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Tell us about yourself.

I was born in the Queens, NYC and grew up in Massachusetts, the youngest of four kids. We had a cottage on the beach and being the last of four in the 70’s I was left to my own devices much of the time. My surroundings; the beach, the ocean, the fish, and the shells became my world. I went to Regis College, at first intending to be a veterinarian but after taking a few art classes, I just fell in love with art. I moved to NY and became an Art Director. I loved the creativity, the photo shoots, working with illustrators, putting the package together. After about 10 years I left publishing to start my family, and to fulfill my creative desire I started painting.

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Besides making art, what do you do, do you have a day job? 

I am freelance book designer. I am currently working on a very interesting survey of LaSalle Military Academy from beginning to end. I’m writing and illustrating a children’s book which are stories I’ve told my kids for years. I’m also running a variety of art workshops for kids at the Westchester Library System. Next month we will be doing claymation for black history month. They have to come up with ideas to explain famous people in black history using crazy art supplies and claymation. I create a very cool environment for them to work in.

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Where does your inspiration come from?  Is there anything you are looking at that particularly speaks to you?

Nature and the awesomeness that surrounds us. Every leaf and every face is original and it just blows me away.

How would you describe your creative process?

It evolves and changes. I add false structure, such as restrictions of the series. Sometimes I have natural restrictions like when my kids were younger I had only a window of 2 hours in the day to paint. This forced me to paint in a compressed way, thinking about the painting for days and then painting quickly and intensely. I was drawn to the vitality if the fishes eye. I was thinking about the fish and the moment and I started painted them directly. I did a series of 15 fish paintings. My next series was 20 portraits. Again I painted what I saw, not what I thought I should see. They are very intense and wild. I have just finished a series of 100 broken shells, that project is about how everything is broken and nothing is perfect. It kept me painting intensely for over a year.

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How do you get out of your creative blocks?

I know the work is in there. I just wait, something is percolating and then it comes out.

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 If you could visit the studio of any artist or designer, who would it be?

I’d love to talk to Alice Neel, visit her mess of an apartment and talk to her. I always felt like I’d get along with Cezanne, he was at the beginning of cubism and he had such a strong personality. I love Rothko. I’d love to see how he paints and how he perfected modern art. But really, I’d rather be a fly on the wall and just see them at work.

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

Originality is one of those funny things. Try not to feel the pressure of trying to be like everyone else, it’s the most unoriginal thing you could do. Originality comes from within and no one can give that to you.

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How do you balance work and family?

Creativity is a whole package with me and my family. When the kids had art projects we worked on them together. They help me think up art workshops, sometimes they help me give the workshops. It all blends together.  As a freelancer, I’ve been able to be home. It’s not easy making ends meet but really, the kids just want me there.

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Do you have any main goals for now or the future?

My main goal for this year is to find my way emotionally and spiritually back into portraits which is a very intense hard thing for me to do. I would like to paint twenty by the end of the year. In 10 years I’d like to have a giant thriving studio. If my work continues to grow exponentially, as it is now, I’ll be happy.

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Do you have a website?

susanordahl.com

Do you have any upcoming shows?

Yes, at the Irvington Public Library which opened January 2013 and has been extended until the end of March 2013.  The End of One Hundred Broken Shells, Metaphor, and Muses.

Thanks so much Susan, It was wonderful talking with you!

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