Monday, May 4, 2020

Sue Beatrice, an artist for the ages

Originally published in la Vie Sirene in June 2013. Since that time, artist Sue Beatrice has gotten involved in a variety of new media in big ways. In so doing, she's become one of the pre-eminent pumpkin carvers and sand sculptors in the world. The following show where she was when we originally interviewed her 7 years back:

Visit Sue's All Natural Arts page 
on Facebook to enjoy a few moments of bliss
"What are you good at?"

Thankfully, when most of us are asked that question, some skill or activity springs to mind.  Not just something that we love doing, but that we take pride in as well.  Such is the case on the popular reality show, Hell's Kitchen, where cooks and chefs compete for the chance to be rewarded for their undying passion, cooking.  Nearly every contestant has a moment or two on camera explaining how great their food is and that they have what it takes to win the competition and they know it!  Much of the rest of the show is spent showing the grossly improperly cooked food they pass along to Chef Ramsay as being suitable for gourmand consumption... as he makes plain in no uncertain terms.  It's enough to make one doubt the abilities of even the most competent, if not oneself.

On the other end of the spectrum are people like New Jersey artist Sue Beatrice of All Natural Arts.  Looking more like a model than a painter, Sue is as genial as she is talented.  Plus, she loves the sea, fantasy, Steampunk and most important, mermaids.  Her work is full of humor, intense passion, creativity, and an unfair amount of talent.

Being that I know and adore her, I asked her some rather pointed questions, to which she candidly responded.  What you will see below is a minute but representative sampling of the scope of her work.  Each piece is a bit of brilliance in its own right.

Starting with the basics, how did you first get into art, on a professional level?

I'm not certain when I officially crossed the line into being a "professional" artist. I was always selling hand painted items and drawings or making items to give as gifts, even in elementary school. I recall having a table at a local park to sell my pastels and painted rocks to raise money for a local animal shelter at the age of 10. I didn't sell much but it was fun regardless.

At 14 I had a show at a large local bank and that exposure led to an opportunity to put my works on display in the Congressional Offices in DC. The show was all 2D stuff, paintings, scratchboard, pen and ink, and it was up for a year.

My first real job was with an advertising firm at age 16. I learned a lot there but most of the tools were outdated even for the time ('78) The owner preferred old school methods such as mounting images using a hot wax roller, ruling pens dipped in ink and rapidographs for precise line art. All type was set by hand.

At 18 I went to work as a sculptor for The Franklin Mint in their metals division. My print instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was married to the head of the sculpture department there and showed him some of my work. I was given a few test pieces and hired full time shortly thereafter. I left the Academy at that point figuring that on-the-job training was preferable to paying for classes.
Mermaid painted on sea glass

Getting to know you on Facebook I've found you to be incredibly modest about your achievements. But I'm calling you on the carpet today and asking you to divulge a bit about some of the high-profile projects and companies you've worked for.

Thank you. I guess the first big project I worked on was shortly after leaving the Franklin Mint to start my own company. My first client was a company called Butterfly Originals (it later became Panosh Place). Cabbage Patch Kids had just hit the market and I was asked to create small figurines of them. It turned into over three hundred and they were very popular. More recently I enjoyed working on a series of Harry Potter characters.

I've had the opportunity to work on some fun projects with Disney over the years. My favorites were the Disneyanna Convention Villains pieces and some large mantle clocks. I've worked on hundreds, maybe even thousands of Disney characters for all types of products. Over the years my clients have included Warner Bros., Waterford Crystal, Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, Danbury Mint, Crayola, and many other well known companies.

Unfortunately, some of my most high profile creations have non-disclosure contracts that don't allow me to comment on them. These days I gain the most pleasure from my own creations that are not commissioned by corporations. Items such as my pocket watch sculptures and digital paintings allow me far more freedom to express myself than working on commercial licensed characters.
Sue tries her hand at the digital arts—this piece is my personal favorite 

You are versed in so many media. Do you have favorites?

I really enjoy using a variety of materials from sand and pumpkins to carving wax and plaster. I also like working both directly on paper or canvas and creating art in Photoshop. Every form of art has it own set of advantages and disadvantages, yet the same rules of composition and form apply. It's hard for me to pick a favorite since whatever I happen to be using at the time might be my favorite at that moment.
Wondrous watercolor

What is the most difficult piece you ever worked on and how long did it take?

I recall working for several weeks on a centerpiece for the tables for Disney Cruise lines. It was an electrified Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast. I found it challenging due to the thin arms that had to support large "hands" at the ends and keeping everything hollow for the wiring. I was new to moldmaking at that point and there was only the one good copy that I had dremeled out to make hollow. It was crushed on the conveyor belt by the delivery service unfortunately. Since then I have made an effort to mold everything and take LOTS of photos before packing things up.
I'm thinking Narnia, here
Pan, Wendy and the boys soaring over London
on an ostrich egg
Do you see any trends or changes in the business of art?

Sadly, I see commercial sculpture as a dying art. Architectural sculpture is also nearly extinct. Fine art will always have a place but the mass production of art items has skewed the public's sense of value. Some of the most talented artists I know are struggling to make a living. There doesn't seem to be an appreciation of what goes into a finished piece of original art and many people can't differentiate what constitutes a high quality painting or sculpture. Of course, with the economy still sluggish, even those who do often can't afford to make purchases.
Her first attempt at sand sculpting
Looks like she got the hang of it

One of her latest carvings
How has the computer era affected you and your art?

Programs that allow a user to create a virtual 3D model which is then printed out have certainly reduced the need for sculptors but the process is often costly and the finished product often does not have the same spark of life that a hand sculpted model has. Of course the advantages are that the printout can be made any size and emailed to any location with 3D printing capabilites so it doesn't require shipping. I have lost more work to factories in China than to computers. I've yet to jump on the bandwagon with that though. I still prefer the tactile feel of materials in my hands. I use photoshop to paint at times and I do enjoy the fact that the paint doesn't get all over my clothes that way!

The advent of video games reduced the number of toy companies requiring models. So, in reality, the computer age diminished the number of sculptors in the field long before CAD programs were a factor.
Wondrousness in the planning stages
A steam-powered fairy?

Are there any sorts of projects you've been dying to do but haven't yet been able?

Mostly I just want to find the time to complete all of the half-finished projects and ideas buzzing around in my head. There are a million things I want to do in so many media and scales. I just hope I live long enough to do them all! Scratch that... there will always be more than one lifetime could hold. That's the beauty of art. You never run out of it.
Talk about a great pumpkin!

Do you have any advice for young talents looking to make a career in art?

Yes. Be fearless. If your art comes from your soul, people will feel that in it and it will resonate with them. Don't worry too much about what other people are doing or what you think is "normal" or traditional. If you get too comfortable with a style or medium, switch it up, keep it fresh. Do something else for a while and the creativity will flow. Be wary of safe choices that promise money but not fulfillment.

Try not to faint.
It's carved chocolate!!!
Click here to visit Sue's blogsite