Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Painting Parent - Suzanne Lago Arthur

 Todays Painting Parent is Suzanne Lago Arthur.  She is a professional portrait painter working out of the Northern Virgina area. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally in such venues as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, The Museum of the Americas, Washington DC, EuroAmerica Galleries, SoHo, NYC, and The United States Special Interests Section, Havana, Cuba. In addition to portraiture, she also paints still life, figurative and landscape paintings and teaches classes for youth and adults. She is a copyist at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.


How many children do you have? What are their ages?
I have one child who recently turned 8 and will be going into 2nd grade.

How did your artistic career begin?
So far I've had two stages of my artistic career. The first was right after graduation from the Corcoran College of Art + Design during which time I exhibited my mostly figurative, magic realism work in galleries and museums in the Washington DC area such as the Cocoran Gallery, the Museum of the America's, and also in Havana Cuba. 
The second phase has been post marriage, motherhood, a Master’s degree and after a slight detour working professionally as an exhibit/graphic designer. During this second stage I have re-dedicated myself to the craft of painting and pursuing realism. I now mostly dedicate my time to portrait commissions although I have begun to explore painting still life. 

What is your Parenting/work/art situation?
I am the primary care giver to our son Mon - Fri. This has meant that I have had to be flexible with my studio time. When our son was younger I painted during the evenings after my husband came home from work to relieve me of my parenting "shift". Often times I painted for only an hour at a time, whatever time I could scrape together. But it is in this manner that I have I re-built my art career. 
I should also mention that I teach both children and adults out of my studio 3 days a week.

When do you make time to do your art and do you have a regular art routine?
My current routine comprises of getting up between 5:00 - 6:00 am and being in the studio an hour later by 6:00 or 7:00 am. It has allowed me to get a good 3 - 4 hours of painting uninterrupted while my son is on summer break. By the time he is really up and complaining of being "bored", I am done with my work for the day. But I will add that it has been difficult to maintain the consistency of daily studio work during the lazy summer months. 

 Does your son get involved with your art?
No way! I paint in oils and I don't want him even touching my equipment. I am very concerned about the toxicity they contain. However, when I am painting he is allowed and encouraged to come in and paint alongside me on his own projects, in watercolor or acrylic. He wears gloves just like his Mama when he paints (totally his idea ;).

 Does he inspire aspects of your art?
He inspires everything I do and has been the subject of several paintings including "Independence Day" which captures the awe of encountering his first sparkler. I am fascinated by the idea of suspending time and secretly believe that documenting his growth and his self-discovery in my paintings will in effect keep him young forever. Mine forever, I guess.
How does making time for artwork influence other household tasks?
Well it has made me more patient for one and I see/experience time much more in terms of the long term since I don't feel particularly in control of the daily schedule. I am the zig to my family's zag. When there is a shortfall in anything I fulfill it. Also I will confess here that I don't always keep the cleanest house these days. 

Have different ages of your children been more difficult to make time for artwork and in which ways?
I would say now that he is 8 we are closer than ever to hitting that "sweet spot",  that balance of having his company while still getting things done in the studio. He is pretty much self-sufficient and interrupts me a lot less than he used to during my studio time.

 How do you encourage your son to be artistic?
My son has had a hard bound sketch book since he was 3. Every year he gets a new one in his stocking for Christmas. I try and carry it around everywhere in my purse. He works on it when we are at appointments and at restaurants etc. When he comes up with his bright inventions (which he does all the time) I encourage him to draw them out. He also spends hours every day building his own little worlds made out of Legos. 

Do you feel extra pressure as an artist to raise your son to be artistic?
No, I feel more pressure to make him bilingual to honor his maternal roots as a Cuban-American. And because I am an artist who also teaches art, I know that I can teach anyone to have good skill artistically speaking. However, having that drive to pursue it professionally is another matter entirely. If he wants to be an artist, he simply will become one. 
In what ways does being an artist make being a parent harder or easier?

Hmm, that is a great question. I guess I am often a little too serious when it comes to art making. We don't spend much time making crafts for instance. I think in that regard I could and should loosen up a bit.
Do you think being a parent affects the way you are perceived as an artist?
I have not encountered any stigma attached to being a parent and an artist. I will say however that I think we artists who are also mothers can at times be too hard on ourselves. I expect my career to grow at the same rate as my child. It is difficult to pursue both professions at the same time--that of being a mother/primary care giver and that of being an artist. I would much rather fail at the latter attempt than the former and with any luck history will see me as having been great at both.


1 comment:

  1. wonderful article! Suzanne is an amazing nice to learn more about her.