“Susan’s intrinsic love for her Island home is clearly evident in the artwork which is her passion. Extensive travel has only highlighted for her the beauty and serenity of home —Prince Edward Island.”
At a glance:
-Grew up in Summerside, PEI
-Born 7th in a family of 9 children
-Graduated from Holland College’s Graphic Design course in 2010
-Mother of three
-Owner of Studio 4 - Susan Christensen Art
-Part-owner of Stanley Bridge Country Resort
Without further adieu, friends, meet Susan!
What do you love about PEI?
I love living on an island surrounded by the ocean. My favorite sound is the waves crashing against the shore. It has a very soothing effect on me. During my lifetime, I have spent a lot of time walking on this Island’s beaches. I love the color of the earth here on PEI! The red soil is so vivid in a freshly plowed field after a rain. The complementary colors in the landscape, red and green and orange and blue, make every image of this Island radiate with beauty. The vistas within the Island landscape are breathtaking. As an amateur photographer, I always have my camera with me. I want to capture the beauty of PEI in my paintings. It gives me great joy to capture and share this beauty with the people who live here and those who come to visit.
Where did your love for art come from? Tell me about your art.
When I was a young child, my older sister loved to draw. I would sit beside her and mimic her drawings. Once I discovered my ability to paint, I wanted to spend every spare minute painting! Initially, I considered painting a hobby and my subject was flowers. When I started painting landscapes, I could see that selling my work was a possibility. I now sell my originals, as well as limited edition prints and notecards. “Beach Walk PEI” was my first contemporary painting. It was inspired by a painting by Lawren Harris, from the Group of Seven, combined with my memories of my walks on the Island beaches.
(Beach Walk © Susan Christensen)
I imagine there are moments when you are afraid to share your work to the world. How do you overcome those fears?
Let me tell you a story about my first contemporary painting. When I completed this painting, Beach Walk, I felt it didn’t work, so I put it in a closet. One day I asked an artist friend if she thought it worked. She said no, so I put it back in the closet. A while later, I was taking some work to be framed and decided to take it with me. I asked the framer and gallery owner what he thought of it. He said he liked and thought I should frame it. I put it in the gallery at The Dunes and it sold in two days. It was also the image the PEI Government chose to use on the PEI items going to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Now I just paint and put the paintings out there. You never know what people will be interested in. I do still experience a bit of apprehension before I put my work before an audience.
Who or what has inspired you to follow your passions and take the leap to sharing your art with the world?
My three greatest artistic influences have been Georgia O'Keefe, Emily Carr, and Lawren Harris. It is not only their art work I admire, but their spirit of exploration and determination. Each one was able to take their art further down the road of discovery, something to which I also aspire. There are a number of Island artists who I admire and who’ve encouraged me. They are, Henry Purdy, Tony Diodati, Maurice Bernard, Trudy Callbeck and Karen Gallant. I love my Island home and I am pleased to have the ability and opportunity to present this beautiful Island to the world through my paintings. Some have said it’s not just the image they enjoy, but also the feelings evoked by my PEI paintings.
What advice do you have for an aspiring artist?
Immerse yourself! Continue to paint one painting after another! This is your greatest teacher for each painting teaches you something you can bring into the next painting. If you get bored with the way you are painting, explore new techniques. And don’t be afraid! Keep creating art and sharing it publicly. The responses you get are helpful in your artistic career. Don’t always be concerned about final product. Be more concerned about what you are learning and discovering.
What advice were you given through the years that stuck with you?
To follow my bliss! When I am painting, I am in my element, my place. I didn’t discover this until I was 45 years old. Since then, I’ve read that Robert Bateman started his artistic career when he was 45. Starting out, he was an abstract painter because he thought it was what he had to do to be popular. Then he saw an exhibit of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings. He then realized he could be a realist and still be popular as a painter. It’s evident from his paintings that this is where his heart truly is. Also, do what you love and the money will follow. When you pour your heart and soul into your work, it’s obvious in the final product. In my case, my paintings!
(Along Darnley Shore © Susan Christensen)
What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
My children have been very kind to me; encouraging me when I decided to go back to school and in my work and my new found career. They express and show me how proud and supportive they are of me and what I am doing.
Who is the one person you’d like to thank and what would you say to him/her?
It will have to be three people. My sons, Carl and Nathan, and my daughter, Robyn. I would like thank you for who you are and for all of your encouragement, love and support.
What’s in-store for you in the coming months?
At the present, I am teaching art classes as well as working on a painting that will be a gift for the “Stars for Life” fundraiser. Vermillion Art Works in Charlottetown, sells my originals, along with the prints and notecards. The Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, and other Island businesses, are kindly carrying my prints and note cards as well. This summer, I’d love to travel to the locations selling my work, set up my easel and paint so people visiting can watch me working. I did this when I had my own gallery. It is an enjoyable way for me to engage with people and talk about art and the Island, my two passions!
Be sure to check out Susan’s work: