On the day after Thanksgiving you might find this week’s cover artist, Susan Sterber, taking a long walk with her daughter who comes down from Boston “just breathing in the crisp fall air and enjoying all beautiful colors very quietly.”
What was your inspiration for this piece, “Wild Turkey?”
I went to Sagamore Hill to hike the trail down to the water. As I pulled into the parking lot a bunch of wild turkeys appeared. I took some photos, and in the process observed all kinds of things I never noticed before like the blue-gray stripes in the feathers and the shapes and textures that were so beautiful and exciting. I just had to react and so I did this painting back in the studio.
Your artist bio states that you enjoy plein air painting. Is most of your work plein air?
I want to spend every minute outdoors. I love to draw and paint so it follows that plein air is a fun activity for me. Summer and fall I go out a lot but more of my work is done in the studio. Some of my techniques involve pouring water on the paper and I can’t do that standing at my easel outside. There are some paintings that work better for me in the studio and some need to be painted on the scene.
What is it about plein air painting that you enjoy so much?
Being outdoors you get the whole experience of the place. You can feel the sun, or the wind, smell the salt water and be awed by the intense colors. That’s powerful and makes my plein air paintings brighter and full of life.
Is there a particular place you like to go in order to paint en plein air?
One of my favorite painting spots is Sunken Meadow State Park. Another is the Sayville Maritime Museum grounds and marshes. Stony Brook Avalon Park. There are so many. I just went to Cape Cod for six days to paint and that was great.
As a former fine art teacher can you discuss how important arts programming and education is in schools today?
Art is the basis of understanding cultures past and present. Cave paintings revealed secrets of the past we would never have known. Finding the ancient Greek urns told us the story of their battles and everyday life. Human beings have relied on art to record their stories and give beauty to everyday objects before written history existed.
Engaging in art creation gives student another avenue of learning, develops self-expression and exercises their imagination. Creative thinkers will navigate mathematics and other core subjects more effectively. All of the arts play a large role in the education of the whole child.
Having been an arts educator, what advice would you give a young, aspiring artist?
Notice and study everything around you. Study the work of artists you love. Visit art museums. Take art classes even when they are hard. Draw and sketch from life when you can. Enter your work in local shows. Learn to speak and write about your thoughts and your work. Keep journals.
What Thanksgiving side dish are you most looking forward to?
That’s easy. My husband makes fresh cranberries and oranges. Mmm. He actually also makes the turkey.
See more of Sterber’s work on her Facebook page, “Watercolor Paintings by Susan Sterber.” One of her watercolors will be on view in the Art League of Long Island Members Exhibition from December 9 to January 6 at the Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, 107 East Deer Park Road, Dix Hills, artleagueli.net.