Lucia Douglas Gallery

Moondance acrylic on canvas 10"x10" each

A selection of my small abstractions are on display at the Lucia Douglas Gallery in Bellingham, WA now through January 4, 2012. Linda Gardner, runs this beautiful art space with the grace of a born host, making every guest feel welcome. Opening night, December 2nd, coincided with Bellingham's first Friday art walk, and the place was hopping. Other artists participating in this small works show include Kim Murton, Jean Bradbury, Alison O'Donoghue, Jennifer Phillips and Emily Peck. the Lucia Douglas Gallery, Bellingham, WA

My work on display.

Sold! "Seven Inches From the Midday Sun"

Commissioning A Painting

"Sofa" by Holly Farrell

You have a big, empty wall space and you want something special to hang there, but you just haven’t found the perfect fit. Maybe you love a certain artist’s work, but none of her pieces are the right size or color for your decor.
Commissioning a piece of work can be a great solution and can be a thrilling (but intimidating) experience. I have been on both sides of this experience, so I fully understand the concerns of both parties. Here is a basic idea of what to expect from the commissioning process, and how to avoid problems. 
A contract might seem scary, or too formal, or even threatening, but actually it is a great tool for bringing clarity and for remembering specifics. It outlines the project details so that everyone is on the same page. A good contract might cover the following....

  • Description of the project - This would be as specific as possible, including size, color palette, imagery, surface (paper, canvas, board), frame or no frame.
  • Deadline - Smaller pieces may take less time than larger - specific details and timing of the commission request will determine the time required for completion.
  • Pricing - My prices for commissioned work are comparable to my existing works, so by looking at other paintings in a size and medium similar to what you want, you will have an idea of what your commission will cost. 
  • Payment Terms - I require a deposit of 25% on all commissions (up to 50% on highly directed works). You have a grace period up to but not including the date I have booked to begin your commission to cancel and receive a full refund of your down payment.  After this period (once I have started your commission), the down-payment is non-refundable. If requested, sketches can be used to approve specific imagery or color schemes. Additional fees may be charged for revisions made after approval of sketches, and for revisions reflecting a new direction to the project. Final payment is due upon completion and acceptance of the work.
  • Right of Refusal - It is my intent to create artworks for my clients that they will want to purchase! However, if, after the work is completed, the collector does not wish to purchase the work, he/she may refuse. In that case, I will retain the refused artwork, the nonrefundable deposit, and revision fees, free of any claims or interests of the collector and the collector will owe no additional fees. 
As a future member of my collector family, you are going to be as involved as you like in the commissioning process. When possible, I am happy to help choose a size and a color palette, and to send images of the work in progress. In this way, you can be confident that your painting will be a perfect fit.

Kill It or Save It?

Memory of Magnolia ~ acrylic on paper ~ 20"x26"

Not quite there yet

I love all the stages of creating a new painting. I often start by laying down random color and shapes and just getting lost in the process. In those early stages, anything goes - I more or less feel my way around. There comes a point, however, when choices must be made and I can feel my brain switching over to "edit" mode....and then back again. Then sometimes I'm just stumped. 

This painting kicked around my studio for a year looking like a total failure. That's harsh - let's just say it was "unresolved." The funny thing was that I liked it at first, then - the more I looked at it the less I liked it. I stuffed it away in my flat file because it was annoying me. Mocking me, actually. 

Then one day - it was back on my painting board and I was determined to kill it or save it. Where to start? Sometimes it's just a step at a time. First step - get rid of just one thing you don't like. Slowly, everything starts to change, you respond to the changes, and now you're back in the saddle. So, today I like the piece. Who knows how I'll feel tomorrow.

zoom zoom

"Story of the Sun" acrylic on cradled board 6x6 each

I've posted about these paintings before, but want to share a little more about their inspiration. 
Some of my paintings get pretty busy with patterning and layers. I was craving the serene, simplicity of uncluttered space and shapes, so I zoomed in on "Wandering" and found many restful compositions hiding in the tangle of line and color. It's funny how different things look, 
depending on how close we are. 
Ahhh - art as a metaphor for life - I love that.  

Here is "Wandering"

and the close ups....
can you find these in the larger piece?

work in progress...

and the finished set of panels....
"Story of the Moon" acrylic on cradled board 5x7 each

flora and fauna

"Indigo Garden" acrylic on canvas  36"x48" Susan Melrath © 2010

The Eastside Association of Fine Art's "Flora And Fauna" exhibition has opened at their Seattle Design Center Gallery. The gallery is a beautiful space and I anticipate this to be an inspired show. The exhibition runs from June 28 - August 26. It is free and open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. "Indigo Garden'" above, was juried in and our artists' reception will be July 14th - from 4 to 7 pm. 
The address is 
Seattle Design Center
5701 6th Ave. South Suite #A239


One week: no news, no internet, no social network or texting. “Unplug yourself!” was the request and challenge of ArtsWest Gallery Director Nichole DeMent and co-curator Michele Osgood of Bherd Studios. Participating artists had to unplug from TV, Internet, and text messaging for 1 full week. 
Unplugging for me meant....not visiting my mom on Skype, not seeing my far away friends on Facebook, not curling up on the sofa with my family to watch an evening show together. I didn’t make it through the week! I missed all of it. 
In the artwork I created, that absence was expressed through an absence of color and organic shape. “Flower, Unplugged” is a gray tone, pixelated version of a colorful floral painting called “Twelve Bar Blues.” Here's the original, and the unplugged version...

The original "Twelve Bar Blues" acrylic on canvas; 24"x36" © 2011

"Flower Unplugged" acrylic on panel; 20"x30" ©2011


I also felt compelled to express my reaction in materials other than paint. Pulling a plug out of it’s socket, I saw the sad little faces on the outlet plate. Okay, so I was projecting a little. In Photoshop, I played with the image until it was just right...

"Unhappy Unplugged" inkjet print; © 2011

Taking a look at the electrical plug, I wondered how it might be used to express my feelings towards the unplugged experience. My solution...

"Permanently Unplugged" electrical cord

Reviewed by Michael Upchurch of the Seattle Times

The Unplugged Challenge shows the various interpretations from the artists’ experiences and unveils intriguing insights on the plight of technology dependency. The result of this isolation experiment can be seen in the Unplugged Challenge in ArtsWest’s gallery from 
June 28 – July 24, 2011.

ArtsWest gallery presents
the unplugged challenge
th – july 24th     
aRTISTS’ RECEPTION on tHURSDAY, July 14TH, 6-7:30pm 

what's blooming

"I Made This for You" ~ acrylic on canvas ~ 36"x48"

My garden is bursting with color and texture....what an inspiration. And here is what's blooming in the studio. I've captured this piece in photos as it developed (below), for your amusement! The flower shape comes from a sketch my son made for me when he was around five years old.

Issaquah ArtWalk: Save the Date!

      Save the date for a unique experience at Issaquah's ArtWalk on Friday, September 2nd, 5-8 pm! 

Hint: you'll see a lot of this....

the birth of a painting

Dream Garden                          acrylic on board                              80"x24"                             $2500

Dream Garden is hanging at Sightline Institute through June 30th. Read about the show and 
Art and Sustainability here.

I'm having too much fun on Apple's Keynote - making slideshows and videos of my process. 
Hope it's entertaining! (double click to see full size)


I've made diptychs, and even triptychs, but I wasn't sure what to call this new work made up of four panels. So I looked it up and yep, that's what it's called. Although I'm not sure if mine qualifies, since it's not actually one image broken into four segments. But it is meant to be viewed together as shown. The general term for multi paneled paintings is "polyptych." So there's your word for the day!

Having said all that, I just hung them in a different format, and I kind of like them this way...

     Story of the Moon ~ acrylic on wood ~ 5x7 panels ~ $400.

art & technology


Recently I showed a time lapse video to a relative. The video showed hours of me painting, condensed into 2 minutes. His remarks were interesting. He said, “I didn’t know you turned the canvas around so much when you painted.” He was intrigued by that, and surprised at the changes that took place throughout the process. I never thought such a simple aspect of my painting process would be interesting to a viewer. He noted that seeing the video made him much more curious and appreciative of the work.  
This is why I think QR codes are so great. There is such terrific potential for connecting with your viewer in a very personal way, even when you are not present. You might share in-depth information about the inspiration for your work, or maybe a video of the work in progress. This can add a dimension to the viewing experience that couldn’t happen otherwise.
Anyone using a smart phone with a camera and the proper application to read the code, can scan it on the spot and open the artist’s website, contact info, blog or video. From that point, the artist’s presence online is available for the visitor. The codes are being used extensively in Japan and are slowly catching on in the States. 
Imagine driving by a house for sale and wondering how it looks inside. Scan the little code on the “for sale” sign, and take the 365 degree tour right there on the street. Posters for the Picasso exhibit at the VA Museum of Fine Art, include a black and white image of Picasso’s face made up of QR Codes. When scanned, the codes take you immediately to the sales office with information on purchasing a ticket for the show. Seattle Art Museum used similar technology with Microsoft tags,  for the same Picasso exhibit.
So be ready! You might come across one of these codes one day and if you have the app on your phone, you’ll be able to access the information it’s offering. Follow this link to download your free QR Code reader. If you have an iPhone, you can get “Quickmark” from iTunes.
If you’re standing in front of “Midnight Angels,” which is hanging at the Virginia Inn in Seattle (through 4/30/11), you will see a code posted on the price tag. Scan this with your new app and see where it takes you. You can even try it right here on your computer! Here’s the code....

Red Between the Lines

 "Red Between the Lines" acrylic on board 36x18 Susan Melrath ©2011

I knew this triptych was going to be about "red." That was the setup. So, while the flower shapes remained red throughout the painting process, everything around them needed to be adjusted over and over. Each layer of glaze made subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes to the overall feeling. I also played with patterns throughout. I focused on the checked patterns for a while, then on the circle-chains. There were times when I ended the day in the studio with a very ugly painting on the easel. 
I hate that feeling. 

I'm really miserable until I'm on the right track (ask my family). I lay awake at night wondering what that "red" wants. Why doesn't it look voluptuous, like I had intended? "Maybe I just suck as a painter," whispers that nasty little voice in my head. "Shut up - nobody loves you," I reply.

It feels like such a relief to have solved the problem at hand. I can enjoy the other aspects of life, free in knowing that my last painting was a success. (Sometimes I'll even peek in the studio to be sure)
So I think I'll take a moment to enjoy this feeling before diving into the abyss once more.

This painting, and the rest of the "Garden" series will be on display at the Virginia Inn on Thursday, March 3rd. Opening reception is 5-7pm. See my last post for all the details.

"In the Garden" A Solo Exhibition at the Virginia Inn

I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of many months of labor, all come together on the walls 
of the VI. There will be wine and simple hors d'oeuvres from 5-7. The opening is on Seattle's First Thursday ArtWalk, so many galleries will be open late. SAM is just around the corner and will be open until 9pm with free admission for all. I hope if you're in the area you'll stop by!

crimson kiss

crimson kiss © susan melrath; acrylic on canvas ; 36x36 

this painting began a little differently than it ended. below, you can see all the patterning that was edited, and the too-realistic shapes that were simplified. 

ruby harvest

ruby harvest © susan melrath; 24x36; acrylic on canvas

below is a little of the underpainting of "ruby harvest." i didn't start documenting the painting until this point which is a shame because underneath this layer is a completely different painting - one that wasn't cooperating!

midnight angels

 midnight angels © susan melrath; acrylic on canvas; 48" x 60" each

red seed


this painting was the first created in the "brushes" app on my iphone. i loved the fact that it was part doodling and part painting - no pressure, just fooling around. "brushes" also allows you to replay your painting stroke by stroke, and export it as a movie....

i decided to see how this image might translate to canvas. 
so.....back in the studio i begin the process of layering....

red seed © susan melrath; 24x48; acrylic on board

....and this is "red seed."