8 Questions with Susan Clifton

1. What situation or person motivated you to pursue art?
I was always told by my teachers that I was creative and they continued to nurture that. My main focus as a child was dance and I thought of art as play. I was getting closer to picking a college, I met a woman who worked with my mom that was an Illustrator. Through her mentorship I decided to go to art college and pursue Illustration as a career.

Things turned out a little different for me as, in my first year as an illustration major, it was clear that I was a painter not an illustrator.

2. From where do you draw your inspiration to create art?
I always draw from my life. I think most artists do. My current artwork came to me while I was trying to become a more positive, happy person. Then I got this idea to incorporate that into my work. That was a great decision. My artwork transformed and evolved in a way that I didn’t think was possible.

3. What emotion are you trying to create for your audience through your art?  
I want my audience to be happy and motivated to make changes in their life. We all need a little reminder that things are perfect as they are. We can be happy as we are now, but still be motivated to do better, be better and continue to improve our lives.

4. Does an artist have an obligation to make a statement with their art?
I didn’t always think so, but now I realize that art informs future generations on what our lives are like now. Art tells a story of our time.

Every artist that is being authentic to themselves is making a statement. That statement doesn’t have to be political or controversial, just real.

5. Was there ever a time when giving up was the right thing to do?
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t stopped painting for the years that I concentrated on other things. Now I realize the life I lived during those years allowed me to grow to create the better artwork I’m creating now. I can’t say I ever gave up, but I did take a hiatus.

6. Is there something in your past career that would surprise people?
Yes. I was a fashion art director and worked with the very best fashion photographers of that time.

The most famous of them was Richard Avedon. He was very generous with me. He trusted me and my ideas and that was the best compliment he could give me.

7. What do you see as the most important attributes of a successful artist?
It depends on how you view success. For some people creating great work is success. For others it’s making a living through their art and they have benchmarks for that success. An artist needs to be persistent, to be able to take rejection and to accept failure.

8. What is the most valuable life lesson you learned from creating art? 
The one main thing I learned in both my commercial art career and my fine art career is that you need to be open to changing the initial creative idea. Let the work take you where it wants to take you.

Don’t get frustrated by the process. If you let go of your initial idea the final result will be even better. So you might say I’ve learned to let go!