About the Artist: Susan Protsack
Susan Protsack is a mixed media artist based in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.
With a life-long practice of art, Susan possesses an impressive technical understanding of artistic applications across a multitude of mediums and materials. From photorealism drawing to sculpture, she's highly experimental and eager to develop and apply unconventional techniques to any project she's involved in.
Concept is important to Susan as an artist. Her exhibitions and works connect back to a greater meaning - nothing is just aesthetic. In a recent sculpture exhibition, Susan's presentation held meaning and intention across multiple considerations. It manifested not only in the sculptures, but also in lighting and sound (a composition by her son, cellist Nicholas Denton Protsack, and percussionist Andrew Stauffer), culminating in a space inviting emotional contemplation.
An artist willing to try it all, Susan is bursting with curiosity and an unhindered energy to create, invent, and inspire.
Blue Nude: When did your artistic journey begin - how did you discover your love of the arts?
Susan Protsack: I have been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. It felt natural to me, and even “necessary”- like something I had to do. In a way, I experienced it as an extension of who I was. I realize now that this is likely related to the condition of aphantasia. I didn’t learn I was affected by this neurological condition until quite late in life. Drawing, I understand now, was a way for me to manifest images I was unable to see in my mind’s eye.
As for art in general, I have always been drawn to it in its varied forms. I am thankful that my mother shares this interest as well. Even though I grew up in a fairly isolated, small town with limited opportunities to experience art in galleries or attend performances, my mother provided exposure to art to the degree she was able, and encouraged my artistic pursuits. Despite initially pursuing a degree and career that were unrelated to art, it has always been part of who I am and I knew instinctively it was something to which I would return.
BN: What artists are currently inspiring you?
SP: Always, always it is Isamu Noguchi whose work speaks to my heart. I don’t understand it, but there is something about his sculptures that immediately capture my eye, regardless of the medium of the work in or the theme.
Other favourite artists include early Kandinsky (approximately1940-45), Isaac Levitan, and Vincent van Gogh whose work I seem to appreciate more and more as time goes by.
BN: What themes do you like to explore with your art?
SP: Recurring themes that pervade most of my work regardless of the medium I’m working in are the ideas of freedom, transcendence, reinvention and hope.
BN: What is your favourite colour?
SP: I love colour and it speaks to me in different ways, so this is a difficult question to answer. Gold and azure are, for me, spiritual colours even though I’m not even sure what that means. I guess, to me, they are timeless and speak to my soul. While they are constants, with other colours I tend to go through stages with what appeals to me. My current colour crush is a palette of soft but vibrant tropical colours - if they are too harsh or bright they tend to lose their magic.
My all time favourite colour, however, is a certain shade of pink that I have only seen a handful of times in my life. It’s impossible to describe other than I know it when I see it. Every pink flower petal or shell gets scrutinized by me to see if it contains this sublime shade. Even though I am not the type of person who wears nail polish, if I ever find this shade of pink, I will scoop it up and paint my toenails as if they were exquisite shells.
BN: How does music play a role in your art? What are you currently listening to?
SP: Music is very meaningful to me and is an important part of my life. My musical taste is eclectic to say the least. With respect to art, it can fulfill different functions. I find it influences my work a great deal, especially with regard to painting. This is so much the case that if I do not want the music to influence my work, the only thing I can listen to is Bach’s Goldberg Variations. But it can’t be Glen Gould’s interpretations because I find the vocalizations he makes in his recordings to be extremely distracting when I am trying to paint.
Conversely, there are times when I totally want the music to influence my brushstrokes, composition and colour choices. For instance, I have a series of very large scale mixed media drawings based on different cities and they were created by channeling site specific music from those locales directly into the work. It could be described as a form of kinetic art that depends on motion in response to the music as a means of creating the different effects. It is similar to dancing but in this case it is the brush or drawing tool that is responding rhythmically and in spirit to the music.
BN: What is something unexpected that inspires you?
SP: Over time, I have come to identify certain elements that inspire and almost always show up somewhere in my works. These are the “Five C’s” of my personal inspiration and include: confluence which for me is the idea of disparate ideas coming together to create a new entity; coincidence & chance; and lastly, connectivity & commonalities between different things or people. Whether it’s sculpture or painting, you will find elements of these things working in tandem in virtually all of my work.
BN: How does the natural world inform your work?
SP: I was fortunate to have grown up in a place that was surrounded by woods and fields, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I spent many hours outdoors as a child and felt an affinity for nature that I would try to connect with, or even capture, through my drawings and art. This feeling has never left me and now many years later, I still find I must be surrounded by and immersed in the outdoors and natural light to be truly happy and inspired. There is a closeness to nature that results when trying to replicate its nuances through art.
BN: How have you found the process of creating art for textiles?
SP: What an exciting venture it has been - a totally new and unique experience for me. I particularly enjoyed the collaborative aspects. I tend to be impulsive and experimental when I work and am okay with letting the work unfold as if on its own volition. This doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the creative process when designing textiles where a certain amount of foresight and control are required to create an optimal end product. It was fascinating to gain insight into [Blue Nude's Creative Director] Katarina’s expertise and her interpretations and suggestions as to how to adapt the works for textiles.
BN: What advice would you offer to artists beginning their practice?
SP: There can be pressure on emerging artists to create their own distinct and identifiable style, while creating art that is socially meaningful or provocative. While there is nothing wrong with either of these, it can be limiting and lead to contrived and unoriginal art if it is done at the expense of following one’s own curiosity and interests. I would advise artists beginning their practice to remain flexible, follow their own dreams, to take advantage of opportunities that may come their way, and not be held back by other people’s expectations.
BN: What's next for you on your creative adventure?
SP: While my recent focus has been primarily on sculpture, I find myself thinking more about returning to painting and specific projects I’ve been putting on hold. For example, it’s been a long-held dream of mine to spend part of the year travelling to predetermined locations, immersing myself in local culture and creating plein-air paintings and field sketches of the surrounding area. Later, I would return to my studio home-base and spend part of the winter creating large, abstracted paintings inspired by the experience.
I am at an age and life-situation where I have obligations and responsibilities that often preclude me from participating in my art pursuits at the level I would like so it may temper my plans somewhat. But, as I’ve always experienced so far, art finds a way and I am confident that the right opportunities will present themselves at the right time.
'La Lueur', Blue Nude & Susan Protsack's exploration of light in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, is arriving spring 2023.
Susan's creative studio in Kelowna, Canada.