Artist Susan Schiesser inside her studio in west Steamboat Springs. Schiesser has started painting using glitter in her work and has become involved in the nonprofit group Kids Matter International.

Photo by John F. Russell

Artist Susan Schiesser inside her studio in west Steamboat Springs. Schiesser has started painting using glitter in her work and has become involved in the nonprofit group Kids Matter International.

Painter expands style, uses work for humanitarian projects

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Paint tubes sit on a table in the middle of Susan Schiesser's studio in the Copper Ridge warehouse on the west side of Steamboat Springs. Schiesser has expanded her work with new paints, and she is branching into new media.

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A variety of brushes can be found in the studio of artist Susan Schiesser. The longtime Steamboat Springs artist never has to worry about needing just the right brush for the perfect job. These days, she is expanding her artwork with new paints.

On the 'Net

For more information about Steamboat Springs painter Susan Schiesser, or to view Schiesser's work, go to www.susanschiesse.... For more information about Kids Matter International, a nonprofit group Schiesser works with on Roatan, an island off Honduras, go to www.kidsmatterint...>

You could call it a glitter epidemic.

Last spring, Steamboat Springs studio painter Susan Schiesser bought a couple of tubes of colored glitter to decorate an egg she was painting for a fundraiser. It seemed like a reasonable embellishment.

Then, she started adding the sparkly pieces to glazes and paint hues on her larger oil works. Studio partner Monroe Hodder got a hold of a tube and threw its contents at one of her color-blocked paintings. Since then, the medium has appeared in several of Schiesser's pieces, mixed in with stripes of background color.

In a way, glitter marks a shift in the way Schiesser paints - she's not becoming Lisa Frank, but she is experimenting with using more paint and branching into new media.

Broadening the landscape

The pieces still qualify as landscapes - giving a tour of her Copper Ridge warehouse studio Wednesday morning, Schiesser said most of her work explores her relation to the environment, often employing more than one scene or memory to create works she said "appear tangled or complex - and, like life - offer interrupted views."

Until last year, Schiesser focused on collaged images, following several steps to get from what she could capture in a photo to what ended up on the canvas.

"I photograph, I print them, I rip them up into little pieces, then I assemble them, then I draw from the assemblage, then I paint from the drawing," Schiesser said. "In my mind, that keeps me away from painting from a photograph."

She moved away from that style after spending time on Roatan, an island off Honduras, where she worked at a beach house, volunteered with a dolphin pod at Anthony's Key, drew with local children and got to know local people.

Schiesser got involved with Kids Matter International, a Texas-based nonprofit group that is working to build a girls' home on Roatan, according

to the KMI Web site. She and artist Janice Lawrence hope to work with KMI by making artists' prints available for purchase from the nonprofits. The proceeds from those prints, minus material cost and shipping, would go to KMI, Schiesser said.

Ideally, that plan would be an arm of Visualize Results, an Internet company run by Lawrence that pairs artists with nonprofits.

"Basically, my idea is that we help make connections through the art community. : By getting artists to create an image that in an instant helps explain what it's all about, that helps them" draw attention to an issue, Lawrence said.

Bringing the outside in

Schiesser is working on about half a dozen new paintings that will go on the walls at a new restaurant in Santa Fe, N.M. Some of those works are started, some are close to completion, and all are scattered on easels inside her Steamboat Springs studio.

The scenes follow an aquatic theme, taking a cue from her Roatan-inspired series focusing on canoes. Schiesser loosely describes the style as a modern Western version of plein air painting, which she quickly points out as ironic - Schiesser hates painting outside.

"As a studio painter versus plein air, I find a daily walk with the dogs sufficient time to imprint a greater awareness of light and color and the shifting pattern of the natural scene. I take this memory of light patterns into the studio and use it to attain that rapid and broken brushwork so desired by the plein air painter," Schiesser wrote in an e-mail the day after she gave a tour of her studio.

"The separate dabs of color render the desired effects, and I'm quite happy painting indoors with my cadre of color-corrected light bulbs, not at all missing the dust, bugs, bears, wind and sunburn - plus I really hate dragging all of my equipment out in the woods only to find I've left my favorite Vasari Titanium White 20 miles back," she said.

A self-categorized contemporary realist, Schiesser names among her influences: French Fauvist Andre Derain, abstract painter Peter Doig and many Northern California abstract expressionist painters. She also draws from the work of the local artists who share her studio space: Monroe and Fred Hodder, Pat Walsh and Sierra Campbell.

"That works out great - except I had to install this ventilation system to suck all the bad air out," she said about sharing a large studio room with Monroe Hodder, pointing out all the fumes associated with the massive amounts of paint both artists use. Fred Hodder, Walsh and Campbell work across a small hallway in the same building.

The studio is open for visits by appointment, Schiesser said. Call 846-7879.

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