Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Sweet Dreams 9 x 12 oil

Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Cat 5 x 7 oil

Shhhh, everyone is asleep. The lights on the Christmas tree have clicked off. The house is quiet, my heart is full, my soul rejoices.

Thoughts are circling my head. What really is Christmas?

Christmas is not about giving,

we can’t possibly give as much as God gives to us.

Christmas is not about getting,

we already have been given so very much in so many ways.

Christmas is not about parties,

how could we possibly celebrate enough the birth of Christ.

To me, Christmas is a time to slow down and embrace all those around me, cherish their love, and their precious lives, rejoicing in the gift of knowing each of them. Most of all, it is a time for me to draw God deep into my soul and trust him with all of my heart.

The past two or three years have been a very scary time for most of us. There have been financial fears, emotional strains, and losses of loved ones. Some of us have been very sick, and some of us have been very alone. But through it all, we have God. He has always been there. He is the one rock that gives us high ground for safety. Reach out, even if you are fearful. Find God in your heart. He has always been there. Reach out and make new friends. Find your family. Heal broken ties. In doing so, you will find God right by your side.

This is a time of year that encourages all of us to remember that we are all from the same family of God. He loves us, one and all. Now That is a GIFT!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

This Time of Year

I love the Holidays. I love the color and the lights, the parties and the warmth of family and friends reaching out to each other. I delight in the decorations….. the Christmas Tree and the lights of the Menorah. The Holidays are a busy time for all of us. Some years I get the Christmas tree up just after Thanksgiving and some years I am muttering under my breath, “why didn’t I do this sooner” as I hurry to set up the tree on Christmas Eve. This year, to my great delight I set “her” up right after Thanksgiving. Now each night we have a lovely display of twinkling little lights from our living room. Ahhhhh.

Many Stories 30 x 40 oil

Don’t get me wrong. I agree, it is a busy time that can be so flustering for all of us, too. Add to that, all the parties and life gets a bit crazy. Most years Howard and I host an Open House in our Studios during the Holidays. It's great fun and a lot of work, but it is well worth it. We get to display our paintings, see friends and party for two or three days! We had one last weekend and it was wonderful.

Walking with My Sister 12 x 16 oil

Ever since I began drawing and painting, I have had an extra “artist’s dose” of the Holiday rush in the form of painting commissions for people for Christmas and Hanukkah. This is the time that I get create little and big treasured paintings for other people’s gifts. These paintings are often of their love ones, people and/or pets, but I have also done special homes, cars, boats and planes, favorite views and magical memories.

One More Time 6 x 8 oil

This is the time that I really experience how paintings bring joy into people’s lives. These creations probably will never be exhibited in a show or gallery or even sold. The families will keep them. These paintings will travel through time and generations. Originally painted as a little son or beloved pet, treasured home or special spot.... years later these paintings will be handed down to each generation as a painting of great grandpa, the beloved family dog, their very first home or family vacation spot. Being a part of this special joy really blesses me!

Sherican 8 x 6 oil

I like to wear red all year long, but especially during the Holidays when I feel like one of “Santa’s Helpers.” So, I had better get back to the easel, Christmas Eve is fast approaching!

Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Dog 6 x 8 oil

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Howard’s Pumpkin

10 x 8 oil

‘Tis the season to be thankful and I am. I am so grateful for all of my life. The good, bad and ugly. I have had a wonderful life of travel, love and inspiration. Sure, like everyone, there have been plenty of not so wonderful experiences, too. So, I choose to let go of those thoughts and memories. Today, as I think of how full my cup really is, I am grateful for all of the wonderful friends, family and strangers in my life that encouraged me to be an artist. Some bought paintings, some showed up for my shows and many many cheered me on as my career climbed and my brush strokes became more determined and confident. Thank you, all of you. Your support, joy and enthusiasm for my work have given me the courage to grow as an artist.

The list of things that I am grateful for is incredibly huge! One of them is….I am thankful for the colors in the world.

Color is the icing on life. Everyday we are tickled and thrilled by hues and chroma that surprise and delight us. As an artist I have learned to look beyond the obvious color of red, or blue or yellow or green and instead look at the very subtle color that is reflected into the known color. For example: How often I have seen the red of someone’s sweater splashing into his or her chin, changing the skin shade to red. The same thing happens when a green tree is close to a red barn. We see the red barn, we see the green tree, but if we look very close, we actually see the green of the tree bounced into the red of the barn and visa versa. Once my eyes were open to this beauty, I see it all around me. Color, all by itself, can put a song in my heart. I love color! I am so grateful for color.

On Cottonwood

8 x 10 oil

Monday, November 15, 2010


Good Hugs

15 x 20 Oil

Loss, I don’t handle loss very well. Most of us don’t. Several of my dear friends have lost love ones this week. When they are grieving, I am grieving, too. It is a time that naturally feels like we should crawl inside and pull up the walls around us. Healing takes time. When we humans are ready, we will reach out again, touch and once again relate to the world.

I turn to my painting. It is an inside place that is quiet and peaceful, without words, a place to float and recover. Focusing so deeply on the problems that a painting can create, letting the paint flow, watching it mix with the other colors and catch the light, actually soothes and quiets the words flying around in my head. Questions of “why” and “what if…” fade quietly for another time. I feel closer to God when I am quiet. The ultimate Creator, helping me create, helping me heal. All is good, all is peaceful.

We have been given the right side of the brain as a way to stop all the chatter. Whatever is your “right brain” experience, that is your healing spot, use it to heal the heart.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November Second

So, here we are. November 2nd is the big day, big election. The Big Recession has had all of us on the edge. No matter what side of each issue you are on, you are worried. It is an uncertain time.

A dear friend of our’s, Craig, wrote to us about this very issue, “ dark days.” You know what he said (not sure if this is his original quote, but it could be… ) and I quote “ Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Wisdom for sure! What a great message for me and for all of us!

Do what you love, do it now! If it is painting, paint. If it is hiking, hike. If it is anything that is your passion, DO IT NOW! AND DO IT WITH ALL THE LOVE IN YOUR HEART! For me, that is painting. And so, my vote is in, my heart is now free to fly into the highest places and soar. That is what our individual lives are all about, that is what gives us joy, so let’s all go and do that! The world will keep turning whether or not the outcome of this week is what you expected, hoped or prayed for. We will survive. Our job is that we bring joy to the world by leaning into our own passion that brings us joy!

Be sure to Vote, then go out there and “dance !"

“Curtain Call” by Susan Blackwood

8 x 10 Oil

Now showing at Howard Mandville Gallery– Small Works Show, opens November 6th.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Great Time to Photograph

Are you having a wonderful fall? Here in Montana we are experiencing an incredible autumn! Two years have passed since we have actually seen the trees turn gold and orange. Last year the weather snapped into a deep freeze early in September and from there the leaves just turned brown and hung on most of the winter. But this year the color is glorious! The warm tones literally wrap themselves around my eyes, vibrating with joy. Every turn in the road reveals an exciting tree or bush. The mountains have become ribbons of golden aspens, shimmering in the light.

Silent Reflections 48 x 36 oil by Susan Blackwood at Highlands Art Gallery

Grab your cameras! All of you! This is just too good to pass up! All of you become artists with a camera in your hand. Not only will the camera teach you to see composition and values (especially if you set your camera to take black and white photos), but looking though the camera will stimulate the right side of your brain, the creative side…. And you will start seeing everything around you in a different way.

Years ago I learned the best way to photograph these fabulous trees and I will pass on the tip. Photograph the trees while you are looking toward the sun, straight ahead or on the right or on the left. That way you will get the intense color coming through the leaves. If you photograph the trees with the sun to your back, there is too much sunlight on the leaves and your trees will look washed out in the photos. It is a simple trick, but works wonders!

Now get out there and record this glorious time of year that shouts with color!

By the way, if you want to see a show devoted to fall, check out Highlands Art Gallery’s show that opened last Saturday night! Just click HERE.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Results

Okay, I promised to let you all know about the wild weekend of three outstanding national shows

Are you ready for this… ?

Hang on to your HAT!

As many of you already know….I am overjoyed to announce that my painting,

“So, What’ll You Have”,

won Best of Show at the American Women Artists (AWA) Exhibition in Dallas, Texas at the Southwest Gallery.

So, What’ll You Have 22.5 x 30 Oil

It is an incredible honor just to be juried into any of these shows. As with all three national shows, I am humbled by the outstanding work.

The AWA Exhibition is a juried show of over 1500 entries from all over the USA. Only 60 works of art (paintings and sculptures of all styles and mediums) were accepted. A panel, consisting of 9 AWA Master Signature Members, were the judges that decided the awards for this show.

Here is the link to see the show

AWA is dedicated to the inspiration, celebration and encouragement of women in the visual arts. With membership of professional, acclaimed artists, AWA increases the public's awareness of women in the arts by exhibiting quality artwork in museums and galleries.

I wasn’t able to attend the AWA show (I was in Jackson Wyoming at the Western Regional Oil Painters of America Show at Mountain Trails Gallery). I would have had to be cloned twice to attend all three national shows.

Therefore, because I was unable to attend the award ceremony, this concept of winning such a big prize is still floating in the air, like an incredible dream that you keep remembering. People have sent me photos, told be all about the events, but not being there keeps it more like a dream. I know that once the mailman delivers the official written word, a hard copy of the award, then, I will finally grasp the total experience. In the meantime, I am still floating, too, and will be for a long time. This is a dream come true.

Thank you, all of you, for your wonderful letters and e-mails of congratulations. I have tried to write back to you, but it has been a landslide of correspondence. So if I haven’t written back to you, please know that I have read and cherished each note, smiled warmly, grinned a lot, and felt your enthusiasm and joy deeply in my heart! Some of these friendships are new, some span my whole career and some have known me ….. my whole life.

Thank you for all your support, thank you for believing in my work and thank you for loving art …. And me! My art needs you and your enthusiasm and so do I! You are and always have been, the “ wind beneath my wings”! Thanks!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Three Show Openings on the same Weekend

The art business has lots of ups and downs. We all hope our art is accepted, but between rejections in shows, galleries and sales (or lack of sales in this economy) your emotions can seem chaotic. One minute you are feeling discouraged, the next minute you get up lifting news or a great comment and you are soaring again. It’s an up and down experience. Well, after almost two months of feeling beat up by the economy, I have had a super “high flying” moment! I am really excited! This is a big weekend for me. My paintings are in three major national shows and they all open this weekend! This has never happened to me before!

American Impressionist Society Exhibition is opening tonight (Thursday) at the Richland Fine Art Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee. Here is my painting that has been juried into the show.

Click here to see the American Impressionist Society Exhibition!

Beyond the Clock 10 x 12 oil

Then, as those of you that have read my previous blogs, the American Women Artist Exhibition is opening Saturday afternoon at the Southwest Gallery in Dallas, Texas. Here is my painting in that show.

Click here to see the American Women Artists Exhibition!

So, What’ll You Have? 22.5 x 30 oil

And Finally Saturday night the Western Regional Oil Painters of America Show opens at the Mountain Trails Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming.

And here is my painting in that show.

Click here to see the Western Regional Oil Painters of America Show!

Maestro 16 x 12 Oil

I can’t be cloned, so I have decided to attend the OPA Show.

Stay tuned ….. I will let you know what happens!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Blast from the Past

Last week Howard and I traveled to Chicago. As a Board Member of Oil Painters of America, he had official business. I, on the other hand, had business of the heart to attend to. Chicago is where I was born. Skokie is where I grew up. My roots go deep in that lovely land. Going to Chicago is always going home in my heart. I have family and dear friends there as well as memories, lots and lots of memories.

Vicki and Howard at the Art Institute

Chicago is a wonderful city full of culture, full of excitement and full of ART! ….. like, well, the ART INSTITUTE! Since both of my parents were artists, going to the Art Institute was a semi annual migration for my family. As a little child I regularly stared into the brush strokes of the greatest artists in the world.

Now, flash forward to last week, as my heart was getting a “filler up” of love, the anticipation of returning to the Art Institute was building once again. Saturday, my cousin Vicki, Howard and I boarded a commuter train (I love trains) and sped from Northbrook to the shores of Lake Michigan and the Art Institute. Vicki has had a membership to the Art Institute for many years, so needless to say she was eager to go again too. As a matter a fact, the paintings that we all loved, were like old friends to her. She knew right were each one was, around each corner and down each hall. What a delight.

Once we climbed the old stone stairs, the adventure began. Photography is allowed as long as the flash is turned off. Needless to say, I did take some photos that I want to share with you. I took whole paintings and parts of paintings, details that wowed me.

I photographed some amazing portraits, but right now I want to share the beauty of the hands and feet in some of these great paintings.

John Singer Sargent’s woman’s hand as she painted at the fountain…

Loose to tight, they are all wonderful.

Years ago, while studying drawing with Wynn Jones at Northern Illinois University, he was adamant that I draw the hands and feet accurately.

No matter how wonderfully I drew the figure or captured the portrait, my grade depended upon how well the hands and feet were drawn.

I thought about him and that class as I strolled the great rooms among the finest paintings in the world.

He was right, I thought. The greatest painting can be ruined with poor execution of the appendages at the ends of the legs and arms.

What a gift he gave me, the discipline to carefully study hands and feet.

By the way, because he told us that he would be grading us on the hands and feet, I made my room mates pose for me constantly.

Whenever we were sitting around in the evenings, I was drawing…. Fingers and toes, ankles and wrists, hands and feet… I made an A in Mr. Jones's drawing class, thanks to my hands and feet.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Awed by Encouragement

I started selling my paintings when I was 19 years old at the local art fair in Skokie, Illinois. Showing my heart felt work to the public was difficult. I felt exposed. “What if they didn’t like my work,” I thought. “Does that mean that they don’t like me?” That tells you how much of the artist pours into the painting. We are one with our work. If you like my work, you are liking the inner emotions of me…. At least that is what we artists feel.

Flash forward 40+ years. We have Facebook and Blogs, newsletters and Twitters. The whole world is now one huge network of artists cheering each other on. Now our paintings can be seen in every country in the world in a matter of minutes. News flashes around the world and so do the comments of support and encouragement.

I had that experience again tonight.

“So, What’ll You Have?” 22.5 x 30 oil

About 3 pm this afternoon. I found out that my oil painting, “So, What’ll You Have” had been juried into the American Women Artists National Show. There were 1547 entries and only 68 were accepted. I was (and still am) thrilled. So, I posted it on Facebook. That was 10 hours ago and the comments have been pouring in from all over the world. Artists and patrons, friends and strangers have been looking and letting me know how my painting affects them. So…. Exposed…..yes, we are as artists, but never before in the history of the world have artists been able to cheer each other on like this. I am awed. Yes, we can see this every day and every hour on Facebook. People thrilled and talking about it, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing.

Thank you all for those wonderful comments.

They went straight to my heart and will stay there!

The Old World at Home

First, I have had several people asking about my last blog and how long my retrospective show is up. It will be up until October 2. And after that…my work is always showing at the Master’s Fine Art of Loveland, Colorado.

Now onto today’s thoughts:

Okay, I have decided to have some fun and you guessed it… involving art and friends. Some of you may know that I have spent my life traveling the world. In 1994 (after breaking my big toe –ouch) I got the brilliant idea to bring artists to wonderful places in Europe to paint with me. I would teach, we all would paint and tour! So I did. And we did! Oh the beautiful places we saw, photographed and painted! We went to England, France and Italy. Then, in 1998, I realized that the trips would be easier on me if I worked with a director, Sunny Reeves Livesay. We started working together on French trips. She designs them, plans and handles all the technical and I teach. What a team we are together! My husband Howard Friedland often teaches on these trips too!

So, when my dear friend, Sunny, said that she coming to Bozeman for a visit in October, I decided to have some fun while she is here. I have designed a workshop for all those artists that have been to Europe with us or have traveled alone or with anyone else….and for those artists that have always wanted to go to Europe, too. We will draw and paint and eat and laugh our way through old and new memories, creating paintings and reflecting the romance of the “Old World”.

Join us! Here are the specifics:

3 Day Painting Workshop taught by Susan Blackwood

October 15, 16 and 17, 2010

Bozeman, MT

Get out those photos of France and let's do some serious drawing and painting.

Three days of good instruction on composing paintings, handling the paint and creating an emotion in your cityscapes.
 All levels are welcome….(For those of you that have gone on a French Trip with me, this will be a reunion with Sunny (Reeves) Livesay as well. )

Come spend three days emerged in memories and create some great new ones with us “on paper” and/or “canvas”. 
If you have never been to Europe but have always wanted to go, come and dive into the world of romantic old buildings.

We will pretend we are really there.... We'll "eat, drink" and paint the Old World!

Cost: $350

To register for this class, or If you have any questions

Call me at 406-586-4484 or 406-570-0528

or e-mail me!

Monday, September 6, 2010

"passages" as an artist

Just like little children, artist’s skills, styles and tastes grow and change through the years. As we find out more and more about the art world, we typically explore the many possibilities. And I really did! I tried everything from macramé to jewelry and pottery, pen and ink to enameling, drawing and painting and bronze sculpture.

Then in 1972, a wise and dear friend commented, “Susan, you are good at all of these things, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if you became an expert in one medium.” At first, I was shocked!

“No!” I said! “I love then all!” However the more I thought about it, the more it made sense… So, I picked the one medium that could hold my interest and challenge me for many years... I became a professional watercolor artist, exhibiting in shows and galleries. At first I was painting animals and Native Americans. Little by little my subject matter expanded, so did my style. But I stayed with watercolors for 32 years, after all, watercolors was one medium that was darn hard to conquer. In 2003, I took up the challenge and inspiration of Oil painting.

My career, style and mediums sure have changed over the years.

If any of you are in the Loveland, Colorado area, be sure to stop in and see my one woman show at:

The Master’s Fine Art Gallery of Loveland at 343 East Seventh Street.

The gallery is open Wednesday, September 8th through Saturday, September 11th

10:00am – 5:00pm

(or by special appointment.)

Me with Linda King, wonderful owner of The Master’s Fine Art of Loveland.
Behind us on the left is a watercolor on the right is an oil.

This special show is a retrospective (from 1979 to 2010) of my life as a painter for the past 30+ years. Thirty paintings, several bronze sculptures and over 40 reproductions, create a little peek of my “passages” as an artist during those years. You will see my medium start out as watercolors then morph into oils. You will also see my style go from tight realism, to loose impressionism and even a huge abstract in watercolors. My subject matter, as you can guess, covers everything from animals, children, cowboys, still life, landscapes to European scenes, and more. There are also my limited edition prints of my watercolors from the 70’s and 80’s and my new 2010 giclees of my oils printed by Somerset Fine Art. Here are a few photos from the event.

My watercolors and oils

Hope you get to stop by and see it! The gallery is always gorgeous! A big hearty thank you to all those that stopped by for the opening reception. It was wonderful to see you all! Many of our friendships span all those years and more. All of you, after all, have influenced and continue to influence my life and my work and I thank you!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

time-lapse with Odie

Last video for now. This time it is about a little King Charles Spaniel named Odie, what a cutie.

Odie 8 x 6 oil

After painting a series of little cats, it was fun to do a critter with long floppy ears and a big nose. Black is sometimes hard for painters to capture form. I just keep reminding myself that black is really made up of many colors. So go ahead and use some bluish black, redish black and even greenish black. It is all there in black. When painting fur, I try to keep in mind the softness of the fun and paint it that way. But most of all, I try to capture the personality.

Click here to see the painting process for Odie

Saturday, August 28, 2010

time-lapse becomes second nature

This third one was a lot of fun. Anytime I learn something new, it is a struggle to balance all the info, ideas and inspiration. Add in the mistakes that set you back and learning is sometimes tough. But, wait a minute, once the learning becomes second nature, the fun can really begin. Like painting, or dancing or dare I say it….. even “learning to love” has a learning curve. But once you get a grasp of the concepts, it is free flying from there! I was starting to fly on this one.

Click here to see: Painting Hepplewhite

Hepplewhite 10 x 8 oil

I have one more video to share in my next post, however, this time it is a cute little dog named Odie.
Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

time-lapse take two

Did you like that last video? Well, here is my second one. At this point, I was beginning to “learn the ropes.” Tater Tots is a cute little cat. This painting is small too, only 8 x 6. I didn’t realize that clouds were rolling in and out, as I was painting. Thus the color shifts a bit from time to time. That is the interesting thing about North Light. It looks so even, yet when a bright white cloud slips over head, my light in the studio gets brighter and warmer, taking on a bit of the sun. When the storm clouds are above, the light gets dimmer. Under a beautiful blue sky, the light in the studio has a cool velvet tone.

Click here to see how Tater Tots was painted.

Tater Tots 8 x 6 oil

My next Blog will be video #3 about a cat named Odie. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Painting Hazel

Okay, can you handle a couple more paintings of cats? (Hope so, cause here they come!).

I have been intrigued with time-lapse photography for years, so a couple weeks ago, putting my curiosity to work. I set out to tackle two learning curves with a new digial D-90 Nicon Camera, and an intrevalometer. My brain cells got quite a work out at first, then like any learning curve, it got easier and easier. The end results have been fun, so I decided to share them on Facebook and on my Blog. Here is my first one. Stay tuned for another one next time!

Hazel 6 x 8 oil

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My model, Rocky

Rocky 7 x 5 oil

Little critters sure wrap around your heart! Rocky didn’t come home last night. He is our little fluffy long hair cat. Normally he is home before dark and cuddling with us, happy to be combed and loved, but last night, no Rocky. Howard and I spent a fitful night taking turns getting out of bed… calling out the door. This morning, the dogs and I walked the neighborhood, while I was calling out “Rooooocky…. Rooooocky, Boooom Bah" ( his favorite name ) . Nothing. No cat.

Cats can be anywhere and in the summer I particularly worry that he might be trapped in someone’s car that he wondered into, or their garage or shed. Some cats even wander into the back of trucks, U-Hauls, RV’s, or empty houses when someone leaves a door open. He could be unknowingly traveling to some unknown destination…..

But not this time, just as I had resigned my self to settling down and started looking at my e-mails (always a good distraction method), I let out a huge sad sigh and in response I heard a responding soft little churpy meow. Rocky was home again. Whew.

Edge of a Nap 6 x 8 Oil

In the Shadows 8 x 8

Watching Closely 6 x 8 Oil

Friday, August 6, 2010

Among the Trees

Among the Trees
36 x 48 oil

Yesterday, Howard and I, with our two dogs, hiked up to one of our favorite spots in Bozeman called Grotto Falls. Along the way we passed the stately giants of the National Forest, the pines. Through the years I have fallen in love with trees. Each one has such a personality: some lean to the left with lower branches touching the ground; some are straight as an arrow and then twist at the top. They are as varied and individual as snowflakes.

I didn’t always see the trees in this way. In my early years as an artist, drawing and painting people and animals were always easier for me than landscapes. As a child artist, I created each pine tree exactly the same. My little left-brain had found a symbol for the mighty evergreens and I used it over and over. As I artistically matured in my observations, I then saw too much! I looked at the trees, bushes and grasses in the fields as way too much texture! I was over whelmed with how to capture their nature and all those thousands of leaves! I sought advice from instructors and books. Little by little, and painful at first, I learned to observe these dense plants as I would a head of hair. Simplify! Look for form! Leave the texture as accents. Now I love painting landscapes, especially trees!

His Old Olive Tree
10 x 8 Oil

Welcome Arms
10 x 12 oil