A couple of months ago, I discovered a new-to-me artist here in Ottawa, Susan Bailie. I checked out Susan’s web site, and then contacted her to ask if I could check out her artwork in person. The next thing I knew, we were hanging in her kitchen and yapping away like we’d known each other forever. You know how some people just exude warmth and joy? That’s Susan :-) I’ve posted pics of the paintings that I’ve bought from Susan (like Petit Puff 2 over there on the right), and now I’m so excited to introduce you to the amazing artist herself. Heeeeeeere’s Susan!
How did you get started creating your foil art?
I have always loved things that are metallic and shiny. I guess I’m kind of like a magpie… ;-) Metallic paint just doesn’t do it for me, so I sourced out a product, and experimented with glazes and lacquers. I started using the product on paintings first, and then on larger surfaces such as door panels, and then eventually walls.
Are you self-taught or did you study art at school?
Where do you create your artwork?
I have a studio in my home, but when the weather is nice, I love painting in my backyard.
I know you can’t give out your secrets for how you do your foil work, but can you give us a brief overview of the process?
Basically a foiled wall is done in a series of steps. The desired colour or end result is decided first. The base coat is a special glue mixture that has been tinted. It is rolled onto the surface that is to be foiled with a paint roller. The metallic foil has a mylar backing, and it is applied to the wall with a soft cloth. Once the foil surface has been pressed down, the mylar is torn off, and the foil remains stuck on the wall. After the surface is dry, you can either add another layer of foil, or a tinted glaze, and then a lacquer.
On average, how long does it take you to complete a painting from the initial idea to the completed piece?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Every piece is different, and it also depends on the size. I would say anywhere between 3-14 days. I’m constantly inspired by things that I see, so I often will sketch out an idea, and then get down to business. I never sign (finish) a piece until I absolutely love it. Some pieces can be more challenging than others. I often have 6 or 7 paintings on the go at any given time, so that if one is not working the way that I had envisioned, I can move on to something else. I am easily frustrated ;-) In the beginning, I was very product-oriented. Now, I can truly say I love the process. It’s so rewarding to discover a new technique or colour combination.
What/who influences your work?
I am often inspired by nature, textiles and music. I love bright colours and things that are shiny and metallic. Oddly, some of my favourite artists don’t have any of these components in their work. These are some of them: Banksy (the documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” was a HUGE inspiration to me. I love that his identity is unknown. I’m a big fan!), Damien Hirst, Jackson Pollock, and local artists, Stephan Thompson and Shannon Armishaw. I do also love Jeff Koons and Anish Kapoor though :-)
Balloon Rabbit (Violet) by Jeff Koons
Do you have any particular theme that runs through your work?
Hmmmmmm… Organic movement.
Do you still have the first painting you ever created? How has your work evolved since then?
Haha…No. I do not. I actually painted over it for my last art show. So technically, it still exists. A good friend of mine owns it now. It’s called Landslide. I will say that the first painting I did that I truly loved does still exist. I don’t own it, but a very good friend of mine bought it, so I can see it whenever I like! It was called Square Peg Round Hole. It was the inspiration for my very first art show, which was titled the same. I think my work has evolved quite a great deal since then. Some of the elements are still the same, such as texture, and foil, but I have become much less rigid with my work since then. I think you can see that in my work if you compare my very first piece with my latest piece.
How do you choose the names for your paintings?
As I said, I am often inspired by music. A lot of the titles are quotes from songs. For example: The piece that recently sold at the Ottawa Art Gallery was called Shake it Off. It’s one of my favourite songs by Florence and the Machine.
My original city series was called The City is Still Breathing, which is the title of one of my most favourite “Weakerthans” songs. One thing I will never do is title a piece “untitled”. For me, a painting isn’t alive until it has a title.
What materials do you use?
A combination of: plaster, glue, acrylic paint, oil paint, glaze, dimensional gel, sand, metallic foil, and lacquer.
Do you have a favourite brush or tool that you always use?
My favourite spatula, huge 4 inch glazing brush, foil and the colour quinacridone violet (golden) are all things that I cannot live without.
What similarities and differences are there between working on an art piece and working on a wall?
The scale is different. The only thing I wish is that I could do one of my city pieces on a wall. Unfortunately, some of the products that I use for my art cannot be used on a vertical surface.
Do you have a preference – working on canvases or walls?
I like that a wall can be totally abstract and not have to represent anything. I also love working on something that is huge in scale. I rarely use canvas. I prefer panel board. The surface is easier to work on and you have the ability to use more layers. I like an equal balance between the two.
What’s your favourite colour and why?
Quinacridone Violet. I love the intensity of it. The combination of turquoise, yellow and QV make me really happy.
“Connect the Dots”
Do you do commissioned pieces and what’s the process?
Yes. I meet with the client and they discuss with me what it is they are looking for. I usually ask them to bring pictures of what inspires them, and then we go from there. I come up with a design and present it to them. I am typically an abstract artist, but I have done commissions in the past that are more stylized realism. I did a bull and a matador for the restaurant Navarra in Ottawa.
You recently held an online art auction to raise money for The Lindenhof in Ottawa. Why was this cause so important to you? Have you been involved with other fundraising efforts?
This was my first fundraising effort. It was important to me because Alison, the owner is a friend of mine, and I wanted to try to help her out. It’s also important to me because The Lindenhof is the only German restaurant in town. I grew up in Germany (my father was in the army), so it’s the one place I can go to relive the amazing food experience that I had overseas.
You created a foil tulip for Sens Mile for this year’s Tulip Festival – how did that opportunity come about?
(It took Susan about 40 hours to create her tulip.) One of the Tulip Festival organizers had seen my work through the online art auction that I did for the Lindenhof. He called me to set up a meeting to discuss it. I had to be a Sens fan, so thankfully I am. He really liked the idea of using foil on the tulip. I had a huge 30x80 city that was a commission I had done in my studio, and I suggested my idea to use that concept. He loved the idea. We had a gin and tonic, and two days later there was a giant tulip in my backyard!
You started with a big blank 5 foot tall fiberglass tulip – was that intimidating? How did your design come together?
Robin, the organizer from the tulip fest came to my studio, and I showed him my city painting that I wanted to use to showcase the Sens Mile on Elgin. My husband, Steve Mitton (who owns Murray Street) and I are strong believers in supporting all things local. So he and I came up with the idea to use the city idea to represent all of the local businesses on Elgin. And thus “Crimson Glory” was born :-)
“Crimson Glory” in Susan’s backyard
I wasn’t intimidated at all! It was SO EXCITING! It was really cool that the press conference was held in my backyard. I got to meet a bunch of really great people including Jeff Kyle, the VP of marketing for the Sens. (!!!!) It was one of the best things I have ever done! Still though, the top of my list was last September I drove a scissor lift to do the 30ft tall wall at the new Clocktower Brew Pub in Westboro. THAT was AWESOME.
Do you find it easy to connect with other artists in Ottawa? In general, is the arts community in the city supportive?
Yes, absolutely, to both questions. I was excited to be part of the New Art Festival earlier this month. It was a great chance to meet a bunch of other artists that I really admire. So exciting!
“Found Marbles 1”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to try their hand at creating art but isn’t sure where to start?
The best thing to do is to just go for it. There’s no right or wrong way. And don’t be hard on yourself. Everyone is an artist, just not everyone has fully developed the skill. I’m a big fan of the book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Picasso said, “Every Child is an Artist” I believe that 100%. Think back to when you were little… remember making and creating things without the concern or stress about what other people would think? Find that place and go there. We are our own worst critics. Let that all go, and just focus on the process. If you enjoy the process, that will come through in the piece.
Where can people see your work?
Some of my commercial wall installations are: Navarra Restaurant, The Clocktower Brew Pub, Whalesbone Oyster House, Town Restaurant, and The Urban Element. You can also see my work on my website at www.artwalls.ca, on Facebook, and on Twitter. I also show my work at the Ottawa Art Gallery/art rental and sales. You can also come by my studio any time. Just call to make an appointment! 613-240-4681.
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for… here’s the beautiful original painting by Susan that you could win! Petit Puff 11 is an 8” x 8” painting done with silver foil and hologram gold foil, which give it a wonderful sparkle and amazing colour effects.
How to enter
The giveaway is open to EVERYONE – YAY! If you don’t have a blog, please leave your e-mail address in your comment(s) so I’ll be able to contact you if you’re the winner. You can enter up to five times. Leave a separate comment for each of the following that you do.
- Visit Susan’s web site artwalls.ca, and then come back here and tell me which of her paintings is your favourite.
- “Like” Susan’s artwalls.ca Facebook page.
- Follow artwalls.ca on Twitter.
- Mention my giveaway on your blog.
- Tweet about my giveaway. Feel free to copy & paste:
Meet artist Susan Bailie and win a fabulous painting at JAX does design! http://tinyurl.com/7bvff4b @JAXdecor
I’ll be taking a blog break for a week and a half, so you have until I’m back to enter – giveaway closes at midnight on Tuesday, July 10th, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Wednesday, July 11th