Dan’s Cover Artist Susan Sterber Talks Watercolor, Labor Day and More

September 2, 2022 Dan's Papers cover art (detail) by Susan Sterber
September 2, 2022 Dan’s Papers cover art (detail) by Susan Sterber

Our Labor Day issue cover was submitted to us by watercolor artist Susan Sterber. Here she discusses the heartwarming moment that inspired this painting, Labor Day traditions and more.

Susan Sterber
Susan Sterber

A Chat with Artist Susan Sterber

What is the name of this charming artwork, and is there a real-life moment that inspired it?

“The Wedding Party.” After a simple beautiful wedding ceremony on the beach, the kids in the wedding were just so joyful that they pulled off their shoes and ran into the water’s edge. They were holding hands and so happy and excited, jumping and laughing together — celebrating love.

How did you decide on the paintings composition, color and other design details?

I wanted to hold on to the drama in the scene, the water sweeping in a diagonal wave, and the shape of the children cutting into that diagonal. The shadows help tie the children and the sandy beach together, unifying the composition. There are few colors and they are repeated throughout the painting simplifying and strengthening the main shapes.

"Bayard Bridge" by Susan Sterber
“Bayard Bridge” by Susan Sterber

What do you enjoy most about the painting process?

It’s the surprises that happen along the way that I love. While the painting is planned, compositional sketches made, colors chosen and techniques selected, there is still room for the unexpected, especially because I work with watercolor. Watercolor can run, puddle, drip and all kinds of things that will either work so well or cause chaos in the painting.

Where have you found creative inspiration this summer, and how do your inspirations shift in the fall?

In the spring and summer, I do some plein air painting when it’s not too hot to be out. I really love summer for painting boats, wetlands and beaches. I paint flowers in my garden and go to farm areas and local gardens to paint.

When fall comes I am ready for some hikes and walks where I can photograph the woods and waterways for future paintings. On Long Island there are so many beautiful preserves, arboretums, and coastal areas that I find so many landscapes and waterscapes to paint. The colors in fall are intense and beautiful and it’s great weather for painting on site.

"Late Day" by Susan Sterber
“Late Day” by Susan Sterber

What is one short-term and one long-term artistic goal you would like to achieve?

One short-term artistic goal of mine is to get out more to paint on site because it gives such spontaneity to painting. You have to get the paint down quickly before the light changes and make decisions on the spot, keeping you in the moment.

It’s always a long-term goal of mine to paint in a more loose watercolor style. Loose wet watercolors say everything with so little detail with a few strokes expressing the essence and mood of the subject.

How do you typically spend Labor Day weekend and/or how do you plan to spend Labor Day weekend this year?

For most of my life I worked as an art teacher in the schools, so Labor Day marked the end of summer but also the brand new year of new and exciting art projects I’d developed and was excited to show the kids. It was always a bittersweet time and a very busy weekend marked by a barbecue at home and packing up back-to-work/school stuff.

Now that I don’t work in the schools, I seem to have other September projects: art shows and receptions, art demos and meetings. My new way of celebrating Labor Day is lunch at our favorite clam bar on the water. It’s fun and feels like a Long Island thing to do.

"House With a Picket Fence" by Susan Sterber
“House With a Picket Fence” by Susan Sterber

Would you like to share any closing thoughts or additional information?

Living and working as an artist has so enriched my life. Knowing I was an artist by the time I was 5 years old started me on an amazing journey through the years. As we celebrate Labor Day, I am very grateful for my fun, satisfying career in art education helping kids find their creativity. I am so thankful for the opportunity to preserve in paint all those fleeting beautiful encounters with nature to share with others.

You can see more of my work on Instagram @susansterber.artist and on my Facebook page: Watercolor Paintings by Susan Sterber.

"Canoe" by Susan Sterber
“Canoe” by Susan Sterber

My painting “Fall into Winter” will be on display October 1–29 in the SAL fall show at the Barnes Gallery in Garden City.

My “Demonstration” painting stages of a watercolor landscape will be on view September 13, 7–9 p.m., at Plainview-Old Bethpage Library in Plainview.

Local artists who believe their art would be a good fit for a Dan’s Papers cover may send high-resolution works to [email protected] for consideration. If one of your pieces is chosen in the weeks that follow, you’ll be contacted about the confirmation and your Honoring the Cover Artist feature.

September 2, 2022 Dan's Papers cover art by Susan Sterber
September 2, 2022 Dan’s Papers cover art by Susan Sterber

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