Oil painter Suzanne Poursine Massion lives in the rural Hampshire Township in Northern Illinois, about 60 miles west of Chicago. The picturesque farmland around her inspires the creation of her bright, serene landscapes.
I enjoyed learning about Suzanne’s artistic background and inspiration in our interview.
Jason: How did you get your start in art?
Suzanne Massion: I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child. My mother was an artist and in her world you could not be bored if you had pens, pencils, crayons, and blank sheets of paper.
J: It’s great that you grew up in the home of an artist. Tell me a little more about your mother’s art.
SM: She was a traditional oil painter. She also worked in watercolor and graphite.
J: Do you have any other artistic connections in your family?
SM: My sister is a dancer who performs the classical south Indian style of Bharata Natyam.
J: Did the rest of your family encourage your art?
SM: Yes, even my father who was a career U.S. Army sergeant. He loved the arts, ballet and opera also.
J: How much art related education do you have?
SM: I have a B.A in Art Practice from Michigan State University, minor in art history. I also had extensive study in the early 90’s with a visiting professor from Beijing, China. I currently take regular classes in oil painting from a colleague at the DuPage Art League, Wheaton, Illinois.
J: What is your medium?
SM: Primarily oil. I also produce a “starry night” series of pen & inks with colored pencil for a gift shop venue. I frequently work in graphite pencil for commissioned portraits.
J: Describe your style and subject matter
SM: Impressionism. Landscapes of lakes, marshes, fens, rivers, prairies, sky, woodland, open spaces.
J: How did you develop your style?
SM: Beginning in the 90s, my study with visiting professor, Chang Li of Beijing introduced me to the concept of warm and cool colors in context with warm and cool light. This was actually more important than my four years at university. Although I use my own digital images as references and finish pieces in my studio, painting on site in natural light has been a major element in developing my style.
J: What drew you to your subject matter?
SM: I’ve lived in both the urban and rural areas of the Fox River Valley for almost fifty years. Being an unapologetic home body, I walk and drive through open spaces and farmland every day. Growing up in an army family, my dream was finally to “stay put”. Well here I am, living in this beautiful area. It is underrated by a lot of my colleagues who want to travel to find exotic subjects. I’ve never tired of painting the land that surrounds where I live.
J: What do you feel is unique about your work?
SM: Because I paint the land and open spaces where I live, I market my work as a window into nature. I envision my paintings on the wall of perhaps a city apartment or office where a glimpse into a prairie or woodland is a welcome rest for the eye. Perhaps my painting reminds the viewer of a past rural childhood. I want potential collectors to see the emotional connection between me, the artist, and the work I create.
J: When did you sell your first artwork?
SM: My best guess is 1991.
J: Are you a full-time artist?
J: How do you promote and expose your work to potential buyers?
SM: Home studio sales, art newsletters, art league exhibits, eBay and Facebook ads, artist-in-action venues, painting on site at garden walks.
J: What do you feel has been your greatest challenge in selling your work?
SM: Making a successful transition from brick & mortar galleries to productive online sales without leaving traditional fine art galleries entirely.
J: What do you feel you’ve been most successful at in your art, and in your art business?
SM: I love talking with potential collectors about my work. So many artists are not comfortable talking with clients. I enjoy doing commission work and having clients visit my home studio. I am also a stickler for record keeping and following up with collectors who have acquired my paintings. Recently I was able to give an individual accurate information on one of my pieces (including a certificate of authenticity) she had acquired third hand. My records showed the painting’s history.
J: What other jobs have you held?
SM: I spent ten years as a dairy farm wife and ten years in the banking and savings & loan industry. Many years ago I worked in a record store; the kind that sold LPs and 45s in vinyl! I’ve worked as a seamstress doing alterations. You can’t get more divergent than this.
J: Do you have a daily routine?
SM: Frankly, I try not to. Past jobs that involved routine were so tedious that I now purposely alter the time I paint. The business part of art sales I actually like. I always feel like I’ve tidied up a messy house. I dream and think a lot about the subjects of future work. I usually have an idea for the next painting as I’m working at my easel.
J: How much time do you spend in the studio on an average week?
SM: This is difficult to answer since my studio is in my home. I’m in my studio daily working on a painting in progress or planning the next piece.
J: Who is your favorite artist from art history (and why), and which of their works is your favorite (and why)?
SM: I am a huge admirer of Andrew Wyeth, from my first view of his painting “Christina’s World” long ago to his “Helga” series. Wyeth’s work in egg tempera is that combination of technique and emotional connection to his subject that draws me. I love his father, N.C. Wyeth’s illustrative work. This leads me to another phenomenal illustrator, Frank Frazetta. His fantasy work has always appealed to me. I was a comic book fanatic as a child.
J: What are your interests outside of your art?
SM: I’m a bird watcher. Give me my binoculars and I will sit for hours on my deck watching migrating warblers coming through the greater Chicago area. I love to cook, mainly New Orleans style gumbos and jambalayas, big pots of soups, homemade pies, crust and all. I love talking about films, old and new, when I find someone who also has a passion for the movies.
J: Thank you so much, Suzanne. For more of Suzanne’s work, go to www.spmassion.com.