GCC art student Susan Valentine recognized in national competition

By Mary McClintock, ’82

Three years ago, Susan Valentine’s experience with paint involved painting walls in her house. Today, Susan is a Greenfield Community College painting student whose work has been recognized in a national contest. Her oil painting, Daylily 2, won second place in The Artist’s Magazine’s 2012 Art Competition for Student Still Life/Floral and is featured in the January 2013 issue of the magazine.

Daylily 2 by Susan Valentine is owned by GCC, part of a collection of artwork by GCC students, alumni, and faculty purchased for the College by the GCC Foundation with a generous contribution from Joan and Michael Haley. The painting hangs in the Chief Academic and Student Affairs Officer’s office suite. GCC President Bob Pura said, “Our College is lifted by the support of our community and the Haley family’s gift is a shining example of that support. Joan Haley’s own journey as an artist passed through the GCC Art Department. The artwork displayed on GCC’s campus shares the creative and talented voices of our students and is a powerful statement about our art program. We’re honored to display Susan’s painting.”

How did Susan become an award-winning painter in just two years?

Ask Susan and she’ll say it was an organic process growing from a lifelong interest in art and looking closely at the world around her.

Ask GCC Art Department Chair Paul Lindale and he’ll say, “Susan is a prime example of someone who embraces the opportunities offered to students at GCC and applies hard work and dedication to her art.”

Susan’s interest in graphic design was sparked by creating brochures and a website for her yoga studio. Susan studied graphic design at GCC from 2007 until 2010 and works as a graphic designer. A website client, artist Robin Keller, bartered paintings for Susan’s website work. In summer 2010, Susan asked Robin to teach her how to paint. Susan learned the mechanics of working in acrylic from Robin, completely enveloped by the experience.

In fall of 2010, hearing a GCC friend enthuse about a painting course, Susan thought, “I want to take that class.” The night before the course began, Susan emailed the instructor, asking to be allowed into the class without the prerequisites. The next morning, Professor Penné Krol emailed saying, “Just come.”

Since then, Susan has studied at GCC with Krol and Professor Emeritus Budge Hyde, learning how to translate what she sees into a painting. Commenting on her process, Susan said, “Composition is what catches me. I’m a serious gardener. I get into the minutiae of it. I take photos of my garden for the beauty of it, how the sun shines on top of a petal and how that light flows onto another flower. That daylily looked like joy.”

Leo Hwang, Dean of Humanities at GCC, said, “Susan has an incredible sense of detail. The visceral energy of her subjects really comes through. Susan’s recognition by The Artist’s Magazine demonstrates how amazing artwork can happen in any environment, from a community college classroom studio setting to a studio in the woods. There are places that people think of as the preeminent places to practice art, but such art can be produced in any environment.”

Susan thrives in the collaborative environment of the GCC painting studio. She says, “I take Directed Studies with Penné to have Penné’s instruction, as well as studio space and supportive community. It’s a great mix in the GCC painting studio, everyone from younger students to those who’ve taken up painting in retirement, all learning from each other. I’ll be learning about value (from light to dark) and saturation (from gray to brilliant) for the rest of my life. One lesson I’ve learned at GCC is that if there is something you want to do, do it. And, find community within which to do it.”

For information about Susan’s paintings, visit www.susanvalentineart.com.

For information about GCC’s Art Department, visit http://art.gcc.mass.edu/ or call Paul Lindale at (413) 775-1241.