Painter Susan Bartlett Rice presents a delightful portfolio that reflects her background and surroundings. We spoke with her about inspiration and her business.
ABI: You say that your artwork is “autobiographical.” How does it reflect your New England lifestyle?
SBR: I truly love where I live and by painting life around me, New England is intrinsic in all my work. I am most inspired by the simplicity of my everyday life, living on a family farm on the Maine coast and the space that gives me to create. I’m drawn to the color and compositions I see in the natural and man-made world and the change of seasons.
In New England, if you don’t paint summer (or autumn, spring – even winter), it’s gone for another year. The weather, light and palette constantly change, which keeps me on my toes. Waking up to a fresh snow and blue sky motivates me want to paint as much, if not more, than a summer day out on the water. There is so much natural beauty here, it’s hard not to want to capture it.
My current work follows in real time the change of seasons and the people and places around me. I am most interested in color and composition in all my work. The winters here are particularly long, and as a result, are productive for painting. My winter body of work has been primarily large-scale paintings of bare-branched trees, most of which were visible from my house or studio. In the warmer seasons, almost any subject matter is fair game; the chickens in my yard, lobstering gear on a dock or radishes from the garden.
I enjoy painting in my own small town over and over. I immediately notice when someone re-shingles their roof or paints their house, because I have painted the same places from different angles so many times. Since change is inevitable, I like to capture places before they are gone or made different.
I have always been inspired by local architecture and it’s “signs of life”- window shades, power lines and rooftop antennas. I also paint in the woods with no signs of people at all. My hope is that my work looks like it was painted in my own time, but captures the places and traditions that make my home of Maine “Maine.”
ABI: How are you marketing and selling your paintings?
SBR: In addition to exhibiting my work in a variety of solo and group shows, I have also shown in several local galleries. My Walpole, Maine studio has been open to the public since 2005, and in the last few years, I have shifted to primarily selling my own work online and from my studio.
I enjoy connecting directly with visitors who come back year after year to see what I’m working on. I also get immediate feedback on new works and paintings in progress on my easel. I also have a website in addition to a studio presence on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Online and through social media, I am able to reach a broader audience than just those that can stop by and see me in person.
ABI: How have you leveraged your work to enter into different markets?
SBR: In addition to selling my original paintings, I have published calendars, posters and greeting cards of my work to expand into different markets. These products are more accessible and affordable than my original work. In addition to circulating my work to a broader audience, these markets also give new life to images of previously sold original paintings.