Suzie Baker is a landscape, portrait, still life, and plein air painter based near Houston, Texas. She will be a 2018 Yellowstone Artist-in-Residence, living and working in Yellowstone National Park from June 3 through June 10, 2018.
We recently asked Baker about her working style, especially her preference for plein air painting, and what she is looking forward to during her residency in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone Forever: What originally attracted you to plein air painting?
Suzie Baker: I have been painting outdoors since I was a teenager. There is no substitute for painting from life. The color and values that are before me on location can not be easily duplicated in a photograph to be painted later. It is such an honor to stand in a place for so long that you feel like you are not just blowing by, but grounded to a location. I can recall the sounds, smells, and emotion of the time and place. Boy, am I blessed to do what I do!
YF: How do you go about choosing your exact location when you paint outdoors?
SB: My habit when painting is to have a loose plan in mind of when, where, and what I want to paint. I hold that idea with an open hand, though, to allow inspiration to slip in unexpectedly. Any plan can be delightfully knocked off course with an unexpected view or “Whoa! Look at that,” epiphany.
YF: How has Yellowstone, or other national parks, influenced you as an artist?
SB: I feel profoundly grateful to be alive on this planet in such a time as this. I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before me to make accessible and preserve our treasured, beautiful, awe-provoking national parks. There is an inspired reverence to behold the Grand Canyon, the red cliffs of Zion, the multi-colored mineral variety of Yellowstone’s pools and formations. I only hope that I can translate a portion of that reverence to my canvases.
YF: What subjects or areas of Yellowstone are you most interested in painting?
SB: I plan to follow my mode of subject-finding that I mentioned. I’m sure I will paint in the expected places…Old Faithful, the Upper and Lower Falls, etc., but I will be expectantly waiting to get delightfully diverted, too.
YF: You have participated as an artist in many plein air festivals around the country, and will be a featured artist at the Yellowstone Plein Air Invitational. What is your favorite part about painting at one of these events?
SB: I love engaging with people as I paint. Plein air painting holds the unique distinction of connecting the public to the artwork and artists in a way that few other forms of painting do. They feel part of the painting, they are part of the story…“I was there,” “We hiked that trail,” “We spoke to the artist as she painted that!” It can be compared to actually going to Yellowstone; hiking it, smelling it, and eating the ice cream at Old Faithful as opposed to looking at photos. Experiencing it first-hand makes all the difference in the world.
The Yellowstone Artists-in-Residence Program is sponsored by Yellowstone Forever. Learn more about the program and view Suzie Baker’s Yellowstone schedule at Yellowstone.org/art.
Learn more about Suzie Baker and her work.
Images, top to bottom: Spring Waterfall by Suzie Baker, oil on linen; Still Waters by Suzie Baker, oil on linen.