Hello! For this edition of the Inspiration series, we have Susan Purnell and her wonderful art. They say artists are multi talented, and Susan is no exception. She paints, draws, plays guitar, writes songs, and is just an all-round inspiration. Her work evokes nature and has a mysterious vibe to it- which makes it all the more intriguing. The best part that I liked most about her work is that – it’s strong yet intricate and it’s armed with hidden compassion at the same time – echoing Susan herself. I’m excited to feature Susan and her work today- read on to hear her take on life, creativity and more!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Susan Purnell and I’m an artist from the Gold Coast Australia. My first love has always been drawing, and in particular – portraits. I have always been obsessed with trying to weave the natural world into my drawings, in an attempt to reconnect nature and humanity in some way.
What sparked your interest in art in general? How long have you been practicing?
I really can’t remember a time that I wasn’t making art. My first memory of making art would be at the age of 5. I was equally freaked out and in love with the illustrations in The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale Books. I would sit for hours on end drawing the characters from the books. It wasn’t until late in high school that I started to take my art practice more seriously. I then went on to study a Bachelor of Visual Arts, but to my surprise I focused mostly on photography and performance art and abandoned my drawing and painting practice for many years after. It wasn’t until 2008 when I experienced a life changing cancer diagnosis, that I turned to my drawing again as a way of healing.
How do you interpret the presence and significance of art (drawing and music) in your lifestyle?
My art and music are such an important part of my life. It sounds so cliche’ but it is honestly just like breathing to me. If I can’t make art everyday I feel like something is missing in my life.
What are your musical interests and what instruments do you play?
I love playing acoustic guitar and writing my own songs. I often bounce between making art and writing music, but to me they are really the same creative expression. My dream is to one day soon have an exhibition where I can perform my music alongside my artwork, kind of like performing the soundtrack to my art. I am really inspired by many people, but particularly my husband Luke. He is a guitarist in Byron Bay band Dawn Patrol. Each and every day his music and talent takes my breath away.
What is your general process while creating an art piece?
Creative inspiration often arrises during my daily meditation practice. Meditation allows for me to clear my mind and lets imagery and inspiration come through more easily. Once I have an idea I want to explore, I then ritualistically make a pot of green tea, and have some good music playing. I then search through books, photographs or magazines to find a model for my artwork. I tend to then jump straight in and start sketching the eyes, I have always found that if the eyes feel right then the rest of the artwork usually comes together by itself. Once I have completed the portrait, I will then use watercolours or even tea to stain certain areas and then I will start weaving elements of nature throughout the portrait.
What keeps you motivated to draw?
I think researching other artists is a fantastic way to keep motivated. I am constantly blown away and inspired by the endless pool of talented artists out there.
How much time on an average does it take to create a piece?
My earlier pieces would take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months to complete. But lately my pieces take around 5 days to finish.
Just out of interest, what was the first (or your favourite ) piece of art you remember creating?
My favourite artwork would have to be one of the pieces I created during my cancer journey called ‘what’s new is old’ I spent many days at home and in hospital working on this piece so it is very close to my heart.
What do you do in your free time (when not drawing)?
I am usually at the beach, or searching through vintage shops.
Is art just a hobby you love or your profession in particular?
I have been lucky enough to work professionally as an artist for a large company. After a long break, I am now building my own practice professionally.
Can you share a glimpse of a typical day in your life?
Almost everyday I wake up at sunrise, and start my day with yoga and meditation. This practice really helps ground and centre me for the day ahead. I then hang out in my studio for a couple of hours and work on my art. Most afternoons and evenings I usually spend time walking my 2 dogs, playing guitar, and spending time with my husband.
Just for fun: what’s your outfit staple and flower and why?
I would say my outfit staple is chunky turquoise and lapis jewellery, and comfy sandals. I am in love with Daisies, but I am really loving all things Australian lately, particularly the beautiful Banksia.
What are some themes/topics that are inspiring you nowadays?
I am really inspired these days to try and live my life more honestly, compassionately and creatively. I am inspired by people like Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass and George Harrison. I am also a huge animal lover and am very passionate about living a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
What are some of your favourite art supplies and art media you use?
I love so many different art supplies! Because I work traditionally, my go to favourites are Arches Watercolour Paper, Faber-Castell and Prismacolor pencils. I also love having a few Posca Pens around for fine line work.
I love your take on art! Could you share any tips for aspiring artists who want to make original and distinctive drawings?
Thank you! I would say find that one thing you love creating the most and get obsessive about it. Create it over and over, and somewhere amongst the creative obsession your original style emerges naturally. Don’t be afraid to try new things and fail too. It’s all part of the journey and for me personally, the things I thought I failed at have become part of my original style.
What do you think makes a good, satisfactory piece of art (which the artist feels happy about the end result)?
Ooh! That’s a tough one. I think it really depends on the artist and the goal of the artwork. But for me personally, I think a great artwork is simply all about the emotion it evokes.
Thanks, Susan, for giving us a glimpse in your creative process! Wishing you all the best ahead! -Aaria : )