The Love of Literature & Telling Stories Through Art, with Susan Lichtman

well hello there it's entries and welcome to another episode of the savvy painter podcast the savvy painter podcast is published every other week if you are a painter who is looking for down-to-earth real life conversations about art how to create it and how to sell it you are in the right place savvy painter has been downloaded over a million and a half times by artists in 150 countries this is the place where you will find your community you'll be inspired to create and you'll hear real stories from artists who are thriving with their art so if you are new to this podcast I want to welcome you to the savvy painter community but make sure that you don't miss an episode sign up for weekly updates free guides and workshop announcements just go to savvy painter com forward slash subscribe it's that easy this week on the savvy painter podcast I am delighted to share a conversation with the artist Susan Lichtman susan lives and works in massachusetts and is an associate professor of Fine Arts at Brandeis University in this episode susan and i talk about our mutual love for literature she shares a couple of books that were recommended to her by Andrew Forge during her studies at Yale Susan noticed that a lot of artists that she admires also love Dostoevsky so she asked her friend Robin foyer Miller who just happens to be the leading expert on dust is key why artists like Mark Rothko and Philip Guston were so attracted to Russian literature well now Susan and Robin co-teach an art and literature course at Brandeis University and I have to say I am dying to crash that course Susan insists that she is a terrible storyteller but after talking with her I completely disagree she has connected the dots between how writers construct a story line and then adopts that method in her paintings with stunning results Susan uses the interior of her house as the backdrop for her painting and for any artist who wonders how long can you paint a particular motif and still keep it fresh and interesting i have no idea but susan has been doing this for 30 years and Susan's gonna tell you all about it please enjoy this conversation with Susan Lichtman Susan thank you so much for being on the savvy painter podcast I am so excited to talk to you today on trees thank you for inviting me it's so nice to meet you yes can you tell us a little bit about yourself your background and how you decided to dedicate yourself to painting as your vocation well when I was a teenager my parents moved from suburban New York to southeastern mass actually on the land where I live now and I had a lot of free time and I started to draw and I found it was just what I like to do best to spend the hours I didn't really paint that much but I had a great high school art teacher we drew and painted a little bit from the model we were in perspective he was Spanish he had a very traditional way of teaching and I didn't have the confidence to go to art school or to apply to art school I still love taking courses on literature and things so I PI to liberal arts schools I went to brown but the minute I got there when the first courses I took was painting with a woman artist whose name was flora nada pas and she only taught one year brown she was terrific and I just thought you know I love doing this and I actually it's better at drawing but I was at other things like writing papers so as much as I love art history and literature courses and they fed my work I think I was pretty much determined to just spend all my free time in the studio and specifically painting or were you kind of dabbling around a bit well that's a good question because it was in the 70s I started college in 74 and was the era of minimalism a lot of the students were doing conceptual art and sculpture site-specific sculpture installation nobody was painting from direct observation and even though originality was really prized as you know something we were all striving for and I was original because I was paid from life everybody else was I still had a real feeling of insecurity I hated the word conservative but like I was called conservative even though I was doing what nobody else was doing so my teachers were wonderful they were not figurative painters but they could see that I loved it and they recommended me for Yale Norfolk after my junior year and so I got in and I met Lilly Finkelstein and Andrew Forge and all these other young students many of who came from schools that really taught them how to draw on paint and I that was I think the moment where I said I found my people their painters they're not artists verse they're painters also Andrew and Louie gave us a reading list for painter I mean they really believed that a painter was you know had a life of the mind and it was just opened my eyes to the fact that it was some of really challenging an intellectual pursuit so so I went back to brown and I just said I give up trying to be an artist because I wasn't going to be the kind of artist that it was being so acknowledged at that time I'm so I'm just gonna be I'm gonna be a painter I like that you made the distinction between an artist and a painter if you have protected me also I think artists when you're young it's a little bit of a pretentious word like you know an artist meant was something you had to earn so a painter made it more like this is just my craft and my vocation we'll see if it turns into art later oh that's a really interesting distinction and I hear that a lot the artists and then art with a capital A yeah I think it's a very similar thing I have to ask because I know I know my audience and I know there want to know this do you remember what books were recommended to you yeah well I'll tell you at the top of the list was every artist should read Marcel Proust and read Dostoyevsky and so I went back to brown there were no Russian lit courses being offered on dusty upski but there was a priest course so I took the whole course was reading in translation thank goodness remembrance of things past it was a little bit edited we'd have to read everything but you know I had someone to hold my hand through the book and oh my gosh I mean he writes like a painter sees he's amazing so have you ever read any course oh no not priest but I read which it's so interesting to me I was really had an amazing literature teacher in high school and we read a lot of dust as well it's funny because I now at Brandeis I have a good friend who's like the world's expert on dusty husky her name is Robin Feuer Miller and she and I have been teaching this co-taught course where we read Russian literature and then the students make art in response to the reading because I asked her I said why is it that the artists especially of the New York school you know Rothko and Gustin loved Dostoevsky and Babel very important to them as well as a Babel and she goes I'm not sure I don't know and so we decided we would explore it and we actually invited Dorie ashed and the first time we taught the course when she was still alive to talk to us about Dustin and his reading so now I'm trying to like figure out the Russian I feel like more I'm more comfortable with the French sensibility the writer Baudelaire and malhomme and but the Russians are as you know you finding the probe I'm there's they're quite amazing and I think that Rothko got something different than Dustin did but you know for that generation who they were of Russian descent so I think they felt a connection to those writers oh my goodness I don't want to say to you I kill yes I want to take your class so badly right so for the brand I students the interesting thing of course is that if the students have had a lot of art experience they can really roll with it but for the students that don't have as much this is a kind of interdisciplinary courses it's difficult that's fantastic though I mean how great I think that's so great that especially in that environment when students are allowed to take our classes knowing that it's not their major that it's not it's just like let me play with this I think that is such a service to I hate saying that art world but to the art world in that and that they're given this opportunity to explore and discover art that they probably never would have done there's no other way they would have done that most likely and so I think it gives it's an amazing sneaking in some art appreciation in a way that is really to me feels like it would be really impactful absolutely and one never knows what's gonna happen to the students cuz years later they might start painting or certainly they'll go to museums and look at art in a different way but what I love for the students who have been drawing and painting or making photographs they think about subject matter in a different way and they think about setting and you know these writers can really just help them kind of own narrative ideas or ideas about since the Sensibility yeah can you talk a little bit about that sort of connection in your work between so that you know we have observational painting and then there's narrative painting and using memory and painting and I feel like with your work and I'm sure that I've read this somewhere that it has like a little flavor of narrative painting but what not wanting to like here's the story it's more like here's a little seed how is that going to grow in your mind yeah and so like I would love to hear your thoughts on for you and your painting how you use sort of observational painting memory and let's just say storytelling in place of narrative painting how that factors into your work and or does it well I think I'm a terrible storyteller and I never start with a story because they're just silly if I have an idea of a story and I've often thought you know how kids ask you to sometimes to make up a story like just on the spot and maybe you start a sentence and then they pick up you know like once upon a time there was a frog and then they go and the frog with and so I feel like that's the kind of story I tell in my paintings I start with something it's always an you know I'm setting everything in my house that's the state I think of the downstairs of my house is one room it's an open-plan that's like the stage and then characters come on and they pick up a prop and then maybe another character comes in and then suddenly a narrative develops and those narratives then once I kind of see oh this is what's going on then I am delighted that I have sometimes it never happens and I don't know what I'm painting about but sometimes it does and I call these accidental narratives because they happened by accident I started a big painting just a month ago and the only idea I started with was so it's the same room I've been painting for thirty years but I decided was gonna be from a different direction I was gonna paint it as if I'm almost sitting in our kitchen sink which is impossible but I'm going to use that view point like across our tiny kitchen it's like a little alcove choose a dining room table and so I started to put you know one daughter in and then other daughter who's based on a photograph I saw and then I realized that I had made a painting about the five senses because one figure was smelling the other one she was holding her cell phone up to her ear and I imagined right from the start that she was listening to select Spotify on her phone suddenly it's like oh and then oh my husband was cooking so it's like there's taste that's like if you had told me I could make a painting about the five senses that seems like the corniest idea and there's no way I could have done anything with it but I don't know this just somehow it just happened organically frights that makes absolute sense to me because so I studied illustration and what always made me extremely uncomfortable like I could feel it in my body as this idea of I have to come up with this finished conversation and I don't even know what we're talking about yet you know I think and that would give me not anxiety but it would just make me go like mmm I don't know about that so I love literature so much like I questioned sometime as if I should have been a literature major but then I don't know what I was but if time and money were never an issue I would probably just enroll in a master's program for everything like literature and writing and painting and everything you know just one right after another me too well I feel like co-teaching a class was like having so I listen to her talk about the writers and I just I was so have someone help me understand these figures yes I agree with you for me the story I love stories so much and I'd love literature so much and I've never been able to bring that into my artwork in a way that feels authentic to me and not corny like I'm creating an illustration project so I really love this idea of this is the first time I've ever heard it from somebody that it makes total sense to me that it is like telling a story to a little kid because that's something I can absolutely I do and then this happened and this happened and you're discovering it as you go along I don't have no idea how it's gonna end that's the best part yeah that's the most fun part so it is like writing a writing a book in a way where you're just pulling things out of the air well when I hear writers talk about their writing like I recently most listening to interviews with Philip Roth because he died recently and the way writers write is that I'll start at the beginning of the book and know exactly where they're going they often like cut and paste the whole book you know the middle becomes the beginning getting becomes the end they think it's gonna be about one thing and then it ends up being about something totally different and hey like that's how we should paint that's how our mind works so I don't know why I have never connected these dots before but that was a total revelation to me right now my god oh my gosh the plan is just aligned I get it now so tell me about your as your painting how do you how do you work the canvas how do you construct a painting well I start on a ground sometimes it's an opaque colored ground I color the oil grant I use an oil ground but I put a little color into it or sometimes I just if it's a white oil ground I put down a wash and then I I always start with something perceptual so I bring into the studio flowers or I paint my own hand or something that I can look at but I can't construct a painting on sight because I have to construct it from memory but I have to know the place really well so I feel like I'm painting from life but with a slight delay because my studio is just you know a few yards from my downstairs so I can't always run in or I'll grab a chair and bring it into the studio if I need to paint it but it's almost like a dream you know dreams are get a bad rap in art you think that's surreal but actually I dream about just life in my kitchen except somebody strange will be there maybe there's a door where there shouldn't be you know my dreams are very mundane and so it's interesting we have this ability to visualize in our heads when we dream the figures are in proportion right the space works prospectively and but it's in our head so we're not looking at anything so I guess we have this ability to work off of those mental images when we paint and I think when I was younger and I heard dead painters talk about painting from memory go Gans said you have to pay champagne from memory or I heard we are painted from memory I didn't understand how they did it I have a terrible visual memory actually but if I know very well what I'm painting and I can constantly go back to it go back to the source for information I actually can construct better when I'm not right there in front of the whole thing so the idea is that I'm trying in the paintings to eventually make a space where your eyes move from one thing into another and to another the way they do when you look through a space right you don't just look at one thing in isolation usually our eyes are darting all over the place that's like actually a doctor sign that were healthy is when our eyes are moving around and if we're not we're in a coma or on drugs or something so in order to make those connections from a hand to the table to the tablecloth to the window that flowing from one thing into another I have to kind of do that in the studio if that's so interesting that you you're going back and forth between the studio and the space to kind of check things out it reminds me a lot of the cautious almost three years ago now that's amazing how fast time is going by I talked with Stewart shells and the thing that's stuck with me the most about that conversation is sort of the pause between looking at the object and then looking back at your canvas and sometimes that can be a matter of seconds when you're painting from life for example or it could be minutes or it could be an hour or it could be months or it could be years but there's always that space in between no matter how much we think it's not there it's always there and so like it feels like you've taken that to a whole nother level that I'm nowhere near well I think it maybe if I had studied from painters who painted from life maybe they would have taught me how to do it but I always got into trouble if I tried to make a complicated painting from life when I was first in school there were windows that overlooked downtown Providence when I went to brown there were these little balconies and I tried to make a big cityscape but when do you stop looking and just organize things on the painting and so I'd be chasing perceptions and about the light on the buildings but then I was trying to organize that sometimes you have to lie in your painting in order to get the painting to read more clearly that just really stumped me how you decide when to look at the site and when to look at the painting how do you decide that correctness Campbell who I met when I was student you said there's two processes for she was a landscape painter she goes to processes there's the empirical and there's a synthetic and you go out and you get information and then you go home and you work in the studio you've cleaned things up then you go back out then you go back in the studio and she goes that's the way Monet worked I was like no the art historians taught me that he did everything outside and if that's actually it's not really true they know now a lot more about his process he prepared his canvases with lumps and bumps and color inside and then he brought it out so that he could get that moment just you know onto the canvas that was all prepared for it Wow and so I just think those guys were they weren't doing everything outside oh my gosh everybody's been lying to us all these years yeah I don't know do you find your landscape painter do you work sometimes inside are you just always yeah I think that there's a transition I think that there's you know as an artist I think there's almost developmental stages or this is how I'm like telling myself that it's all okay but I think that at first you sort of are in a way you're discovering how to paint and how to say so you need to be in front of the object and then at a certain point hopefully you realize that that's sort of like a handcuff and I think I'm at that stage where I love it so much I love that challenge of being right there in front of something and working out all the issues with it but I'm finding more and more that I'm enjoying the freedom of just working in my studio and allowing myself to go from the memory however close or distant it was but I feel like you know when I say that that's almost a developmental issue as an artist I had to learn to trust myself and I had to like say it's okay to do this you know I think there's a weird thing with an artist that if you do and it could be anything if you don't do it this way you're cheating so this idea that you can actually cheat with your art and I probably was taught that in school at some point I think is where I kind of got that idea and it's taken me a long time to realize like what are you talking about how do you cheat in art I know I know it's cause you like the use of photographs I remember when they discovered that Ekans used photographs oh my gosh well if he did then it's fine because look at his paintings right or who exactly is it that we need permission from because apparently we all feel like or a lot of us feel like we need some sort of permission to trust ourselves and I think that's the hardest thing is trusting your intuition your ideas and doing it yeah it is the hardest thing and that's that's about becoming one's own self as a painter is that trust you get the voices of those naysayers or whatever out of your head and just just trust what works for you whatever that is even if it's cheating [Laughter] exactly it's such a revelation that I think if that's the sort of foundation that you were either believe in or Todd it's kind of like shocking to know that it's not true and then that all the places that you can go with that you're like you know it's kind of like letting a puppy out into a field where after it's been you know in a 8 by 10 backyard it's all I of all the things like I think there's an entire world out here I didn't even know about yeah but again it's just finding what works for some painters actually it's they need to have life in front of them and they need to have that model right there and that's a inspiration revelation it's where they was just knowing no yeah so do you feel like you know yourself as an artist how did I get to that place yeah got a lot of failures a lot of just frustration and then just finding finding things that worked for me I think the working from memory thing happened when I started making very very black paintings I gave up a lot of what I thought I loved about color because I couldn't make it work bonnard and Matisse that kind of saturated hue color the paintings were I just couldn't get them to have light or atmosphere and I kind of had a sort of a tantrum I kind of adolescent Angelus was in my late 20s I started to make paintings that were almost all black they were still figurative paintings they're actually paintings of my parents my mother was dying so everyone thought that they were really about death and I think that that was in there but mainly they were about making a painting with a color idea that precedes the subject it was really about an idea of color and it was also a kind of tonal idea so wasn't so much about hue as it was about tone and monotone a closed value color and to start a painting with that idea meant that I couldn't painting always from life because I was filtering everything through this color idea and that was kind of a revelation because the paintings actually seemed more about the subject than paintings that had more realistic so-called color or perceptual color you know matching tones whatever those didn't feel as believable somehow as these colors that were totally invented in their palette so that was kind of a moment of whoa this is really interesting I think they worked more as paint they're very unified of course because they were almost monochromatic and they were more about light so I learned that then I was a tonal paint I really would be very happy making paintings just thinking about tone and tone I'm always learning new things about how to organize tone in a painting and I think the color takes is definitely subservient to the tone now I'm there not as dark but I still usually start with a middle value when I first paint that perceptual thing I try to keep it very close value and a really limited palette so even then I'm it's a kind of synthesized version of synthetic version of real life how do you choose your palette how do you choose the tones that you're going to be working in it's sometimes really arbitrary just what I feel like I for wow I'd only use three colors in white and it would be a red yellow and a blue and sometimes the blue is a black and you know if you use that pout you can make that black especially an ivory black look like blue it can look like cobalt blue if everything around it is really orange so that kind of Josef Albers like making one color look like a lot of colors I love that and even now if I'm working on a big painting and I have one blob of color on my palette and then I put it on one side of the painting and it means light and then on the whole other side of the painting it's a shadow it's dark I just find it uncanny and amazing that one color can just change so much it's like it's magic it's just totally magic and it's all about the text that works for me doing a lot with a little bit like limitations to me that's what painting is all about the limitation of working on a rectangle and I love that kind of form of working within a form like that that has limitations you know rules yeah and so three colors and you're selecting colors that will behave as red blue and yellow not necessarily that they're red blue and yellow right and so I'll change the Reds and I'll change the yellows and for a while there I could not understand how people could use this full palette that had several yellows and like why use a cobalt and ultramarine like why do you need both like why would you need all that so now I've kind of expanded the palette because sometimes it is interesting to have two different yellows in the painting and so I still go get into trouble I think if I've too many colors on my palate what are too many colors for you well if I have too many reds and too many blues the pains are so complicated now I think that they hold together better if the color is just simpler yeah yeah I can say this it's more about just the light and the shadow and the not so much about the different variations and warm and cool blues yeah I can see that because your paintings are very intricate and to be able to pull off that intricacy it makes sense that you would have to start with three or four I also love a busy like if I'm teaching and you know the years when the kids were small and sometimes it would be days before I could get back to a painting and I still have this problem where I can't remember how I mixed a color if there's only three colors on the palette it's easier to find that exact tone right that makes a lot of experimentation to match what you were working on and it's just easier yeah that just sounds so delightful to be able to practical no it's not these are the things that it's so fascinating for other artists like I don't know we love it I love it and I totally understand it because the way that colors interact with each other I think I had two full semesters on Josef Albers and we used to have to do these perfect gouache studies of squares with I mean it was it did two things like I understood color very very well but it also made me really afraid of gouache after that because we had to do it equal parts learn about color and learn about craftsmanship and so in order to get a good grade we had to do the the squares with the square in between and we had to like cut it out you know like it had to be perfect but there couldn't be any streaks any imperfections in the way that you applied the gouache to make those squares in order to do it right so I mean quash is hard enough when you're learning because it dries darker and then you know say like you're trying to understand Josef Albers first of all and then you're dealing with a medium that dries darker than when you see it and so you have to translate that and then you can't have any streaks in it so the end result was that I had to do it so many times that I could mix those Gray's or that blue that would look great when I put it on the orange or what I could mix those like no problem because I did it so many times it's a great rigorous education we shouldn't have to use color aid paper and cut that up that's true that's true but the fascination that you're talking about like to me that's it sounds like that's the thing that makes you just yeah that is what excites me it's actually not the story or you know for other painters it's you know maybe the illusion of flesh or but for me it's about value an atmosphere and the feeling of light and half lights and it's musical very much about music take a few notes and make a lot of tuneful things with it because I don't know why I'm doing this but I've recently decided that I'm gonna learn how to play the ukulele and I have zero music background Oh n for you I would love to do back to ya but with what you're making me think of is that you know that everybody sort of makes fun of the ukulele because you can play you know almost any song with just three chords and I'm thinking – yeah and you can paint any painting with just three colors yeah absolutely what are you working on now what do you currently obsessed with in your studio well as I told it up started this big painting which turned out to be about the five senses so I'm still painting the family in the space but I'm just trying to find different ways to paint the same interior and again for about limitations I haven't painted the bedrooms in our house the bathroom I really don't paint my studio that much I've done a bunch of paintings through my studio doors but right now I'm just back to this open plan living and people in the kitchen and the dining room table and the kind of domestic dramas so it's funny how it's not really changed that much and how long have you been painting that that area it's hard to believe we built this house 30 years ago but it took me a while I really didn't start painting the figure till I had kids and I love that challenge of painting children and not making a painting sentimental because I just couldn't stand the corny kid paintings so I want to make a ping that wasn't cute plus kids are just I mean one thing it's nice they're different size than adults you get a really nice scale change sort a really interesting plus they're always doing things that are unpredictable the way they interact with objects in the house so yeah I found that to be an inspiration so you know my palette for those paintings that I first started painting of the children was very close value and dark and the paintings were very crusty so like palette has changed a bit the paintings have gotten become lighter in recent years the paint isn't quite so heavy and cement like as it was earlier and and the kids are grown up they're like they're young women now so it's like a lot of adults in the house and animals right yeah it's looking for new new angles to these stories it's interesting because I think a began about literature there are so many great writers who just write about family situations and over and over again you know I loved Alice Munro when she was writing I still love her writing and she's just writing about families and the lives of girls and women or the names one of her collections and it's so fascinating it's not science fiction it's just basically domestic interiors so when I first started painting the domestic interiors in the 90s I began to feel really guilty that they wouldn't might be seen as hermetic or that I might be seen as a complacent bourgeois because I'm actually very politically passionate and there was a lot of political art being done in the 90s and the art world and I respected all these issues being taken on by artists I thought like what I'm painting people bringing home the groceries what is wrong with me I mean it took me a while to kind of convince myself that like being able to bring home the groceries like really political I mean that's what we're all fighting for right the right to have any kind of family you want to have stability to have a home to be fed so I kind of had to convince myself that it wasn't just complacent and it sounds like the same conversation you had with yourself when you're in school about being a conservative painting because you're painting from life and you are painting observational II and that was maybe wasn't seen as enough then these scenes of domestically feeling like they weren't enough in the context of all these other really politicized paintings absolutely I guess I'm always trying to convince myself that what I'm doing is OK I think that's survival instinct yeah also will I mean in the 70s was era of awakening of feminism and also to be painting you know domestic interiors yeah I was like oh that's really not a feminist thing to do but now I know I think that's fine I think that ideas about feminism have really changed and and what a woman ops can be like has really changed I love that you're painting the I mean for 30 years and you've been painting the same or a similar location and you're still discovering things about it or you're still a lot more to say about this one room and I think that's worth mentioning because I feel like a lot of artists that I hear from are concerned about you know is this enough same questions you are asking yourself just in a different context is what I'm doing enough is this really okay to be completely fascinated with this one thing or this one subject and you know am i a real artist yeah I think those questions are important I think we have to keep checking ourselves yeah I mean we should never get too comfortable but if it's a challenge to stay in that one place then yeah should do it there's this quote of c├ęzanne's he wrote a letter I think to his son and he says oh I'm I'm down by the riverbank and I feel like there are trees in front of the river I'm looking past the trees to the river and I feel like I could stay in front of this motif forever simply bending my head a little bit to the left or a little bit to the right and it's like yeah I mean you move a little bit to the left and everything changes it's just so interesting to hone things down to small differences yeah I absolutely agree and I'm feeling that like I used to you know want to move around a lot when I was painting meaning like going on road trips and paints in a different location every day and that has flipped to I don't want to leave my studio really understand this thing that I'm curious about right now and and I'm thinking that this thing that I'm curious about is gonna take me five to ten years to figure out and that's exciting to me oh that's sounds exciting yeah I don't know what that is but I'm enjoying it so I'm curious what your habits are when you go into your studio or do you have any habits or rituals that you start your days off for your studio time off with I started to listen to talk radio and podcast when I'm painting and when I was younger I thought that was terrible I listen to music and I thought who can listen to people talking when they're painting and then I think it was around the 2000 election I began to just depend on NPR for information yeah I just needed to know then there was so much going on you know 9/11 and the war and I mean if so I'm painting interiors I'm painting at my house and the news or podcast helps me feel connected to the larger world and I'm not sure I'm the best listener don't ask me about our foreign policy or anything it's like even though I listen to so much news I think I'm not listening that carefully but still it's very comforting I need to have that those voices I'm painting so that's one thing that's become I can absolutely necessity funny even when I was in Italy I found I could listen to the Boston and PRC and it was so funny to see like here I am in Italy it's a time lag but I'm listening to the Boston weather okay another thing is that I start late in the day I love late afternoon light I love to paint it but I also just energized at the end of the day I'm not a morning person so I tend to go in after lunch and I would be happy to work till early evening I work with natural light so this time of year is so great because it stays light till you know 7:30 8:00 so that's something and I drink iced tea constantly I need to be caffeinated aha okay probably better than what I do is a constant cup of coffee at my side and my dog we have a bed at my studio and people see the bed they think oh do you take naps or what no it's my dogs but I took them out for this interview on KC bark this is one of those questions like what is the meaning of life but what do you feel like the role of the artist is today in our society well artists hold a mirror up to society and they show us what we're thinking I feel like artists are so socially conscious I mean it's you know Brandeis this University where I teach we have like kind of a social justice medium message or and a lot of students think like oh I can't be an artist because I really care about social justice and I go artist care about that a lot that is extremely important to almost everybody I know they don't have their head in the sand they're very moral people in general I think not crazy you know all the myths of that artists that when you start to deal with people who aren't artists yeah I think that artists there's a kind of honesty to live by what you love and what you feel that's several model for everyone it's funny you had a question on your site about you know possible questions how do you think the art market will change in a few years and I was thinking like what a crazy question I hope the whole market changes you know I hope the whole economy is something that is better for families and workers and I think when that happens I think the art market will be better too I think that market is just a reflection of the economy in general that's interesting I think when I was listing those questions and I was thinking about that I think that I might have been thinking about sort of what's happening in you know technology and how artists present themselves and that is what you just said is sort of like the foundation of it all that it's the reflection of what's happening in the economy in general that when people are feeling at ease and more comfortable it's sort of like the hierarchy of needs you know when your basic needs are met when everybody's sort of not stressed out about everything that's happening in the world then they have more time to sort of relax and enjoy art in the world around them I kind of feel like right now everybody's hyper focused on what's happening in the world and here in particular I mean that said there are some good things which is that museums always seem to be so crowded just here on the East Coast tons of people are going to museums yes so I think people love to look at art I think that galleries actually are wonderful too cuz it's free you can just walk into goo Gaussian and see an amazing Picasso show and it's free yeah and so well I'm not complaining about that the market is good in some ways yeah that's a really interesting observation about the museums and the galleries I think I wonder if also I know that there's a direct correlation between like 9/11 for example there was a lot of the movie industry people going to the movies that went up a lot because I think people need a break – absolutely and I think the internet communities have been great for artists to be able to connect and I to see work by artists I would never know and I think this figurative painting movement these plein air painters and painters who love figurative painting that maybe isn't being represented so much in galleries there's such a community that has their work out online so everything Internet has done that for all kinds of people but it's certainly done it for artists yeah definitely I want to let you get back to your painting in your studio but what advice would you have for artists that are just starting out now I kind of think artists should be ambitious and should kind of take on more than they think as possible I think that we get adrenaline and we rise to the occasion when we set ourselves a huge task you know make a huge painting make a painting with too much in it or make a painting a day or I think that's so important to building confidence is to actually try to do something something very large something that seems very difficult climbing a mountain you know in your work I think that's the most important thing that's what I try to get students to do too you know not to be so humble but they're only know it's taking on a little thing but what's ambitious is different for some peeps it's the amount of things may be ambitious for some one person is to work on one painting for a year maybe that's a sign of ambition so I think that's the main thing yeah I love that and it's about getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to do something that is kind of within your reach but just a little bit out so you really have to stretch and I love that idea of asking yourself to do that and that makes that circle maybe your comfort zone a little bit bigger every time you do it no matter what it is yeah it's like these runners who decide to run the Boston Marathon I mean yeah they and they'll say I don't I didn't think I could do it but I did it so I think we need that same attitude in our Studios like what I think I could never do put 20 figures in a painting paint a panorama that's 12 feet that's just I don't know it's just yeah love it Susan I so enjoyed this conversation and getting to know you it was wonderful thank you I really enjoyed it two entries I hope our paths cross me too well I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Susan Lichtman as much as I did go to savvy painter calm and click on the podcast tab you'll find show notes there for this episode where you can see examples of Susan's work get links to all of the artists that we talked about and links to connect with Susan the savvy painter podcast is made possible in large part by artists just like you if you would like to help out it's quick it's easy and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it just go to savvy painter comm forward slash support if this podcast has made a difference in your studio if it gives you a little bit of company while you are painting please consider making a donation any amount helps and with that I would like to give a shout out in a big big thank you to we not Goron psychodynamic yoga Lois McCarthy Robert Doucet Denise Presnell Charisse Stankiewicz Sheree I really hope I said your last name right Vivian Larkins Diane Foster Julie Riley Lee Ann Harrison Nicola pics with Diane Magee Robert Talbert Judith Chapman Susan rose Helen O'Connor Julie Marr J a more Marilyn Creary Teresa Hill Vincent Keeling Brian buck rel alchemy works Denise klitzy Deb cook Shapiro Glary fine art Lucinda Kassar Pat Oxley Jill Oh polka Susan Sefton Coon Kathleen speranza ZB gallery and David Gorski thank you so so much for your support of the savvy painter so until the next time this is an trees wood with the savvy painter podcast thank you so much for listening

2 thoughts on “The Love of Literature & Telling Stories Through Art, with Susan Lichtman

  1. Thank you for this interview! It's my favorite so far and that is saying a lot! I love Susan's down-to-earthness and her talking about her painting process. I listened while painting in my studio and so much of what was said hit home to me. I hadn't known about Susan Lichtman's paintings before and am so glad to 'discover' her beautiful paintings and philosophy. I wish she had an online course about literature and art……but will use that idea in my next series of paintings. Thank you Annalise and Susan! (PS: Annalise, you need to have your name somewhere on this podcast/youtube…not just Savvy Painter.)

  2. I LOVED this pod cast! I also love Susan's work and this was a great interview!!!

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