In The Artist's Studio: Suzy Skugstad
May was a busy month in the artist's studio, I visited a second artist in May, just prior to her group show at The Piedmont Center for the Arts. Suzy Skugstad is an elementary school art teacher and manages to produce an amazing amount of beautiful work of her own when she is not teaching. I really enjoyed learning about how she is inspired to make a new series of paintings. Her inspiration comes from her feelings about events that are happening around her, like the Women's March, as well as memories that were jogged when she drove up the California coast last summer.
The Artist’s Studio | Suzie Skugstad
Katie Korotzer | May 10, 2019
Artist Suzie Skugstad will more than likely need no introduction to many of the guests attending her upcoming “Art For The Soul” exhibit at the Piedmont Center For The Arts with fellow artist Chris Saunders.
During her 20 year career teaching art at Wildwood Elementary in Piedmont, Skugstad has been part of countless families’ lives. As a vital component of the after school enrichment program, Art With Suzie gives first through fifth grade students the opportunity to explore art with a wide variety of hands on art techniques and materials such as clay, batik and paint.
Skugstad sites her students as an important source of inspiration for her own art practice, noting that even an artist as famous as Picasso is said to have stated that ‘it took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’ Looseness, unlikely proportions and unusual color combinations are qualities that Skugstad admires in her students’ work.
Skugstad brings legit art world credentials to her teaching and fine art practices. She spent 15 years as a partner in a successful San Francisco based graphic design business before deciding that giving up a grueling daily commute and hours spent in front of a computer in exchange for the opportunity to be in front of kids would vastly improve her quality of life.
As a high school student at Mercer Island High School in Washington state Skugstad took nearly every art course offered, from calligraphy and ceramics to textiles. School was a joy for her because she was allowed to dabble, as she puts it, and explore every art form. She does admit with a rueful smile that her high school art education might have come at the expense of dropping Calculus. She went on to graduate from the University of Washington Seattle with a graphic design degree.
Since 2001, Skugstad has increasingly applied her artistic skills towards her fine art practice. The paintings in the “Art for the Soul” series are the result of two years of work, during which Skugstad evolved her images from a purely graphically beautiful style to a more representational style, better suited to portraying feelings and thoughts that ‘come from the heart.’ Major events have shaped many of these new paintings; Skugstad was deeply affected by the 2016 election and the current political climate. Naive Hummel figurines from her childhood struck an emotional chord for Skugstad and through her ‘Think Pink’ paintings she asks viewers to consider the reasons why the recent Women’s Marches have been so powerful.
Visit “Art For The Soul” May 10-12 at Piedmont Center For The Arts.
A particularly rich source of imagery, and the overall theme for the show, came to Skugstad while traveling along the California Coast. During this trip she allowed herself to ‘take the long way’ and to stop at every beach for as long as she wanted. She took many photos and connected with memories from her early childhood spent in Playa del Rey, California. She realized that as a painter she has the freedom to do whatever she wants and to make art for herself. Having her many Piedmont friends and family share her joy in this collection during the opening reception is part of what makes “Art for the Soul” so meaningful for her.
Skugstad firmly believes that ‘looking at art is good for you’; and is in the fortunate position of being able to teach children how to make and enjoy art as well as continuing to develop her own art practice.
On Instagram: @artbysuzieskugstad
All photos by Katie Korotzer