I’ve known about Susie’s illustrations since 2003, which was when I was first introduced to the handmade community. Since then I’ve seen countless shops closed down which made me very sad, but Susie is going strong and growing like there’s no tomorrow. Needless to say, she’s one of my heroes and is also a big reason why I love illustration (although I never quite put a finger on it back then!)
Name: Susie Ghahremani
Location: my sofa, my house, Normal Heights, San Diego, CA, USA, world, universe
boygirlparty.etsy.com (other shop)
Illustration media: gouache usually. and sometimes ink, and sometimes Y
Tell us a little more about yourself!
I’m a painter of tiny paintings and keeper of tiny pet finches. I’m from chicago originally, and miss the flatness of the midwest. i also miss being bored and feeling like summers & vacations are too long, instead of too short as i do now.
Could you tell us what is your daily schedule like?
It truly depends on my level of motivation. sometimes I hop out of bed, put on a pot of coffee and do nothing but paint from 7am – 1am. some days, not so much. I’ve been trying to go with the flow more lately, instead of forcing myself to work, sweatshop-style, as i have in the past. Some days I wake up and go exercise for a couple hours, just so i can remember what it feels like to move. And then I paint, or respond to the insurmountable email pile, or excitedly design new products for my shop, or maybe read a chapter in a book, or watch a documentary about pale male…. the benefit to being self-employed is that you get to make your own schedule! but the downfall is that at some point, inevitably, you have to become that sweatshop i referred to earlier.
How did you get your start in illustration?
I played music in a few bands, and used to book a few shows around Providence, RI (my former home) and so I would illustrate posters, t-shirts, pinback buttons… I built a website to share my work back around 2001 or so, and word of mouth brought me some commercial work.
Could you tell us more about your thought process when you start a piece?
Depends on the piece, if it’s just for fun, i usually start by mixing colors. a certain color can remind you of a time, a place, a memory, and give you a foundation for an imagined world.
For commercial work, i always seem to start with reading: reading the article, reading the book, or reading the art director’s brief, and moving from there to many rounds of sketching, and from there, to a careful, calculated final piece in which i already know where every line and every color is going to be.
Such different processes!
Do you keep a journal/sketchbook, and would you mind if we had a sneak peek?
I try to throw a mini-sketchbook in all my bags so i always have one on hand. i don’t think of them as anything worth seeing, usually i just draw whatever’s around, like salt and pepper shakers on the table at a restaurant – and i often lose and misplace them. sometimes i find the book format restricting and end up tearing pages out (see attached photo). sometimes i just draw on computer paper. and when i write, i do so in my owl journal that chronicle books published (and i illustrated)
What or who inspires you?
Nature is always inspiring to me: whether it’s a walk in the woods, or watching close-up as a ladybug purposefully climbs around a leaf. i always feel a surge of inspiration after spending time outdoors, especially if it’s a place i’ve never been before where i can tune in surprised at everything i see. i recommend going out on a rowboat on a quiet lake for a few hours and see if you don’t agree!
also: polaroids and analog photography! the colors are always so unexpected. i could look at & enjoy photography (like lomography & cross-processed photos) for hours, days, years. also: vintage children’s books, letters from penpals, old timey cartoons (like ‘flip the frog’),…
What keeps you motivated?
An exciting idea i can’t wait to execute, or fresh art supplies! new supplies always make me want to use them, and if i’m having a hard time getting started on a project i have to do, sometimes the greatest remedy is to get a new paintbrush or a fresh block of wood to paint on so i become excited again about the act of painting.
lately i’ve been struggling a lot with motivation, and it’s helped me as well to just play with my work: doodle a little or a lot for no reason at all, motivation to get started on something i ‘have’ to do comes naturally once i’m on a roll!
What’s your favourite tool?
Opposable thumbs, or a 10/0 liner paintbrush, or the internet – the internet is the reason why i get to be a painter instead of, like, a video store clerk. (no diss to video store clerks intended)
Are you a full-time artist?
What advice would you like to give people who are interested in being an artist full-time?
Know who you are & what your work feels like before you jump in! i see many young artists trying to follow in other established artists styles and what not, and it’s just very sad to see for all involved. also, be very good at managing your time! being self-employed requires extreme commitment and self-motivation and managing your time is the key to all that i think.
Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
Honestly, i’m not sure! i’d like to be more free: traveling some (my last vacation was for a week in 2007) and painting just to paint, not for a deadline or show in mind… i’m getting married this october, so i guess within the next few years, i will be living the probably-not-any-different-than-my-life-now married life!
You’ve been doing this for a long time now – are there any issues in the crafting/art community that you feel strongly about?
Artists hurt each other and their community by failing to be creative, original and personal. art is all about offering a piece of yourself to the world, not what you think could make you successful…right?
What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
A website that wrote about my work a while ago (i forget which one) said this about my work & what they think i must think & i agree:
“‘sup, ma: i love the environment!”
Tell us something random about yourself!
I’m 5’2” and ate only pb&j for all meals during my childhood.
Susie is now running a special promotion in both her shops to celebrate her birthday! Orders placed now through Friday, May 29th will be entered in a raffle to win a $25 gift certificate, and the winner will be notified by Sunday, May 31st which is her birthday!
She’ll also be in Marichelle of Heart Handmade’s Shop Live 30-Minute Sale on Thursday 28th at 7pm EST. I’ll be popping in to see what I can snap up, so I hope to see you there! 😉