Get to Know Our Featured Artist
Susan La Mont
“Paint the way you want to paint; don’t try to copy someone else’s style. No one has your singular vision or perspective, and the expression of your particular qualities enriches our culture and adds to the common good."
Susan La Mont
I’ve been making art since I could hold a pencil; long ago my mother saved a drawing I had done at the age of 2, while sitting on the floor under my family’s dining room table. I find this is common among artists— so many of us seem almost to have been born with a brush in our hands! Drawing was something I did every day: on scraps of paper, our garage wall, in the margins of lined paper during arithmetic class. It was a way of figuring out how things worked. The more you studied something, the more you understood its structure.
My B.F.A. education at Pratt Institute in New York was grounded in the foundations of classical art, and years of anatomy and figure drawing gave me a solid understanding of the human form. I learned to paint in several different mediums but settled on oil for its archival properties as well as its lovely sensual characteristics. I found that art making was a way for me to express my thoughts about things, and further studies in a master's degree illustration program at Syracuse University helped me conceptualize my ideas. The program also concentrated on mastering technique, which is essential for clear communication.
My paintings have won awards in local, regional, and national shows and reside in numerous private and corporate collections both domestically and internationally.
A LONG WAY TO GO - 18 x 40 - oil on linen
AREA OF EXPERTISE
THE ILLUSION OF REALITY (cover image) - 38 x 50 - oil on linen
My primary interest is genre painting— slice-of-life settings that portray ordinary moments in our lives. It’s important to me to document my perspective on what life is like in the twenty-first century. Whenever I go out, I make sure to have a camera on hand, even if it’s only on my iPhone; this enables me to capture a scene that I believe holds some promise as an interesting painting.
My style is straightforward realism, because that works best in the type of narrative work that I do. Our world has become so complex and noisy. I like to set up an intellectual challenge: What is real, and what is not real? Paintings like THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and HEARTLAND speak to this, and invite the viewer to scrutinize the work in an attempt to discern what’s taking place on the street, on the surface of the window, and what’s going on behind it (behind the scenes, as it were).
HEARTLAND - 44 x 58 - oil on linen
YOU ARE HERE, a similar piece, is full of detail and the little stories that make us human: a performer outside the café window enthralls a group of people; a young woman blushes as she listens to a young man sitting next to her in a study group. The big picture is composed of many smaller scenes, and we can understand and relate to the people in them if we look closely.
YOU ARE HERE - 40 x 50 - oil on linen
It’s this shared humanity that’s at the core of my work. While some of the paintings showcase diversity, complexity and detail, others focus on a single individual or a small group of people in a casual setting. And the scenes are from all over America— New York City, New Jersey, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, the District of Columbia; wherever there are people, there’s an interesting story waiting to be told.
IN THE STUDIO
Susan's studio easel. "Mine is very special to me...The easel, tall and sturdy and made of wood, had been crafted by [my friend's] mother"
My basement studio room has a time-battered linoleum floor. This allows me to concentrate on painting without worrying about making a mess, and oil painting is very messy indeed! The walls are painted white to reflect the maximum amount of light coming through the one small window; I use a number of natural-light bulbs and a south facing window for illumination. All of my art books are installed in a bookcase, including some very old ones from my days as an undergraduate. My unfinished works are hung on the walls so they can rest between painting sessions and then remind me of what needs to be done next.
The focal point of the room is, of course, the easel. Mine is very special to me. Back in 1969, a friend gifted it to me as she prepared to move to a new dwelling with her family. The easel, tall and sturdy and made of wood, had been crafted by her mother, and came complete with ankle-height decorations in crayon by her two young sons. I felt honored, as she herself was one of those rare people who found joy in everyday life and was able to lift the spirits of everyone she encountered. And the easel was designed and assembled by her mother! What a feat that was— it made me realize that some of the limitations that I had accepted as a woman needed re-evaluation!
Work in progress: WHOLE FOODS - 9 x 29 - oil on panel
Like many artists, I feel the need to have some sort of audio in the background as I work. It keeps me from getting too introspective, and making art in one’s basement can be a very lonely proposition. I listen to music or tune into an old familiar movie on TV. On weekdays, I spend two hours before noon working, take a short lunch break and update my painting blog, and then get back to work in the afternoon. It’s a schedule that has worked out well.
J.P. LICKS - 18 x 24 - oil on panel
THREE WOMEN AT THE MFA - 12 x 16 - oil on panel
WE'LL ALWAYS BE YOUNG - 12 x 18 - oil on panel
“In the end, it all comes down to: Be who you are. Each of us has a unique place in the big picture. Paint what interests you."
Susan La Mont
One final note about art making: for many years, people would suggest to me that my realistic style was “out of date” and that I should “paint looser” in an attempt to emulate the Impressionists. The Impressionists were ground breaking in that they followed the dictates of their own sensibilities rather than paint in an approved fashion. In the end, it all comes down to: Be who you are. Each of us has a unique place in the big picture. Paint what interests you. Paint the way you want to paint; don’t try to copy someone else’s style. No one has your singular vision or perspective, and the expression of your particular qualities enriches our culture and adds to the common good.