About Sue Averell
With a blended communication of form and technique, Sue Averell brings a new look to our vast and dense urban existence within the greater landscape. Primarily, a landscape painter, Sue Averell involves herself in the thick mediums of gel paste and gloss. Experimenting and intentionally committing to heavy layers of paint, Averell combines commitment with the experimental.
Upon entering Averell’s studio I was presented with a enthusiastic inquisitive women. She was both eager and energetic in my interest in her work. I asked her about the work she had on the walls. She was more than willing to listen and answer.
During my interview I discovered a great bit about her. I discovered her preferred medium and technique was that of acrylic and gel gloss. It consequently landed her commissions that supported her lifestyle. Before that commitment, she was dedicated to an extinct form of graphic design that nearly ended her life. After many struggles of life in the pursuit of being a professional artist, she found her success through her commitment to the art of painting.
Originally Sue Averell had a studio which was based out of Hunters Point. Her reason to move to the city were simple: to paint San Francisco. It was not long before Averell found herself immersed in images and depictions of the city. She soon made friends with a photographer who had photographed her work, and had grown with Averell’s fame. They became close friends and have benefited from their dedication to each other’s work.
Averell warrants her success to the willingness to commit and be personable with those who employ her. One of the most important techniques to selling art that I took from her interview was Photoshop. Averell would take a client on and get to know them, so much in fact that she either gained direct access to, or had a picture of the client’s house to facilitate her painting. What I find to be the most important thing is what she did with this photograph. She would Photoshop an image of her painting into the scene of the photograph for the client to see her piece within their location. She said she has gotten about fifty percent of the commissions this way.
By the end of the interview I was enthusiastic and enlightened about her art. Furthermore, I felt confident and committed to my own dedication to becoming an artist. It was the enthusiasm, resilience, passion, and inquisitive nature of Sue Averell that drew me to write this interview on our time spent together.
Colby Quinlan(CQ): What was the driving factor that caused you to move to San Francisco?
Sue Averell (SA): I wanted to paint paintings of San Francisco.
CQ: How much of your work do you attribute to travels and pictures taken abroad?
SA: Unfortunately, I have only been abroad once so that small series of Italy was because of that, and I think it maybe opened my eyes to other ways of presenting my work. You know the old art you see in Rome, the ancient art? I think opened my eyes to see some other things. Thailand, actually twice abroad, I didn’t paint paintings there, but I think the color there really influenced my work because I was there at the beginning of my landscape paintings.
CQ: Do you prefer to work from a picture as a guideline, or produce a pure abstraction?
SA: For the abstract, I don’t look at anything, but for the landscapes I have to start with a photograph. I often sketch onsite and then combine that photo with a new sketch of the scale of the painting I am going to do. Then I work in combination with that sketch and the photo I took.
CQ: I looked at your older work and found that the fluidity and color choice was always in your work, however, your more recent works seem to play heavily on the thickness and viscosity of the paint. Can you attribute this to any predominantly favored technique?
SA: I do not think my technique has changed that much, but I think I have become more confident in it. I have felt more comfortable adding more layers at the beginning. I changed my tools in order to loosen up and was unable to use any of my old tools. I enabled myself to use one brush which was a flat filbert 1″ so that I was able to get one line; then the pallet knife and the squirt bottle. I was, in my rule set, not allowed to touch, manipulate or add to it. I could add more black line, but was unable to change the black line.
So before it dries, I add another wet layer on top that is color. Now, I have more like three lines—I have two black lines on the either side of a color line which tends to be thicker. That is where the change happens—when I try more things and add more paint. Now, I go back with the brush and I actually do some brush layers on top, mostly the cityscapes, and try to keep that freshness, spontaneity and that undisturbed look on top.
CQ: What technique do you attribute to your piece, Little Red?
SA: A photographer friend, who actually documents my work, has worked with me since ’99. [She] took the photos of the first series and has kind of grown along with the work. We became friends. I went along with her on the first photo shoot on a beautiful August afternoon. That scooter was on top of a hill overlooking Chinatown and the Financial District. That scooter was at the top of the hill just sitting in the background, and I thought, “Wow, that is meant to be,” so I painted it.
CQ: Do you use a lot of mediums in your works? What kind? Leveling gel?
SA: Yeah I use a lot of mediums, primarily more on the representational work it is primarily heavy gel gloss and clear tar gel so those are the two if at the end of the piece I want a heavy glazing I use palmer glazing medium the abstracts however have several different mediums and glazes because I wanted to figure out how they dried and how the paints dried underneath them. So I used the gloss, semi gloss, and the matte; the less gloss, the less transparent it dries.
CQ: Do you have a particular process that you have found yourself repeating in recent years? Such as red backgrounds?
SA: I started painting with the red orange background primarily in ’99. When you get into a painting that thick, it does not really matter. So my choice is usually orange, but often if I am painting a picture of New York, I probably wouldn’t start with orange. I would start with more of a bronze or copper metallic.
CQ: Through your eyes, What has been your greatest achievement?
SA: Being able to make a living at it.
CQ: What has been the hardest part to committing to being a full-time artist?
SA: A lot of what I do is commissioned, so being pigeon-holed, and being able to keep my innocence, doing what I feel like doing, and hopefully the collectors will follow. That is why I have enjoyed my success because I have mostly been able to do what I want to do. So commissions are tough sometimes.
CQ: Do you have any prospecting ideas for the future, or are you going to mainly focus on landscapes and botanicals?
SA: For years I have been saying I love the figurative work and love drawing the human form. I love going to quick sketches, not those long sketches. They aren’t my style. I kind of got waylaid on the botanical series and wanted to get a live model in here to get some poses. I gave up that botanical series unless a client asks, because I wanted to get back to figurative work.
CQ: Are there any upcoming shows or commissions you are working on?
SA: Eleven commissions, the smallest is 24” X 24” the largest if 72” X 48”.
CQ: Thank you for your time!
To see more of Sue Averell’s work, check out her website at: www.sueaverell.com