Susanne Norling is just as comfortable creating stunning realistic portraits as she is creating gorgeous imaginative children’s book-style illustrations. From one image to another Susanne uses her newly-acquired skills to express her creativity through a vast variety of subject matter. Her rich, painterly coloured pencil images are beautifully created to appear almost like an oil-painting. In her portraits you can see that she has a natural ability to truly capture the emotion and soul of her subject.
After completing the beginner level course with mentored level one guidance from our (now retired) DrawPj instructor Tannis Trydal, Susanne then went on into twelve months of mentored two level under my guidance. In the mentored two level Susanne had the opportunity to bring together all that she had learned from the beginner level course, to create artworks of her choice.
Susanne is now creating art at a professional level. In such a short period of time she has risen up from a complete beginner to drawing and has already sold several of her paintings. Not only that, she has also created commissioned artworks and been invited to exhibit her work as well. Susanne clearly has a great future with her art career no matter which direction she now chooses to travel in. I am so excited for her as she now goes out into the wide world on her own as a fully-fledged professional artist. I have especially invited Susanne to share her journey with us all here in this interview.
I hope you enjoy reading this interview along with Susanne’s wonderful collection of images.
Interview with Susanne Norling by Cindy Wider
Q: Susanne where were you born and where do you live now?
A: I live on the beautiful Swedish west coast, just outside Gothenburg. I live in a small town but I am close to the pulse of the big city, which suits me very well. I live with my family and my two little rabbits. We live close to nature, on the edge of a forest and that is exactly where I get my inspiration. From birds, animals, flowers and trees. I love to travel and especially to look at old castles and ruins, then my imagination is set in motion and I feel an enormous creative joy.
Q: How did you get started with art and drawing?
A: I have been painting for as long as I can remember. As a small child, I always had pen and crayons close at hand. About 15 years ago I started painting porcelain and it was really fun, but family and everyday life came first. My mother became seriously ill with cancer in 2011 and we promised each other that when she got well, we would learn to paint watercolor together. She did not recover but died in 2015, in close succession to my stepfather and grandmother. It was a very difficult year for me and I decided to do something that could make me think differently. A kind of grief therapy quite simply. So I decided to learn how to paint and draw from scratch. I had never learned any techniques before but now I wanted to know why you should do it a certain way. To teach me to understand why a shadow would be in a certain place or why some colors matched and others did not. I also wanted to learn to work with colors and the ultimate goal, to learn watercolor, but without my mother.
Q: How did you find us here at DrawPj?
A: I searched around the net and found a couple of different courses, I tested tutorials and watched a lot of youtube videos. When I found Draw PJ, I read some reviews and tested the free part first. I thought it felt good to have my own mentor. For me, it was probably just what attracted me the most. Someone to ask questions and discuss with.
Q: When students start to study with me I ask them to create a pre-instruction drawing as a record of their ability before they start the course. What do you think when you look at the pre-instruction drawing you created way back then?
A: I feel proud of how far I have come. I was not completely dissatisfied with it, but I did not know at all how to improve.
Q: What was it like studying with mentored support?
A: I think that is one of the best parts of the whole education. I would not have come this far without that part. It is crucial to get support and answers to questions when you need it.
Q: What’s happening with your drawing journey right now?
A: Slowly I have started to find my own style and what I like. I love details and color and I like to draw things from nature. I also like to draw the human face and I feel drawn to portrait painting. Today, I prefer both colored pencils and watercolor over other mediums, but I also think that digital painting is exciting. I would like to immerse myself in portrait painting and then especially with colored pencil. I have been asked to have an exhibition and I have also painted paintings on commission.
I will continue with portraits and paint faces, I am so eager to paint a really wrinkled face with lots of character. I am also very eager to paint a peacock, where I can really dive into all the details and colors. Right now I am painting a small study of penguins in watercolor.
Q: Do you have any favourite drawings that you’ve created since studying at DrawPj?
A: I’m probably most proud of my latest portraits. Both made with colored pencils. I am also very proud of the work I did as the final assignment on the course. It was so exciting to be able to create everything yourself from start to finish.
Q: Have you won any awards, or held exhibitions, sold your art since you studied at DrawPj?
A: I have sold several paintings and I am thinking of having an exhibition pretty soon. It is exciting to see what happens in the future.
Q: What are your favourite art materials and why?
A: I still love to paint porcelain, it’s a great feeling to pick out a freshly painted thing from the kiln and see what it’s like after firing. On paper, my favorites are colored pencils and watercolors. I like to paint from light to dark and to work in layers. It’s exciting to see how it grows and how far I can go. I’m not really patient at all but when I paint it feels like I have all the patience in the world.
Q: Do you have any words of helpful advice for beginner artists?
A: My advice to beginner artists is to actually paint what you see and not what you think you see. It has helped me a lot. To look and observe and then draw what you actually see. Do not compare yourself with others, you have your own journey.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I paint every day. I will definitely continue with that. I want to paint more portraits and my goal is to be a little faster. I would like to paint a really big portrait with lots of colour and detail.
For more images and information about Susanne Norling: