Coffee is still being made, but wine is all set to go! Got to get your priorities straight.

Don Mills Library Show 2018

So much cool stuff is happening in libraries now. The day I went in to hang this show, there was a guy demonstrating 3D printing. You can take classes at the library in 3D printing now, and rent time on their machines. Cool, right?

I’m not quite ready to abandon paint yet, though. Here are the installation pictures.

This exhibit will be there to see until April 27.

Here’s the list of works: Don Mills Library Show List of Works

New mixed media works hanging at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

photos of artwork in a hallway at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

My pieces hanging outside the President and Board offices at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

A couple of times a year I get the opportunity to hang some of my art at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. This one is the Tully Invitational Show, which you need to be invited to participate in. Named after the volunteers that started the program of hanging art in the hospital more than 25 years ago.

These are all new works, and I am super pleased with how they look here. The three smaller pieces are all mixed media with collage elements.

So what, you may wonder, does it mean when I say “mixed media”? In this case, it means I have used multiple (mixed) forms of media to create the image. These pieces have several layers, including some pastel, some watercolor crayon, and lots of acrylic paint. The pastel and watercolor crayon are also artist quality materials. I fix them with a spray fixative, and then also seal them in with a layer of acrylic medium.

The collage elements are a bit shiny, and they are also glued down and sealed in with acrylic medium. Which is a lot like glue, in many respects — very similar chemistry to the white glue you used at school, but much purer, and also transparent.

Acrylic mediums come in a wide variety — literally dozens of types, and multiple manufacturers. Some are clear, others glossy, and they have a variety of working properties. I currently have several types, and keep experimenting with new ones.

Just working on getting photos up into the gallery page, stay tuned!

Who Are You? Show at Red Head Gallery for Nuit Blanche 2017

I’m delighted to be part of Red Head Gallery‘s Nuit Blanche exhibit this year, called Who Are You?

There are two pieces, part of a series I have planned called “The Cinderella Stories.” Here’s the artist’s statement I provided to the gallery:

“The Cinderella Stories” is a series that explores the mythology, culture and experience of corporate capitalism through my personal lens of a female participant. 

After I left a corporate career in 2001, I spent a lot of time re-evaluating my beliefs about myself and about the world of business. Art was a natural way for me to tackle working through these thoughts and emotions. This work started as individual artist trading cards, created by laminating a set of casino playing cards with old book pages, then collaging and painting on them, while preserving meaningful words.

Mounting them together in the form of ‘quilts’ provided a feminine form to contrast with the comments on corporate capitalism embedded in the small pieces. The addition of objects of personal significance provides a dimensional and archival quality to the pieces. The links evoke for me the need for personal armor in the organizational context.

Each of these quilts is conceived of as a chapter in a book that charts the indoctrination and path to enlightenment of the artist.

The “Who Are You” exhibition is the first time these very personal pieces have been shown in public. They were created over a period of time, then mounted together as you see here.

The Cinderella Stories Chapter 5: I am Enlightened – Copyright 2006 Susan G Abbott, All Rights Reserved

Mounting these artist trading cards was a tricky process. I created this form, which I call a “quilt” because of the way pieces are assembled.

I no longer use the casino playing cards as a substrate, because they warp easily, even after being laminated. So now I use heavy watercolor paper as the starting point. The images collaged onto the cards come from a wide variety of sources, including my own photographs and rubber stamps I have created.

I do love making these, but have gotten away from them in recent years. In part because I was not sure I would ever be able to show them. When I saw the opportunity with Red Head Gallery, it seemed like a perfect fit. So I may now be inspired to do a few more in the series.

Thanks for stopping by!





Watching the sunsets from on Lake Nipissing

We usually think of watching the sunset looking west, directly into the setting sun.  I often find that the most interesting light is in the clouds somewhere else.  I got to experience this on my recent trip to Lake Nipissing, where my cabin faced East.

As our campfire was crackling, we would sit and watch the lake. On this night, the reflections of the setting sun in the eastern sky clouds was spectacular. Few cameras can capture these colors as well as the human eye, but I did take a couple of photos as reminders.

One of the things that interested me were the highlights close to the horizon, and the way the reflected sunset broke around the island.

This painting is based on almost the same viewpoint as the painting titled Twilight from Memquisit, which is a painting of the pre-dawn twilight.

The next morning, with hot coffee firmly in hand, I started to figure out how to create this painting of brilliant colors in the fading light.


After dark: painting the twilight on Lake Nipissing

While I was staying at Memquisit Lodge, I painted two “sunset” paintings. Well, not quite … permit me to explain.

This one was actually the twilight before dawn. I got up quite early one morning, and looked out to a beautiful scene. The sky was clear, there was no rain, a crisp, cool morning was about to arrive. I quickly put on a warm jacket, grabbed my phone, and dashed out to snap a few photos.

It was quite chilly, and still dark, so I hopped back to bed, already thinking about the painting I wanted to create.

As you can see from my preparatory sketch, I snapped the photos at 5:46 AM — not even the fishers were out then!

You might wonder why I do a preparatory sketch when I have taken photos? Well, several reasons. First, the photos are never as nuanced as what the human eye can see. Especially in low light conditions, our eyes experience much more.

Another reason is that I am creating a painting, not reproducing a photograph. The painting will likely be somewhat different than the actual scene — I am simplifying some things, emphasizing other things, reducing complexity, showing you my ideas.

The dark sky is not all one color. Nor is the dark water. I love painting the gradations of the values, and adjusting the scene to capture my impression of it.  The challenge with a painting like this is making the darks DARK enough, but not generally black.There is a beautiful mixture you can buy from paint suppliers called Payne’s grey, which is a mixture of blue and black, and I used that quite a bit in my mixtures for this painting.

For the emerging sunlight, the challenge is to make the lights LIGHT enough, but not the same light as full daylight.

Once I was up and had a hot coffee in hand, this painting came together quickly. I set my easel up on the rocks outside the cabin, and by mid-afternoon, the painting was close to finished.

Those late August days can have quite cool nights when you are in the near north, like the Lake Nipissing area. Often you will see the mist rise from the water in the morning.

I was very pleased with this piece, which captures that beautiful time of day we call twilight, when the day is not yet here, and some of the mystery and the magic of the night remains.

Painting the marshes on Lake Nipissing

While staying at Memquisit Lodge on Lake Nipissing this summer, I decided to paint the marsh close to our cabin.

I love these marshes — they are home to a lot of wildlife, and if you pay attention, you will often see a Great Blue Heron.

They are a very challenging subject to paint.

The water in a marsh is usually quite a dark green, in part because there are many weeds just below the surface, as well as algae and so forth. On this day, the sky was quite overcast, making for a rather dark painting.

Although waves tend to disappear in a marsh because the weeds protect it, any little breeze will make the water riffle.

The water lilies are beautiful, as is the pickerel weed (that’s the blue flower) and the other marsh plants. I did see a Great Blue Heron here one day, and also the head of a large turtle, and a number of frogs. Beneath the surface there are many fingerling fish.

I think they are beautiful, which is a good thing, because the Canadian Shield landscape has many marshes!

Painting Lake Nipissing from Memquisit Lodge

I had two glorious weeks in a small cabin at Memquisit Lodge on Lake Nipissing this summer. We were situated at the end of a rocky outcropping, with a marsh on one side and the lovely West Bay of Lake Nipissing on the other.

We did a little bit of hiking, explored the towns nearby on the days with poor weather, and had a campfire almost every night.  Many nights the sky was clear, even though the evenings were cold, and the stars were magnificent. We also paddled around the nearby islands and bays.

Needless to say, I painted most days. The lake itself is beautiful, and surprisingly calm for such a large lake. Probably because we were in the relatively sheltered West Bay area, where there are many islands.

This first painting was based on impressions, and some hastily taken photos from my phone, while we were kayaking along. I love the rocks of the Canadian Shield, and never tire of painting them.