Michelle Suchland: A Flood of Ideas

When I first began painting, my biggest fear was that I wouldn?t be creative enough. I knew that I would eventually master the technical aspects of painting in watercolor. But I was worried about how I could keep coming up with new ideas. Then I stumbled into painting a series. It took a few paintings before I knew exactly what I wanted to say?before I found my voice. But I discovered that with each sequential painting my mind flooded with new ideas.

Onions and Garlic (watercolor, 12-1/2×27)

Even though there are no people in my paintings, I want to capture a strong human presence. The people may not be in view, but you know someone will be right back to drink the orange juice, eat the melon, close the lipstick case or to pick up the keys. My intent is to communicate the emotions behind a universal human experience and to evoke a feeling about that shared experience. I achieve this through a high contrast of light and shadow and by cropping and magnifying my subject matter. Light always takes center stage in my paintings—I rely on it to create the mood in my work.

To maximize the contrasting areas of light and shadow, I set up my still lifes indoors in direct sunlight with the light at a very low angle so that it casts shadows across the setup. In my Diner at Dawn series, I use a black velvet backdrop that absorbs almost all the light, leaving a dark background.

Pears and a Pot (watercolor, 11-1/2×27)

I?m attracted to extremely strong colors—they seem to create a stronger visual and emotional impact. So I almost always exaggerate my colors throughout the painting process. To ensure maximum brilliance, I use a very high paint-to-water ratio. While painting I try to focus on painting shapes not objects—when you have pieces that have a lot of reflections you can get completely lost and overwhelmed if you concentrate on the object in its entirety instead of on each specific shape.

An elected member of American Watercolor Society and National Watercolor Society, Kastner has served as Juror of Awards for American Watercolor Society, Chairperson for the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition and Grants Chairman of the Evergreen Area Council for the Arts. You can contact her via e-mail at bbkastner@aol.com.

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