Addicted to acrylic art
An artist for decades, Sue Stephenson’s work was for ever changed by acrylic pouring.
A friend who was enthusiastic about the technique recommended she give it a try last June.
Ms Stephenson loved that it did not require years of instruction and that it was not as painstaking as the oils she had been doing for decades.
“It became my new addiction,” she said.
“The beauty of it is every single one is unique. If I tried to reproduce a painting I couldn’t — you never know how much of one colour of paint was used, or the order [that you mixed them together] may have changed. Two paintings are never going to be identical.”
In the space of a year, Ms Stephenson’s work has been on display in the Bermuda Society of Arts’ Members’ Show, at Rock Island Coffee and Pulp & Circumstance. Summer Breeze, a solo exhibit, is now on in Studio B at BSoA.
“Oil painting takes longer,” she said, as she explained why she had never held a show on her own before.
“I would paint once per week in my friend Peter’s garage. An oil painting could take six weeks to two months to complete because you do it layer by layer.
“I wasn’t producing as many [pieces as I am now] and was selling some of those that I made so I never accumulated enough for a solo show.”
Although she had “always been interested in art”, painting was not something she regularly did when she lived in London, England.
Things changed after a friend in Bermuda wrote to Ms Stephenson, thrilled that she could take the ferry to work every day.
“It sounded beautiful,” said the artist, who was near the end of a relationship and needed a change.
She got a job and arrived in 1983 not sure what to expect; the light and the colours caught her attention.
“I knew of Bermuda but not how beautiful it was,” she said.
“I had never been before and didn’t know anything about the island beforehand except that they wore shorts and it was a British colony. The beauty astounded me.”
She picked up a brush and started working with pastels but then signed up for lessons in oil, taking classes with Maria Smith out of her home.
“I was always interested in art — I drew as a child — but had no formal training. I did art at school and got accepted into art college but circumstances at the time prevented me from pursuing that avenue. Coming here with all the colours gave me the enthusiasm to try and paint.”
With 1990 came another opportunity to pursue a degree at Roehampton School of art but she “didn’t want to give Bermuda up”.
A few years later, however, she decided it was time to display her work. That first exhibit was held with Ms Smith and the rest of her art students.
“I then continued painting for many years and put on a joint show at City Hall in the early 2000s with Peter Hebbard and Grant Hall, Point Garage Artists,” she said.
Her current exhibit is a selection of 30 pieces created by acrylic pouring.
To achieve the effect, Ms Stephenson mixes acrylic paint with a thinning medium and adds silicone “to get the right consistency”.
She then combines paints to get the colour she is looking for and pours it on to canvas. The design comes as she manipulates the paint across the surface.
“I like beachscapes, sunsets and pours that reflect the ocean,” she said.
“You can tilt the canvas or use a palate knife and create amazing art. No paint brush is involved. I’ve done everything from a tiny canvas up to 3ft by 4ft — which can be a challenge.
“I was really inspired by the colours of Bermuda, particularly how the blues and turquoises reflect the ocean. These are so vibrant. I think they talk to Bermuda more because of that.”
There was “a big turnout” for the show’s opening on July 5.
“It was lovely, she said. “I had lots of positive response, got really good feedback and it was a really good night. I thank the society for letting me display my work.”
• Sue Stephenson offers lessons in acrylic pouring. Look for Tempest Arts on Facebook. Summer Breeze is on display in Studio B at the Bermuda Society of Arts until August 6
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