Portfolio of the Week Interview: Suzanne Vadnais-Monson (posted November 14, 2011)

Greetings and welcome to our latest edition of "Portfolio of the Week"!  This week we're very pleased to present the works and artistic wisdom of Suzanne Vadnais Monson, ace Moderator here at The Art Colony, and a helpful and well known friend to many!    

We asked Suzanne if she could tattoo her art philosophy onto the back of a blue elephant, as who could possibly miss something like that?  But Suzanne said, "No."  So we regrouped, and were able to get this informative interview out of her instead!  
Suzanne has an inspired knack for collage, abstract design, art journaling, and teaching others the art of being creative.  She is the kindest teacher that we know!  She didn't even complain at us when her rock garden was stomped on by a runaway pachyderm.  
You may visit Suzanne's gallery at this link:
I have to take the elephant back to the zoo.  Meanwhile, here is our interview with Suzanne:

What is your favorite medium and why? 

Collage is my favorite medium, because it encompasses all of the other mediums!  I can draw, paint, sculpt, design, write poetry, take pictures...the range is wide, and can move in a number of interesting directions depending on the theme I am using.

What are some of the challenges of working in collage? 

The very things I love about collage are also the challenges of working in this medium.  It can be difficult to make choices from the broad range of possibilities.
How long have you been an artist? 

I have been playing with art materials ever since I was a little girl.  Those early years of being allowed to color on the bare sheetrock wall, because my parents couldn't keep up with my requests for coloring books, were a fine training ground for this future artist.  I really didn't consider myself a "real" artist until about 15 years ago, when I started trying to make a living from creating and selling my art.
How did you learn to draw/paint (self-taught, school, lessons, etc.)?

I am a mix of self taught, schooling and private lessons with artists I admire.

Who or what has influenced your art? 

Wow. That's a tough one for me.  So many influences, so little room to share all of them!  Ok, the biggest ones:  my mom and my sister, Judy Chicago, Jim Dimmers (a local landscape painter) and Mark Joraanstad, one of my early teachers.

What inspires you? 

My greatest inspirations consistently come to me in two ways:  I am moving (jogging, walking, skiing, hiking) and/or I am listening to or looking at something.  An idea breaks loose inside of me and I run with it, mulling it over, wondering about it for a while.  Then I try to capture how I want to shape this idea in my journal.  I explore a gazillion different ideas in words and sketches, sometimes collages and paintings, in my journals.  It is this creative process that most inspires me.
How do you make time for art? 

I make the appointment every day and keep it.  It's that simple.  Put it in the appointment book and don't give it up, no matter what.  Of course I am pretty flexible about the definition of "making art".  Some days my art making is 10 minutes of exploring ideas in my journal, on others it might be 6 hours of creating a new work in my studio.  Being flexible really helps!
Who are your favorite artists? 

Judy Chicago, Claude Monet, Maxfield Parrish, Jane Evershed. The story of Frieda Kahlo, how she persevered.

What is your favorite subject matter and why? 

Nurturing and sustaining the possible, especially during times of struggle.  I love looking for one way to see a crisis as an opportunity, then tracing the road map from crisis to precious awakening.  Aha moments, goosebumps, tears, dreams, things that stop me in my tracks because I am in awe of what I am seeing.  It could be a red-tailed hawk circling my house causing me to wonder what it came to tell me, or a perfect sunrise through the trees catching me by surprise and capturing me for a few brief moments to stop and watch, just stand still for five minutes and watch.  This is my favorite thing to capture.  I want to show everyone how these moments feel.  Capture the process of transformation as it happens.

What's the best art advice anyone has ever given you? 

"You can soar with the eagles." I will never forget when I wanted to drop out of school when I was sixteen.  I was sure high school was a waste of my time and told my mom this.  I was going to run off and be an artist.  She said this to me: "Suzanne, you can do what comes easy and grovel with the pigs or you can take on the things that are hard and soar with the eagles. Ultimately it's your choice, but you, my dear, are an eagle.  You were born to soar with the eagles."

Do you have any tips or advice for your fellow artists? 

Don't stop.  No matter what.  Find do-able ways to keep pursuing the art you love.  Make it possible.  Refuse to accept that you can't do something you are struggling to do.  Instead ask this question: HOW can I do this? HOW can I make this work for me?  And practice.  A lot.  Practice whenever you can!  I don't believe art is a talent.  I believe that making art takes a lot of practice.  You will make mistakes.  You will make bad art.  It's ok.  If you keep practicing and don't give up, you will improve!  And you know what, in the end that you kept going will mean far more to you than if your work is hanging in the Smithsonian.  Plus...we may never know IF our work is hanging in the Smithsonian.  So don't stop!

Tags: art, collage, monson, of, portfolio, suzanne, the, vadnais, week

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for the advice, Su.  Sometimes it's tempting to give up.  It's inspiring to think that if I just keep pressing forward I will make it one day. I want to try my hand at collage, but don't really know how to start.  They look so detailed and complicated.  It would be great if you could offer a tutorial on collage!  I have an inspirational quote that I would like to work a collage around, but I just don't know how to go about it.  Any advice?

Thank you so much Starr. I am going to create a step-by step how to collage to share with everyone. This will be coming soon! Stay tuned. ; >

What an inspirational interview, Su! Wonderful to get some more insights into your artistic world. Thanks so much for sharing (and for not subjecting us to the elephant tattoo).

I tell you what...had Michael really asked me to do this I probably would have given it a go! I remember once being asked to craft a portrait of the Virgin Mary out of Pasta. And you know what, I rose to the challenge and I really like how it turned out! I'll have to post a jpg for you to see!

Excellent. I look forward to seeing the pasta fantasia! And Michael, get that elephant back here. I want to see what Su comes up with now.

One Pasta Madonna! This was a prop for an ad campaign!

Wow, that's terrific!

Yow Suzanne, that's an original work of art!  I'm surprised that I hadn't seen pasta art before, given all the wonderful shapes that it comes in.  That must be whole wheat pasta, creating the face.  :)  It must have been intense, breaking the spaghetti to the correct lengths.  I like to imagine that the pasta is cooked, and the painting is edible!

The only thing the collage needs, is a little face looking back up at the Virgin Mary.  <3

Congratulations on your POTW, Su!  

Michael, the little face couldn't be made from pasta. It would have to be made from 'little baby cheeses'.

Ho ho Meg!  You're quick with the puns!   :o)

That's me!

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