Susan Lyon - Don't Be Your Biggest Collector
The BoldBrush Show: Episode #40
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On this episode, we interviewed Susan Lyon, a figurative artist based in North Carolina who paints in a realist manner with a splash of impressionist colors. We discuss the importance of using references as a tool, tips on creating your own references, the reality of making money as an artist and pricing your work appropriately, and the joy of paying it forward by teaching others through workshops, YouTube, and her Patreon. We also discuss her participation in the upcoming Prix de West which is an art show run by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and Susan's upcoming workshops.
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Susan Lyon: 0:00
You should not be your own biggest collector, like you should set price to sell.Then when you have multiple people who want to buy this,that's when you know your prices should go up. If you do not have multiple people wanting to buy this image, then you you know,it's then your prices are probably too high. And it's all about supply and demand. I mean,we're not, there's not a guarantee that you will ever sell another painting ever.
Laura Arango Baier: 0:29
Welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Laura Arango Baier, and I'm your host.But those of you who are new to the podcast, we're a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their careers, as well as others who are in careers tied to the art world in order to hear their advice and insights. On this episode, we interviewed Susan Lyon, a figurative artist based in North Carolina, who paints in a realistic manner with a splash of Impressionist colors. We discussed the importance of using references as a tool tips on creating your own references the reality of making money as an artist and pricing your work appropriately, and the joy of paying it forward by teaching others through workshops,YouTube, and her Patreon. We also discuss her participation in the upcoming preta West,which is an art show run by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. And Susan's upcoming workshops. Awesome. Well,welcome, Susan to the BoldBrush show. How are you today?
Susan Lyon: 1:32
I'm doing good. So nice to meet you. Glad to be here. I'm glad BoldBrush just started this, I think that this is a future where using technology to meet people. Why not? Right? It's great. .
Laura Arango Baier: 1:43
Yeah, and to connect with other artists and hear their perspectives because I was watching your YouTube video on the portrait society. I thought it was so cool. And I love that I knew a bunch of the faces that were there are like a lot of the names, you know, they they bounced around really often within the realism world. And I think that's so awesome. Like,you know, with the podcast, we can like, we can connect with all of these people and hear their amazing advice and hear about their interesting lives because I think every single person I've talked to has had such a different path. And it's so fascinating to share it.Which brings me to can you tell us a little bit about you and your work? And we are?
Susan Lyon: 2:28
Gosh, that is so many questions. So I'm Susan Lyon and I live in North Carolina and I'm married to an artist named Scott Burdick, I grew up pretty much Chicago,just on the border of Chicago and went to art school at the American Academy of Art. It was a technical school, it was an illustration school, which meant that you didn't do book stuff.You didn't take math or history.It was primarily for illustrators or graphic artists.And my father just happened to know what teacher there because I've never even heard of that school before. So I went there after high school. And that's where I had heard about my husband, Scott. And also about like Richard Schmid. And so it just, you know, that kind of realism, I guess that sort of romantic realism was really big at that school, it happened just pretty much because Richard had moved back to Chicago. So then a lot of young artists were following him and painting with him. And so that's my very first influences is kind of that type of art. And I know, it's always an interesting conversation to talk to people about their first influences, because that tends to stick with you unless you completely do a 180. But it's like, who first introduces you to art is what kind of is like that first kernel, that first seed that kind of forms everything. And that's what was mine. Kind of meeting artists like that, who were doing very sort of, I would say, you know,romantic, heavily influenced on beauty, not so much... Story,not so much. Trying to do anything political. It was all.So I remember you would ask me some questions about is beauty important in my art? And I would say so. I just didn't have those early influences of more immediate people saying you have to tell a story or it has to,like, push people or make people think so that wasn't my first influences. But um, my husband and I do a lot of figurative work and we travel a lot and teach. So that is pretty much who I am right now.
Laura Arango Baier: 4:48
Beautiful.Yeah. And it seems like you you both really enjoy traveling and also meeting new people and, you know, just being exposed to other I guess other parts of the art world because I know you're also, you also told me that you're part of the or you want to mention the the preta preta West, which I think I had never heard of before. And I didn't know.
Susan Lyon: 5:12
There you go. That's so fascinating. We, you know,the art world is small but also gigantic. So there's many artists that I've not met or shows or styles. The preta West is an interesting show. So we,my husband, and I got introduced to it pretty much through this mentor Richard Schmidt, because in the 60s and 70s, and 80s, it was really hard for artists to sell work that was representational. And the only artwork that was kind of making money was Western art. And so it was like completely nothing that we did. It was like, oh, okay,you know, but a lot of like the history of Western art in the US, I'm not an expert, but it really kind of started with all those big time illustrators that were in the US in the 20s 30s40s, that are famous. And then they all kind of went out west.So a lot of them all moved to Taos, New Mexico, or California,or just moved out west, and started painting outdoors and started painting people there.And so then when they were doing it, it was new, it was sort of exotic, it was you learning about a new culture.But now, you know, it's just,it's almost like the status. I mean, it's the most expensive,realistic art in the US is Western art. And it's shocking,but it is. And it is a show in Oklahoma called the preta West at the Hellboy, and Western Heritage Museum. And it's a huge show every year. And so yeah,that's a big show that we go to every year. And we just gotten I don't do Western art. So we're kind of like, sort of, like,teetering between, like, being in the show. And also like pushing the boundaries so that we don't just paint cowboys on horses. But um, there's so much different art shows out there. I mean, I'd have to say the preta West is probably the biggest art show in the country. Yeah, I
Laura Arango Baier: 7:23
would agree with that. After researching, I was like, wow, this is insanely lucrative, like this is yes. Run by the cowboy Museum, which I didn't even know existed. And I'm, like, blown away.
Susan Lyon: 7:34
Reason why you should. It's in Oklahoma City.But there's all kinds of shows that sort of are out west and our auctions and it's, and yeah,I mean, ya know, there's a whole kind of side of art where it is about Americana, telling stories of the American West. I know,it's every time I tell people that I go to Oklahoma every June it is sort of like, Oh, that's interesting. Like, yeah, I think so too. It's so interesting why I go to home every year. But um,yeah, so. Yeah,
Laura Arango Baier: 8:07
yeah. And then, just to go back to earlier, I did want to ask you as well, since you studied, you know, at a technical school,basically, what was that transition, like for you, from students to full fledged artists, you know, living from their work? What was that? Like?
Susan Lyon: 8:28
That is such a great question. And I'd have to say that it was probably easier for me, and especially back then,because this was the 90s they're just Okay, so one thing that just wasn't as many artists, I mean, there literally just was not as many artists out there.Secondly, I was living at home when I went to art school, so I didn't have to work I didn't have to make money. And then I started dating an artist who was already making a living, but it's not easy. It's not like it was just a Cinderella story. So once got I moved in with each other. So right after school, we just lived in an incredibly cheap apartment, we just you know, and every month was just making enough money to make that month's rent. And Scott would do some Commission's like portrait commissions, but he'd also do fantasy magazine covers. And we just lived so cheaply, and that's you know, it's just just living below your means just not like getting a B so you have to worry about money. So Scott was making a living even though it was just barely and I was able to you know, I mean, I have to say I probably didn't make a profit in my art. I never really looked at the the numbers, but I made so little money. So I would sell things that obviously this isn't it. But I would sell things for just hundreds of dollars, you know, I would sell thing I will price things to sell. I mean, I've literally maybe no frame. But I had an end because there were a couple galleries that Scott was in. And Scott got to be in galleries because he was being mentored by Richard Schmid. So there was a little bit of a hand holding,like, you know, following a mentor is probably one of the easiest ways to get in this,this career because they can kind of lead the way a little bit. So Scott followed Richard,and then when I got with Scott,even though my prices were literally just like 150, or$300. I, my money was maybe just for buying groceries. When did I finally actually make a profit?So, I mean, I'm gonna say to like, to where like, I paid enough for my art supplies and living, I mean, maybe eight to10 years. So I was subsidized. I was subsidized by Scott to be able to, like, sell paintings but but not have to worry about like, I mean, I was selling things. So cheap. So that's,that is the answer was I was helped out because I was with an artist who was already doing it.
Laura Arango Baier: 11:22
I mean, if everyone has such a different path, obviously, it's like, if you can, oh, my god, like,that's awesome. You know, if you can have that helps, like Hell yeah, that's
Susan Lyon: 11:34
really no, that's it. Like it was also back then when there just wasn't as many artists, I think, nowadays, as you probably know, it's like the art world has like, quadrupled.I mean, I don't even know a bigger word than tripled, you know, like, it's like, 1000times bigger. And so it's harder to sell full time. Now, I think.I just, I don't know. I mean,back then to, like, we were not in control of our own promotion.Like you were just hoping and praying to get a magazine article, there wasn't websites,when we first started, you know,there wasn't Instagram or Facebook. So the idea was,hopefully, somehow you could get into a magazine article. But now the fact that people have control over their own ability to get their paintings out, it's like an equalizer. So somebody who's starting out, but as good can, like, I know, lots of people who have just put their work out and people do see it,like galleries do see it. So they their careers can like skyrocket if the right gallery sees their work, but they also have to be proactive about like putting their workout and like working hard and going and painting with people who are better with them better than them. So that would be the biggest thing is like, seek out people who are better than you to paint with. Like, don't be the big fish in a little pond.You know, always try and find people who challenge you, you know, make you give you that little bit of like edge where you like, Oh, I see what they're doing. And I want to do that too. Because it sparks something, it just sparks something within you that like you make your work better.
Laura Arango Baier: 13:20
I agree.Yes. And that also goes back to making connections, you know,and, thankfully, also, like how you mentioned, you know, your husband working with Richard Schmidt and that being a really good connector. Um, I feel like a lot of the art world is that way it is like networking and reaching out and just having gumption to to try you know,just like message that person ask them, Hey, how do you do this? Or, like, for example, in my case, with like, you know,going to study with Odd Nerdrum that open up another network for me that I find very interesting and connects, you know, back to people, you know, that are connected to you, which I also find really interesting because your your, it seems like you're pretty close with like Alex Venezia, and Divya, who also studied with art. So I'm like,Oh, my God, it's like the, the,you know, it's like the circle.And there are so many incredible big fish in the art world that people could reach out to so much easier today than you know,back, like in the 90s or 80s. So I think that's also a really wonderful thing. Yeah. And then I also I wanted to bring it back to beauty again, just really quick, because your work has such like it. And I'm gonna quote Odd Nerdrum when I say this, but it has breath, you know, if it feels like they're alive, they're breathing. And I really love that about your work. Like I can look at one of your paintings and be are you one of your sketches, one of your drawings and be like, wow,this person looks like they're really looking at me or they're really in the room with me and I think But that in itself tells a story. I know, you weren't necessarily trained in a narrative sort of way, right.But I think I would disagree and say that your work is pretty narrative to me, like I can, oh,thank you soul of the person.You're welcome. Beautiful.
Susan Lyon: 15:18
Well, that's very sweet of you. Thank you. I, you know, there is also that thing about, um, you know when, as is all of our who's our first influences, right? So, obviously the school that I went to was an illustration school. So what does that mean? It means that people worked from I mean, the school I went to you work from a live model every day, but like through homework, or maybe the studying of other artists, you knew that it was just as valid to work from references. And so I never had that stigma. We never had that stigma about working from references, and a lot of it, you know, is just not putting judgment on to like how a piece of art is made. And it's difficult, like now, I guess,with like, AI and everything.But it is this idea that people should he not have as many rules about creating stuff. And so that has always been something that Scott and I have, like, had discussions with about people.And it's not even that we care how people make their work. But we've had the brunt of it, where people want to tell others that they can't do something like,you're like, there's been so many funny rules, like you can't even sit when you paint, like,Where'd that come from, or, you know, like, you can't, you can't use references, or you can't use this, or you can't do that, or you can't have line or you and you just going, Wow, you just want everything to be exactly like your work. And then nobody else can exist, whereas variety is what creates the amazing evolution of art. So that's always, you know, been kind of something that we're very strong and, and we're not going to shy away from saying that. And of course, we use references. But then of course, a lot of artists from the past did and, and,yeah, so, right. I don't know if I'm going off topic. So you can tell,
Laura Arango Baier: 17:13
if I just know I I love it because you bring up a really good point.And I've also been exposed to that whole, like, you can't sit,you can't use pictures. You can't basically you can't, you can't, you can't just like a whole tech recipe camps. Which I can agree with, with some, but I don't, I don't see them as role more like, if you're starting out, it's good to know how to,you know, draw and paint from life. Because I mean, I think painting from life is just incredible when you can do it.Obviously, if you don't have an option, pictures are really great too, as long as you're aware that, you know, they are gonna have distortions, and you're gonna have to make some stuff up. And that's fine, too.It's I actually think drawing from references is much, much harder than from life. So
Susan Lyon: 18:07
I felt that I felt that way too, when I first started out, because when you're learning from life, and then transferring to a is like one dimension or two dimension out,is like your brain has a very hard time. And it's all just about a learning curve. For sure. And, and I think also I'm very attracted to action poses I'm, I mean, I am attracted to specially when we travel, I like to have a gesture, I love to see somebody who's like, in a pose that you could never paint from life. So, I mean, so it's like having the best of both worlds in a way to be. And it's true,like, when you work too much from photos, it stops your work,it just makes it it's stiff and stale. And everybody knows it's just are you able to then get out of the habit and like then change your, the way you're doing things, you know, mix it up. And then painting from life,you know, you can do almost like meaning like, do me too many sketches, like too many things from life that maybe don't ever have like a finish to it, and then you crave. So you do you know, it's like a seesaw, you crave having a finish meaning like have like something that's a little bit more like planned out. And then you do that too much. And then you crave having the immediacy of working from life. So it's just training yourself to be able to go back and forth. And yeah, and so I mean, of course I teach portrait. So there is the, that whole extra thing about having proportion and being able to draw, you know, and if you rely too much on photos, then what's happening is then you will always have that little bit of insecurity that that of like stopping yourself from doing things and like if you do have a model from life, it's just like,too scary. too confusing, and then you get really frustrated.So it's, you know, having the tools to do whatever you want in whatever situation.
Laura Arango Baier: 20:08
Exactly. And I love that use the word tools,because that's what they are,you know, I think a lot of people, they confuse the tool with like, the means to the end,right? It's like, the tool is not the means to the end, it is a tool supposed to take you somewhere, right? So like, I mean, even even the old masters they, they copied each other,right, they took copies of their of each other's work while they also worked from life. And then to top it off. I love using this example of I believe it was got the name slipping from my brain.But there's that painting of Medusa, where it's the head lying down on the ground. I think it's Reubens. The head on the ground with all the snakes,right. And I love mentioning it because not many people know.And I read this at the museum when I saw it. He didn't paint the snakes. He hired someone else to do it. So yeah, I mean,it's like, if you have a way of making a beautiful piece, and you have these tools at your disposal, why not do it? Right?If you can, if you need a straight line, and you want it to be a perfectly straight line,you have a ruler, you know,right? It's not gonna make you better or worse, interesting.
Susan Lyon: 21:23
I love having these conversations. Because, you know, just recently, and I know that the portrait society, there was a lot of discussion about people using AI. And it's just kind of like, for me in my world. It's not like something that I use, or it's heavily in my group of artists, but I think it's creeping in. And so there's all these discussions about the fact that AI, I guess, in itself isn't evil, but the fact that it steals from others, and that whole idea of like taking other people's images, other people's paintings. So it's fascinating to see where that's gonna go,because, like any technology,you know, using it for good or bad, you know, because I use computers, I use Photoshop. So,you know, Scott, and I take a lot of photographs, today, we have a model shoot. So first of all, I'm making the choice of who I do the photoshoot with,and then I've thought about a lot about it. So even for weeks,maybe I have like thought of the color harmonies thought of the outfits thought of the backdrops thought of like the props of design, you know, how am I going to light it. So there's all these decisions that I'm making,that are coming from my own sort of life, you know, experiences,and things that I've been inspired by, so you know, being completely open that maybe I was inspired by a Sargent painting,or a water house, or whoever,kind of all of a sudden told you like, oh my god, I love how the model is backlit, or I love how something you know, and so you try and recreate it in your own way. So I made a zillion purchases and ideas and then hired my own model and set her up. And then you, you know, take a few hours and do all kinds of photos. And it is like a needle in a haystack. Because you could literally take because of digital 2000 photos, and maybe out of those 2000 photos is 20that are good enough for you to spend your time on, but then even knows 20 I also work on that. So there's multiple layers. So possibly, in within that 20 Out of the 2000 I liked the slight expression of one face, but maybe the hands from another. So then with computers,I can then you know, manipulate.So I take hands from one and face from another, maybe then I'm sort of starting now to experiment with not being literal with it, like possibly,she's wearing green, but I don't want her to wear green. So I'm going to turn her dress into purple. So there's all these multilayers that I'm putting my choices on. And that is like,you know, so I feel like that's the process that every artist no matter if they use technology or not, is it for to come from their own, like internal voice their own, like intuition. And that's where, you know, we can use tools to like help our work.But it's sad when people you know, because I get a lot of students and they're always asking me about well how to take photos and models and and it is you do have to get over that initial like insecurity of even not knowing your camera, but asking people to pose for you being professional enough to say, Okay, I'm an artist, I'm a professional artist, and I'm going to take the time to do all of this prep work, hire them,pay them good. And then, you know, take enough photos to get just those 20 and then learn Photoshop or whatever to you know, figure out the best image so that I'm not fighting my image. So already, all those decisions and time and money and everything goes into these particular photos that then I'm going to choose to finally spend maybe a week up to a month staring at to, like make a piece of art, hopefully resonates with somebody to spend money on. But it's because it's it's like, and then people will say, can they buy our photos or people will use other people's photos and I'm like, first, you know, just try doing your own simple like versions of photos of still lifes just learn how to do photos, so that when you do fit a model, it's all you and you're not just taking photos off of Pinterest, to paint because there's never, ever going to be that same connection. I think it's okay to use photos from the internet, you know, for people who cannot afford our school and like just want to practice paint doing faces. But it should always be incredibly transparent that if you're using other people's images, you are 100%upfront about it. And also,those are the type of things that you're not really you know,trying to you don't put in competitions, you don't send out to galleries, it's it's a student exercise, that you're just using somebody else's light and dark pattern to like just train yourself even maybe how to use a pencil. But there is a point to where you have to use your own stuff like you cannot use public images anymore. So and it's just something that people sometimes don't know,necessarily, you know, they don't haven't heard that before,because maybe they aren't going to a school atmosphere. So it's not necessarily evil, meaning to learn from using other people's images. But there comes a point.When you're, it's, it's for the best and it's for your own growth, to like use your own stuff.
Laura Arango Baier: 27:02
I 100% agree.At BoldBrush. We inspire artists to inspire the world. Because creating art creates magic. And the world is currently in desperate need of magic.BoldBrush provides artists with free art, marketing, creativity,business ideas and information.This show is an example. We also offer written resources,articles and a free monthly art contest open to all visual artists. We believe that fortune favors the bold brush. And if you believe that to sign up completely free at BoldBrush show.com. That's B O LD BRUSH show.com. The BoldBrush Show is sponsored by FASO. Now more than ever, it's crucial to have a website when you're an artist,especially if you want to be a professional in your career.Thankfully, with our special link sasa.com forward slash podcast, you can make that come true. And also get over 50% off your first year on your artists website. Yes, that's basically the price of 12 lattes in one year, which I think is a really great deal considering that you get sleek and beautiful website templates that are also mobile friendly e commerce print on demand in certain countries, as well as access to our marketing center that has our brand new art marketing calendar. And the art marketing calendar is something that you won't get with our competitor. The art marketing calendar gives you day by day, step by step guides on what you should be doing today,right now in order to get your artwork out there and seen by the right eyes so that you can make more sales this year. So if you want to change your life and actually meet your sales goal this year, then start now by going to our special link faster.com forward slash podcast. That's s a s o.com.Forward slash podcast.Yes. And it's a thankfully with AI. I know. It's like it takes samples, right. And you know,there's no way around, you know,even us in our heads, we basically take samples to we get inspired by specific things as well. So there is you know, a bit of like that whole like,okay, but what's really copying or what isn't, which creates an issue. But I can say with confidence, though, that even if you tell the AI what you want,it can't do it. It can't do it the exact way that you imagined at all. It absolutely can't.Unless you spend hours and hours and hours prompting it but the image in your head will always be superior to whatever the machine can make. So that's just a little bit of like, you know,to help artists out there feel better about it, because it's, I mean, it might take away portrait commissions for some people. But if anything, I think the majority of people who really love realism will 100%prefer to pay a real person.Like I call a I like the McDonald's of like, you know,getting people to buy stuff.
Susan Lyon: 30:06
I completely agree with you, I feel like there is a people who maybe are highly sensitive can feel there's an energy vibration when they look at images that are not done by humans. And I feel it so much,even when I watch, like movies that has too much CGI or something like I just go, I'm just rejecting it, like, in my own internal, like, just cells,this, my cells are rejecting it.So I'm feeling some intuition,like, okay, don't want to go in that direction. And somehow,yeah, we'll just have to figure out how to, like, use it in like, the best most light way,you know, using instead of cheating, you know, kind of like stepping over to get faster,like, you know, just to kind of skip a few steps, you know?
Laura Arango Baier: 30:56
Yes, the skipping a few steps part. Oh,that's so important. And I think that goes back also to having that training, you know, having that time of allowing yourself to learn the craft, and, you know, experiment and sit with it and, you know, put these ideas down on paper before, you know,trying to run because if you can't, can't even crawl, try running. Yeah.
Susan Lyon: 31:24
Well, I just wanted to mention something because I'm just very, very empathetic to people who either don't have money, or are physically unable,you know, through limitations or whatever, to be able to go live in Norway and have the art life Right. Or, you know, I was lucky enough to live in a city that lucky enough that I could stay home Lucky, lucky, lucky. You know, there's so many things that helped me out. But one of my, I think, you know, being an artist in itself, is a very interesting journey, especially in the beginning. Because there's so many news, it's like learning something is addictive.So when you just find one new idea, and you're able to like,understand it, and relate it,It's intoxicating, and it makes you want to keep going. And then there comes a point where when everybody's a little different,obviously, to where you've done it a few times, like you've done that portrait done that still,if you've done something so many times, that it doesn't get you up in the morning anymore, you know, and so you find art then can be an outlet for sharing,helping and doing for others.And so, you know, as like, if you were telling me this when I was 22, I don't think I would understood at all. And now though, like when you have been around long enough, then you can start to think well, okay, how do I use art for the better betterment of the world, the betterment of human kind. And so you start to, for me, one of the first things was, I was prompted by obviously COVID. You know, I think everybody either saw it as a blessing or curse. And definitely, maybe the first few days was like a curse. But very,very quickly, I changed it to a blessing, because I was like,hey, well, we all have to stay home. And you know what, okay, I mean, I have a phone. So just literally, with not being scared to show how stupid I am just starting a Patreon because I literally had heard once that somebody was doing this was obviously, April, March of 2020.I was like, I'd heard the word.Oh, and I think I've heard someone did it, but didn't know anything else. I mean, they didn't even have YouTube videos on how to do it back then. So I'm like, I'm just gonna do this, you know, I can have 10people who cares. And, you know,so getting, you know, being forced in a way to do something new and learn something new was probably the greatest gift for me in my art career, literally,in my art career, because it forced me to learn technology,too. It also gave me reasons to think about asking myself questions and like, oh, well, if I was to teach somebody how to draw if I was to teach somebody how to think about this, how would I do it? Okay, now I have a purpose to literally kind of think back what was it like when I first started, how scared was I? I mean, all the things that I wish somebody had told me all the like, anxieties of just not feeling like everybody else was better than me. And so, and I knew how lucky I was to live where I lived. So my goal was to create lessons for people who lived in India, people who live in Africa, people who live across the world that literally not you know, because when I first start, you know, years ago, as we all know, videos can be hundreds of dollars. I mean,ridiculous, but like hundreds of dollars, so I'm like, I want Want to have it so that not one person can say they can't afford$5 a month, or you know, $9 for larger, you know that it's like an art school within that. And so that was my first goal. And to give as much information away for free also, so that also prompted me to do a YouTube channel which I procrastinated about. But finally, I'm like,I'm sick of saying, I want one,I'm gonna do it, and not caring that I look stupid, or, you know, or that, you know, for me,I thought, well, instead of my,my YouTube channel, looking so produced or edited, I'm like,I'm just gonna make it be all the bloopers on behind the scenes. So seeing what it looks like, you know, you know, behind the curtain. And I knew that we went to shows I knew we went on trips, that it would be museums that people would love to see and maybe never see so. So these things give me purpose. So instead of just making money with art, so now everything I do with art has a purpose. So it's either giving information away,or it's showing people maybe things that, you know, that sort of like living vicariously for free. And, you know, in the future, I even see other things that I'm going to do with art that, you know, how we all have that little voice in our head,that we would do if we didn't have to make money, you know,what would I do? If I made if I won the lottery? What could I?Where can I give that money?What could I do, you know, what will make me feel so fulfilled.And so there's, you know,projects that I want to do with art that is solely for altruistic reasons, has nothing to do with making money at all.And so that's an evolution of an artist's life, you know, you first just are excited to learn a new language, and to like,actually, see improvement, and then, and then discover what you only you can do in a new, unique way, and then figure out how to navigate the world of being an artist, and then meeting other artists. And then it's just it's one step, you open a door, and then another door and another door. So
Laura Arango Baier: 37:11
like us,every time you talk to someone on this podcast, they're gonna be, like you said, in a completely different place? Yes,yes, they are all in different stages of their careers is how I like to put it at the beginning.Um, and I love that, because despite the paths being so different, I feel like you know,certain paths converge in a certain direction, or, from what I've noticed, with almost every single person I've interviewed,and even with myself, we all want to give back. We all it's so funny, when I first started personally, I was never going to teach. And now I teach.
Susan Lyon: 37:57
But I ask you, did you have that feeling? Because there was a stigma against teaching
Laura Arango Baier: 38:05
Susan Lyon: 38:07
that like, where did that come from? Because I was like, I think we all had that impregnated into us, and I can't even and I know, there's like that zeitgeist of oh, people who can, you know, can't do teach or you know, that hold. But then some people still have that idea that, you know, if you teach somehow, you're not making it right. And I feel like the exact opposite. I feel teaching has made me a better artist, I feel teaching has broadened my horizons. And so I always feel a little sad. It's like someone who says they don't like kittens. You know, people who don't like kittens are like people I don't want to hang around with. Right? There's something wrong with them. So people who have this idea, this judgment, that teaching something, giving it away to others so that they can succeed is somehow you know, what, only people who really can't make it to that. I just think, well, you have a lot of learning to do.And I don't have this much time in this lifetime. Maybe we'll meet in the next lifetime. And like, you'll be more grown, but I mean, it's so I just Yeah,yeah,
Laura Arango Baier: 39:22
you know, I think it's also it's like, it's what you said, you know, those who can't do teach. And then I think I'd heard somewhere floating in the ether. I'm not sure that galleries don't like it when they're
Susan Lyon: 39:33
artists. Have you ever heard that? I've heard you might mean like my different kinds of galleries, right?There's different kinds of schools, there's different kinds of galleries. There's a lot of artists that I know that maybe went to universities, and when there's like a I never did so.Like I don't even have that in the back of my head of like that. Their goal is to be in museums, or their goal is to have museum shows. And now Have you been deal with galleries?Um, you know, or they are they get grants, or they do things like that. And so that is just so not in my realm that I'm just fascinated by that I'm like, Oh,I would Hey, so I'm looking at someone give me a grant Wow,okay. Now, but it's just, I feel like maybe I'm more of a working class artists like, you just figure it out. Like, sometimes I meet younger artists, too, who are very influenced by people who are very successful. And so they see those people's prices.And those are usually very skewed, it's very, very out of the norm, right. And it's like,it is like winning the lottery or a little bit, or like an actor who gets a roll on friends, I mean, how many people are going to be able to do that.So you might not be on friends,but you might be on another show. And those people are not going to make a million dollars.So I, whenever I see somebody,and they're like, I see their prices, I go, I just Oh, geez,like, I don't want to tell you,I don't want to be this like,but that's not where your price should be, you should not be your own biggest collector, like you should set price to sell,then when you have multiple people who want to buy this,that's when you know, your prices should go up. If you do not have multiple people wanting to buy this image, then you, you know, it's then your prices are probably too high. And it's all about supply and demand. I mean,we're not, there's not a guarantee that you will ever sell another painting ever. And so it's all about just doing as the best you can. And you just know too that if the, if you try the best you can believe me,Scott, and I do not sell everything. And there are times when we get paintings back, and we look at them and we go what was I thinking like, why and like, I must have like, you know, I don't know, been really tired when I said this painting was done. Because it's not that it needs to be fixed. And, or sometimes we've had a painting take eight years to sell. I mean, we just need one person,but like it, not everything sells. So you sometimes do get things back. But I also am very conscious about my pricing, I'm very conscious about the fact that figurative is the hardest thing to sell. It just is, um,people are much more willing to buy a landscape or a still life over a figure because figures have that little bit of awkwardness, you know, is the model attractive or not? Is the model looking at you or not? Is this or that, you know, people sometimes don't want strangers in their house. I mean, it's,it's all of these questions that figurative poses that a still life or landscape doesn't. And so that's also something that I have people who are obsessed with being figurative artists are just gonna have to understand that, you know,
Laura Arango Baier: 43:07
yes, yeah,there are limits within, you know, the figurative world, even though it seems like there's more people who are loving it.And I think it's more like a reflection of you know, we were in such a long time period of like abstract and Cubism and all these things that it feels refreshing to see something realistic. So I think we are shifting into a new paradigm,but even then, like, every single figurative artists I've interviewed has told me the same so yes, this is the hardest knees, but I frickin love it and I don't care.
Susan Lyon: 43:39
Well, that's it, you know, I get people who I mentor,and sometimes they will send me stuff. So when coming back into art, or this is what I used to do. And could you tell me if you think that this is, you know,what I should be doing? And I mean, if you have to ask, you know, it's like, it's that sad,sad thing that he's like anybody who's striving for a creative career, that it's an obsession,you either need to do it or you don't need to do it and you do it as a hobby, you know, when you maybe draw or paint with friends on the weekend, but to make a living at something is going to have lots of highs and lows, and we've had sell out shows and we've literally had shows where not one thing has sold so it's like the good thing about Scott now is that we ride the wave together and it's, you know, artists who don't have that support system. I can imagine it being just like heartbreaking. You know, when you realize that not everything I you know, when you see young artists and their careers just going through tu tu tu tu tu it's not a lot. I mean, you have ups and downs and there's gonna be times when all of a sudden,like you're just going to not sell or all of a sudden your people are just gonna be like your works boring or whatever and it you have to be able to like, roll with the punches.
Laura Arango Baier: 45:00
Absolutely,yeah. It just reminded me of something my mom tells me because, you know, when I told her I wanted to be an artist,she was like, Hispanic, of course. But she told me she's like, Laura, you gotta, you gotta save. So when you have those fat cow times, you can you have enough for your skinny cow.
Susan Lyon: 45:18
actly. Exactly,that's really smart. And that's,that's the thing, you have to live within your means, you know, and we moved from Chicago down to North Carolina for that exact same reason. Because, you know, we, we, when we were living in Chicago, we wanted to travel, but you know, the rent of an apartment. And then, yes,we wanted to be gone for like a month traveling, I always had that in the back of my head,well, I'm just paying rent to store, you know, my books or whatever. And it was too mentally hard to pay that rent.So we moved down to North Carolina, where the cost of living is just so cheap. It's just so easy to live here. Like this studio, which I'm in an arts building, but it's like in a basement, so I don't even have windows. And I actually love it.I love not having windows, which is people always laugh, but I mean, this is my only overhead.So I also have a studio at home.But I like the idea of kind of leaving my house. I love having that drive to my studio and back so that there's this sort of like transformation from like,you know, I think it's that thought process, which is quiet.So when I'm driving home, I always, you know, like if you're in your studio, and you're stressed out, or you're really thinking about something,literally walking through a doorway, and you know, not still having that same energy is difficult, but like I have a drive home. So, you know, it's like, oh, okay, now I'm at home,and I don't have to think about art anymore. I'm just, I can compartmentalize a little bit.But um,
Laura Arango Baier: 46:52
yeah, that's awesome, though. I agree with that, you know, I have a studio in my apartment. And it can, it can be so hard to shift your brain from like, rest, and work,you know. So I completely understand I think in my next hopefully, when I have some more money, I can have like, a separate studio, or at least a separate building. Studio somewhere else. Cuz I think that's, that's brilliant. And then I was curious to know, if you don't mind what? Because you do workshops, you do your galleries? You have your website, of course, what has been more, the most lucrative for you? Has it been workshops?Has it been the galleries?
Susan Lyon: 47:41
Well, I do think galleries have changed, I mean,so probably just totally honest.I mean, I'm gonna say 10 years before, 10 years ago, selling paintings was incredibly easy.And it could be just the subject matter or my price, when certain galleries like once you find that fit, it's like dating. So if they really like your work,or they tend to push, they can sell it better. It's the energy of the gallery. So we always say, Don't worry about how big the gallery is a small gallery,if they love your work, and they sell it, then you stick with them don't like leave them and be the small fish in a big place. So, um, gallery stuff was great for us about 10 years ago,and then just slowly, you know,maybe a tiny bit less, maybe your prices get a tiny bit more.So there's this balance. But um,I started to do workshops, and I do possibly, I mean, at most three a year, but I would say I mean like go away like intense,like a four or five day thing.So workshops are my most lucrative because you make a lot of money, it just one time.Teaching Online is great. And then doing Patreon is great. So we tend to put our like feelers into a lot of things. And that's also as being an artist, you need to figure out passive income, you have to find income that comes to you that is just generated from other outputs. So it can be videos, it can be like online teaching that maybe you can go on for a while that you don't have to like spend all your time doing prints maybe I mean people do it in different ways, like books, I mean,there's different ways mentoring, there's different ways of having this income that isn't like a ton of output.Because paintings for me don't always work out like I can work on something for weeks even like put it away months and then just realize that it's a stinker. You know it's just I'm like I just it's not good enough All right,I didn't like where it was going alright overworked it so so there's definitely things that just don't come out. So I can't guarantee that. You know, like a lot of you People, they can literally just produce or like,oh, I can do a painting a day or a painting a week or this or that. And they just, I don't do that, because I'm always trying new materials. I'm always trying new things. And anyway, so passive income. And so teaching is probably the most lucrative for me right now, for sure. But I still I still sell paintings.It's just, if you actually looked at the numbers, it's definitely weighted more towards like teaching and videos.
Laura Arango Baier: 50:30
Right? Yeah.And I liked that you mentioned that, you know, like, if you know that you love to take your time on your work, then you definitely have to find a way to supplement it with something I mean, for you, thankfully, it's teaching. But you know, for someone who's maybe not, not as experienced or doesn't have, you know, enough information to sell in that way. Definitely a day job. itself,
Susan Lyon: 50:56
hard to tell. But I mean, I agree with you, I agree with you. Don't be scared to have like, a job. Also,probably, the biggest advice I give to people, especially when they want to start selling is you have to sell small things.So I'm talking like six by eight eight by 10. I would I suggest to people start doing little Commission's of people's pets.There is nothing better than painting or drawing animals. I mean, I wish I could do it for the rest of my life. I mean, so if you get some samples, right,you actually do a couple even pencil charcoal, little oil,pastels, anything, little small things of pets, and sell them relatively cheap. Think about how long does it take you to do think about, you know, the supplies aren't that much, you know, she's thinking about output. And you put samples out there and you say, hey, you know, I'm, you know, open commissions or whatever. That is another way, you know, because that's what Scott did to when he was in school, he would make money off of just doing pastel portrait commissions of people,but he was also really fast. So,but pets are probably the best toe Dipper, you know, get yourself in to making money.Everybody wants to peck commission. And I think they're the funnest things ever. So if you can do them relatively fast,meaning time output, think about small, think about your favorite medium, and it can be any medium, you don't have to do in the way other people do. So, you know, when I started out,everybody, you know, I remember hearing that real artists do sketchbooks and pencil. And I'm not a pencil person, I'm not a sketchbook person. So for probably 15 years, you know, I would say I hate drawing. And then when I started to think about drawing in a different way, drawing using mass, and just value without line, well,then things clicked. So it's just something for people to realize that if you see somebody else doing a little oil, and you're not confident doing oil,do a little charcoal, do a little pencil, do whatever you feel comfortable a pen and ink,I mean, anything you like to do,start making money off these small things and sell them as cheap as you possibly can, until you get so popular that you have to raise the price. It's just,you also think about the fact that they're subsidizing you for practice. You know, like, if someone's paying me 250 To do this, okay. All right. It's not a ton of money, and I'm spending a little bit time on it or whatever. But hey, oh, then another person, then another person, and you get to post it,and then their word of mouth.And it's like, maybe you get all their friends. You know, they think I saw this great portrait.I'm like God, and I want to get it as a gift to my friend or my dad. And so start off like that.That's how I would say, you know, promoting those.
Laura Arango Baier: 53:54
I love it.That's excellent advice. I mean,I was going to ask you for advice, but I think you've given so much great advice already.
Susan Lyon: 54:00
Small stuff. Yeah. I mean, small stuff. When artists have studio sales, and they sell them cheap. It's like hotcakes.So it is just, you know, is as long as you know, you're not overpricing people who will support you, they will, because it just seems like people can feel like, I'm like their hand in hand. Like it's a partnership. You know, it's like, once a collector, you know, I think about the artwork that I sold in my early 20s. And I go Good God, I hope I never see that again. I mean, I hope I don't um, the funny thing is, I hope I don't walk into a goodwill and see it because I probably will, because what will happen is, those people will die and then the children will inherit it and the child will be like, What the hell, and so we'll probably give it to Goodwill, and then it will be sold for $10 Which is fine,right? It's like It's like evolution or it's like the cycle of life. But those people so corded a, a young,inexperienced, you know, not very well, you know, established not super, let's say mature in their technical ability, and they supported me to be able to keep doing it, but I also priced it to sell so,
Laura Arango Baier: 55:18
right. Yeah,there's there's that aspect but that's sort of pressing,imagining and goodwill. I mean,actually, funny story the the flaming June by, yeah, by Lord Frederick Leeton. It's that beautiful painting of the girl sleeping, it was sold for the price of the frame, because no one knew it was by Leeton. And the person who bought it like got a great deal.
Susan Lyon: 55:46
That's what happens.My dad found a, I want to say a Delphi peel, he painted with like Bouguereau. And it's actually on that website, Ark art renewal. My dad found it in an estate sale for $400. And we didn't know they used to hide their signatures. So we I'm you can't tell the signature, you had to have somebody with a mic or you know, like a little magnifying glass on her shoulder. And I got it appraised. And we're like, holy shit. And but the funny story is, so we were in this gallery in Oklahoma years and years ago.And I would send things you know, super cheap. And I did this one really big steal if,and probably two, three years ago, I can't even remember somebody had messaged me and said, Oh, is this your painting?And I was like, Yeah. And they said, We just bought it at like,Salvation Army. And it was obviously one of those things where I think they probably spent 25 bucks on it. And I was like, yeah, that's mine. And so you just never know, right?Because the kids didn't want it.And they didn't know what to do with it. So they're gonna go,
Laura Arango Baier: 56:57
yeah. So circle of life, as you said,right. Yeah, yeah. Oh, man. I'm.So this has been a very enlightening conversation. I love this. So now it is time for you to tell us a bit about your upcoming workshops.
Susan Lyon: 57:19
Oh, well, thank you.Um, so I do have a workshop in London, in August at the London fine art studio. And it's just a three day. So August 18, through the 20th. And Scott and I will be there. And it's pastel and oil and doing portrait alla prima each day. So if you're around London in August, I'd love to have you join us. And then the other workshop I'm doing is in Vermont. So I chose September because it's the most beautiful time there. I mean,just like picturesque, like picture postcards. So it's a,it's a in so it's one of those ends that were like built in the30s. And everybody stays in the end, we all eat together. So it's all inclusive. And I mean,it really is the most gorgeous,it's called land growth in so just go to land growth in workshops. And that's a four day kind of portrait, all medium all levels, but it's kind of like camp. I mean, it's literally camp, where it's like we're all we can like be in our pajamas and go down and sit by a fire and you know, they feed us breakfast, lunch and dinner. So it's it's as kind of a fun time.So London in August and Vermont in September.
Laura Arango Baier: 58:33
Oh my god,that's so cozy. I love that I
Susan Lyon: 58:37
really and you have it, there's like no way of really getting there. You kind of have to, you know, drive there. There's no public transportation, but it's one of those timeless areas that is really out of like, be gone. You know, like, olden times 100years ago, and yeah, because the instant looks like it. I mean,it didn't make modern. It still looks like you're gonna walk into a hotel, like in from the30s You know, with the Barnes.And you're the tiny little hallways, you know, in the everything's wood and so yeah,that's cute. Oh, that's precious.
Laura Arango Baier: 59:12
I love that Vermont is a gorgeous, gorgeous place. Oh, that's gonna be awesome. I wish I could Oh my God, I wish I could.
Susan Lyon: 59:20
Well, I will post about it. And I will do a YouTube video so you can see you can see exactly what it's like.
Laura Arango Baier: 59:26
Oh, bless your soul. Thank you so much for doing that because I was watching your videos again. I love it. I love all the behind the scenes. Yeah, um, so do you want to talk a little bit more about the pre to West or?
Susan Lyon: 59:41
No, it's just Oh,it's just mentioning it's like a show. It's a pretty big show.But it's I only mentioned how funny it is because I'm surprised that I'm even in it.So it is it's, I think it's changing like anything.Sometimes things take longer to change and others, but you're newer It just kind of maybe more edgy, more contemporary artists are being invited. So there's still the old guard, there's still the, if you look at the website, you know, pre to west,you will see a lot of Western cowboys and Indians landscapes,and then you'll see my work and you'll just be like, Why is that there? But I feel like I'm a feminist. So I'm like, I'm going to stay in this show. And I want all these people to see female artists and to see art that isn't all just brown, you know.So I have paintings of a girl actually a pastel where she's yellow, and she has purple hair,and she looks like she's just at like Coachella or something.And, and then I have a model,it's all blue. And I just decided I'm just gonna paint her blue, she looks a little bit like a Martian, but it's, you know, I just wanted to do harmonies of blue. So I am one of the things that I'm very interested in is like, playing with color, you know, pushing color, maybe using slightly traditional, maybe subject, but then just not having any realistic color. So I just don't want to try and for me, my stage, you know, is to like,over I'm overdoing flesh.
Laura Arango Baier: 1:01:15
Yeah, I can understand that it gets kind of boring, because it's the same thing over and over.
Susan Lyon: 1:01:20
Well, but there's so many different kinds of like flesh tones, but it's the idea of, of changing the idea of being literal. You know, that as artists, we, we show people our interior world and so we don't have to have our interior world look like the next person. And and if you walk into a gallery,or you walk into a museum, we all know those paintings that are kept our eye. And so if you're, if you walk into a like a big show, I mean, half the time you just kind of pass over,right? You just sort of glance you're like, oh, that's but then there's always those couple of paintings and it has a lot to do with design, the graphicness the light, dark pattern, the colors,so you want to be that painting,you want to be that art that catches somebody and makes them walk towards you and not stop,you know, walk past 30 pieces and go to you.
Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:14
I love it.That's brilliant. Well, where can people see more of your work?
Susan Lyon: 1:02:21
I have a website Susan lyon.com and Instagram is Lion fine art. Patreon is just patreon.com forward slash Susan line Scott and I both do teaching and videos and stuff on that. And my YouTube is Susan line fine art on YouTube.
Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:41
Awesome.Thank you so much, Susan. It's such a pleasure to meet you.Yeah, you too.