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Artist to Artist: “Fan Letter” to Susan Graeber by John Eiseman

Susan Graeber describes herself as a “painter of color and light”. She also lists her artistic influences as Fairfield Porter, Neil Welliver, Wayne Thiebaud, Henri Matisse and Vuillard. While she may list a couple French post-impressionist “fauvist” artists as visual mentors, her work is clearly “American”. Her work demonstrates color field theory and not impressionist theory. This aesthetic heritage can be traced directly to the American Abstract influencers from pre-World War II and their experimentation with color applied as fields in design, as opposed to the blending of edges, primary and local color to create atmospherics in the Impressionist principle. (Google them. Great American painters). Susan beautifully marries the notion of painting en plein air – which is ostensibly impressionist in practice - with this color field idea.


Susan’s paintings are predominantly painted using gouache on paper, small in scale. However, I have seen larger paintings using oils and acrylics on canvas. Gouache is a water-based opaque medium. Think of it as water color only as a paste and the medium has the ability to be applied thickly as impasto. Her color is high in intensity, bright in chroma. True to her color field predilection, there is little blending of brushwork, nominal softening of edges. The brushwork is immediate and emergent. The brushstrokes are like individual lozenges of tone, value and color – this evokes an expressive quality to her image. The paintings are indeed pictorial – landscape, animals, sailboats, flower pots – but they are certainly not realistic. Susan’s paintings appear as if they were fun to paint…playful. They are certainly fun to look at…enjoyable. Channeling Ernest Hemmingway – Susan’s paintings evoke a “clean and well lighted place.”


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