A visit with Scott Burdick and Susan Lyon at their studios in Quaker Gap, NC
Interview by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Alan Calhoun
This story was featured in the February 2013 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art February 2013 print edition, or download the Southwest Art February 2013 issue now…Or just subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
Describe your studios.Scott: When we bought our house 17 years ago, what became my studio was used as a simple wood workshop. I added insulation, heat, doors, and lighting to convert it into a studio, but it still isn’t ideal. A few times I’ve been on the verge of building a large new studio with high ceilings and north-light skylights, but I have always held off since this simple space really works fine for me, and I guess I’d rather spend all that time painting and traveling than dealing with a construction project. On the practical side, everything is on wheels, so I can quickly rearrange things when I have a model. I’ve got swinging light mounts on the rafters, as well as lights that can be mounted on stands. Gym mats help my legs when standing all day. Susan: My studio is 20 by 24 feet with a large north-light window. I painted the walls a dark, warm green so I wouldn’t get any glare on my paintings. That color really complements figure and portrait models.
Did you consider sharing a studio? Scott: Susan and I paint models a few times a week in a group session. But both of us really need our own environment when concentrating on studio painting. I like painting with other people on trips and occasionally in my studio, but for the most part, painting is an intensely personal and individual effort that requires some isolation to really explore one’s own thoughts and direction. Susan: We did not consider sharing a studio. We both like privacy and to listen to different radio programs and books on tape. I love to paint with others, but I also need to have that intimate setting when I am working on studio pieces.
Do you critique each other’s works? Scott: While we will occasionally critique each other’s paintings as they near completion, it’s pretty difficult to do so while one is working because you can’t see the vision the other person has in mind. Mostly I just watch Susan’s paintings take shape with amazement at her unique viewpoint. To interrupt that with my interpretation would only be to throw her off the course she has in mind.
Do your surroundings influence your work? Scott: The influence certainly shows up in some of my subject matter, but probably the most profound influence has been the immersion into a culture that is so completely different from the one I grew up in, in Chicago. Having a close-up view into the Southern history, religious traditions, and outlook on the world has broadened my own understanding of humanity in general. I have to reassess my own cultural assumptions and think deeply on many issues I’d never even considered before moving here. Susan: We live in a rural area north of Winston-Salem, NC. Maybe it’s just that the laid-back atmosphere has brought peace to my lifestyle.
What do you keep in your studio? Scott: Mostly my studio contains the raw materials of a painter. I have a couple of prints by Fechin and Sargent on my walls, but most of the works we’ve collected by other artists are hung in our house. Susan: I have lots of art books and some still-life objects stored in my studio. I keep frames and older sketches in racks. I also have some of my original paintings and ones of me by artists like Richard Schmid, Dan Gerhartz, and Rose Frantzen.
What do you listen to while you work?Scott: Occasionally I will put on music in my studio, especially if I have a model posing, but I mostly listen to audio books or podcasts. I am a bookaholic, and I always have a book I’m listening to while painting and a book I’m reading when I’m not painting. I can often remember what I was listening to when I painted a certain painting. Susan: I listen to books on tape (my favorite are old classics) or podcasts. I especially love podcasts from the CBC and BBC.
If your studio were on fire, what is the one thing you would save? Susan: I would save any of the paintings I was working on, and then I would grab the paintings of me by my favorite artists.
Sylvan Gallery, Charleston, SC; Sage Creek Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; InSight Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX; Germanton Gallery, Germanton, NC; Wilcox Gallery, Jackson, WY (Scott only); www.scottburdick.com.
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