We are excited to announce the launch of our new Artist Spotlight, where we regularly feature a story or interview highlighting a local artist and member.
We are thrilled to introduce you to Susan Morris and share the interview we recently conducted. We learned a ton about her art, exciting upcoming projects, what inspires her, and maybe a little something you didn't know about this talented woman!
Q&A Interview November 2023
Q: How would you describe your current art and the path that brought you here?
Susan: "In a nutshell, ‘Constantly evolving!’ LOL!
"I am a colored pencil artist and absolutely fascinated by the medium. One of the things I really enjoy about my artwork is the opportunity to share my passion for colored pencils, which is still considered to be a relatively new medium in the art world but is beginning to gain recognition and acceptance as a fine art medium. In fact, International Artist magazine now has a section in their magazine dedicated to colored pencils. It is a challenging, intriguing, and changing medium as colored pencil artists explore the medium and test its boundaries. It seems that new techniques, ideas, and ways to use colored pencils come out frequently, keeping the medium fresh and exciting. It is totally different than the more traditional mediums.
"I love watching people’s reactions when I say that I am a colored pencil artist. Some get a look on their face that says they have no idea how to respond, and I can see them thinking, ‘Bless her heart’ – and any Southerner knows what that means. Some begin showing me their child/grandchild’s recent artwork, and others get a confused but interested look on their face. I quickly explain that I use artist-grade pencils, not Crayola’s, which seems to ease their mind a bit. I usually pull out a business card, flip it over to the mini gallery on the back, and watch as a surprised look spreads across their face, followed by - “That’s colored pencil?!?!”
"I love a good story and create works that tell a story. An example of this is my artwork titled “Dinnertime.” The story behind the artwork is that a rancher was short on hands when it came time to brand his cattle. Neighboring ranchers heard about his dilemma, left their own ranches, and came to help him get his cattle branded. The artwork shows the ranchers’ boots lined up on the front porch while inside for dinner. I felt the story behind the piece was a great portrayal of community and a reminder to help each other when we can.
"While I enjoy creating my own artwork, I have a passion for commissioned work, especially pet portraits. It is so rewarding when I can capture someone’s fur baby in such a way that it brings them comfort and joy.
"The journey over the last several years of watching my artwork develop and grow has also been a journey of faith and spiritual growth. I know I would not be here without God’s guidance and help. I know that my passion comes from Him. I like to say, “God does it, but He lets me hold the pencils.”"
Q: How long have you been doing art, and how did you get started?
Susan: "I’ve always enjoyed drawing and doodling through the years and was known to do so during class and on the back of church bulletins on Sunday mornings. My Mom was an artist and always wanted me to learn oils and acrylics. But I found that by the time I got all the liquids, jars, and everything else set up, I was ready to be done and move on to something else. And then there was the cleanup afterward. It was interesting, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
"Years later, I picked up a small set of Prismacolor pencils, a Walter Foster ‘How-To’ book, and I was hooked. There were few resources available at that time to learn about colored pencils as a fine art medium, and I became frustrated with not knowing how to capture the look and style that I wanted in my artwork. So, I put the pencils away and started making beaded jewelry for several years.
"Then, around 2017, I pulled the pencils back out and fell in love with them all over again. Information was available through the internet, and I was able to teach myself how to work with colored pencils. I remember telling my husband that this was what I wanted to do. Being the awesome and supportive man he is, he said, “Well, Babe, let’s make it happen.”
"I asked a friend if I could draw her golden retriever, and she readily agreed. I posted the drawing on Facebook, and someone asked if I would draw their pup for them. It grew from there."
Q: How does Winston-Salem inspire your art?
Susan: "Winston-Salem is such a beautiful city and has supported the arts. Being a native of the area, I have always found the community to be kind, supportive, and accepting of artists. Colored pencil is not a widely known medium in our area, so there is a growing interest in colored pencil as a fine art medium. And I love helping people learn more about the magic of colored pencils.
Q: How long have you been an Associated Artists of Winston-Salem member, and why have you stayed involved?
Susan: "I’ve been a member of AAWS for a couple of years now. It is a really great group of artists who support one another. We all have our support network, friends, and family, but it is so encouraging to be able to connect with other artists who can identify and relate to your art journey. There are many opportunities to get to know other artists in the community, learn about different mediums, and participate in exhibits and shows.
"Being an artist working alone in your studio can sometimes be very isolating. While that is how I prefer to work, it is wonderful to have an encouraging group to connect with who are passionate about their art."
Q: What's next?
Susan: "A lot is going on at the moment, and there are a lot of opportunities ahead.
"People are surprised to learn that there is a national society specifically for colored pencils that focuses on and supports colored pencil artists. The Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA) sets the standards for colored pencils as a fine art medium. There are District Chapters (DC) throughout the USA, and the North Carolina chapter is in Raleigh. The Raleigh chapter is an awesome group with many educational and exhibit opportunities, but it is a bit far away.
"So, I contacted CPSA and asked if there were plans to start a DC in the Winston-Salem area. They said they would love to have a chapter for the Winston-Salem area that would be a home for colored pencil artists in that area and western North Carolina.
"The first step is to see how many colored pencil artists are out there and interested in being a part of a District Chapter. Close to 20 people came to our first meeting in November. We decided to call ourselves the 'Colored Pencil Explorers'. We decided to meet on the second Saturday of each month.
"Our next meeting is Saturday, December 9th, from 1:30 - 3:30 pm. Everyone who enjoys working with colored pencils is invited to come and bring whatever they are working on. It will be a fantastic opportunity to meet other colored pencil enthusiasts. It is free, but I ask people to register by email (email@example.com) so I can make sure there is room for everyone.
"Regarding other things that are going on, I am teaching now. I am a grateful recipient of a grant from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem, which allowed me to purchase the equipment needed to teach in-person and online classes. I taught my first class in Spring of 2023 and have absolutely loved every moment!
"Usually, when people think of colored pencils, they think of adult coloring books or something their child drew. It is so exciting to share with others the full capabilities of colored pencils. The reward is watching others catch the ‘colored pencil fever.’
"I jokingly say that I started teaching because my friends and family are tired of hearing about colored pencils, and I wanted to find others to talk to about them. LOL. But at the heart of it, this medium is one of the most fascinating and challenging mediums I have ever tried. I am also working on developing tutorials that will be offered online. Hopefully, the first one will launch in Spring 2024.
"I will also be hosting an Open Draw group in December. This will be a time for any colored pencil artist to bring whatever they are working on and hang out in a relaxed environment. One of the great things about colored pencils is that they are easily portable. It is also inspiring to see what others are working on and how they approach their pieces.
"Another one of my passions is commissioned drawings. I absolutely love capturing someone’s special moments and memories in a way that lasts for years to come. I specialize in pet portraits and have found them so rewarding, especially the memorial portraits.
"I had the opportunity to illustrate a couple of children’s books last year and hope there will be more in 2024. I have also written several step-by-step tutorials that have been published in Ann Kullberg’s COLOR Magazine and, most recently, contributed a chapter to a book titled “DRAW Dogs in Colored Pencil,” published by Ann Kullberg and released in May 2023. I enjoyed those projects immensely and hope there will be more in the near future."
Q: Can you share one random fact about you that might surprise people?
Susan: "One random fact… I guess that would have to be that I was once a live mannequin for a store at Hanes Mall. This was when I was in high school, and the store wanted to promote their prom dresses. Another friend and I spent a Saturday afternoon standing in the store window modeling the dresses. Watching people’s reactions when we moved was such a hoot."
If you wish to learn more about what Susan is working on, you can visit her website, follow her on Facebook, or even sign up for a class with her!