Watercolor keeps teaching me new things.  I have enjoyed experimenting with it in many different ways and have covered a vast array of subject matter, both realistic and abstract.  Each pigment in this watery medium behaves in its own unique way—something that both challenges and stimulates the user. 

     I have been delving into this intriguing subject for more than 30 years now.  I have served as an art association president, exhibit coordinator, cooperative gallery director, juried show participant, juried show juror and judge, watercolor demonstrator and lecturer, private instructor, studio designer, picture framer, elementary school guest, small business owner, workshop instructor, photographer, leaf raker and snow-shoveler. Throughout it all, I am a studio artist, always trying to  find a new way to balance those difficult choices that lead to art which is original in concept and style, yet appreciated by those who enjoy good art, though they may not be artists themselves.

     In college I majored in biology and anthropology, and worked as a biologist for a total of about 15 years, but always explored and maintained my interest in art.  Especially with watercolor, learning to paint is largely a matter of trial-and-error, learning to overcome obstacles and create a painting from within.  Workshops with experienced painters have helped me along the way, and classes with my first and time-honored teacher, Barbara Nechis, got me started and inspired in watercolor. Now I offer courses in watercolor in my own studio and find that I have learned a great deal through teaching itself.  It is very gratifying to see some of my students developing into excellent professional artists.

     My work has been honored with inclusion in many significant exhibitions, such as those of the American Watercolor Society, Allied Artist of America, the National Arts Club, the Butler Institute of American Art, the Southern Watercolor Society, Baltimore Watercolor Society, Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition, the Adirondack National and many others.  It has been purchased for more than 20 major corporate collections, such as General Motors, Beatrice Foods, the Kresge Foundation, International Harvester, Quaker Oats, and the FDIC.  Several of my paintings have won gold medals in shows such as the Southern Watercolor Society, Baltimore Watercolor Society, and Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club.

     Currently I am a signature member and of the American Watercolor Society, Southern Watercolor Society and Baltimore Watercolor Society, and frequently exhibit through the BWS.  The fine art gallery Les Yeux du Monde in Charlottesville, VA, shows my work.   I enjoy painting, teaching, and displaying my art in my home studio, called ARThouse.   My husband, Marco Colombini, and two sons, Paul and Ben have helped me enormously over the years.

About my work:   

     I have enjoyed exploring a variety of different subjects over the years, including construction rubble, food, two interesting chairs I own, portraiture and figures, intimate landscape, outer space, and many other “things that interest me”.  I usually work in series and really delve into a subject.

     My most recent work focuses on two different areas: construction rubble and in a completely different vein, portraits and figures.  These paintings are done in watercolor using a unique approach which I devised many years ago and wrote about in American Artist magazine (1982!).  The paper, usually Arches 140 lb cold-press, is first given a complete wash of burnt or raw umber, and this is allowed to drip down the paper, forming interesting little rivulets and streaks.  The image is then painted on top of this brown wash, using a combination of lifting techniques and glazing.  The result is a painting that has a sort of timeless, sepia-toned look.  It is tricky and a little frustrating at times to paint on top of this brown wash, but if the overlying colors are kept transparent, the results are interesting.

     Why do I like to paint rubble?  The bricks or cinderblocks in my paintings, strewn over the ground, present to me beautiful abstract patterns filled with interesting texture and light.  They are an opportunity for combining abstraction with realism, for using rich colors and textures, and for capturing effects of the light and the weather.  But that's not all.  They can also be used as a vehicle for social commentary, with little bits of trash or other focal points added to the rubble.  I take photos of rubble at every opportunity, study them, and combine different elements to develop a composition.  Then I contemplate for a long time what I can say with this picture, and what can be added to make it more meaningful.

 Susan Murphy, ARThouse, June, 2012



with painting "America Loves Freedom" as new member of American Watercolor Society at front door of ARThouse
working on a painting with husband, Marco Colombini at Les Yeux du Monde with Carlo Colombini
giving a talk to an art organization giving a demonstration with student Nancy Preuss


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