Interview with Susan Neville 4/14/2021
Susan Neville has been a renowned artist and designer in multiple mediums throughout Southern California for more than twenty-five years. For most of that time, she has worked out of her home in Leucadia. Her home functioned for many years as her art studio and the home’s surrounding gardens, which Susan personally designed, were featured on “Good Morning, America.” She has a reputation for creativity and originality, and is known for her exhibits at the Del Mar Fair, her commissioned portraits, and her many works of original art: a repertoire that includes nudes, still-life’s, personal studies, and more, all displaying an intense personal vision of spiritual redemption through the creative process.
Tell us about a project (or projects) you are working on.
This year, I created a one-woman journey show in a pop-up space in the Cedros Avenue Design District I wanted all of my work together in one space. I wanted my pastels, acrylic paintings, and oil paintings together with my textile, jewelry, bead and leather work.
I have been a portrait painter throughout my career but when I lost my partner five years ago, I was in a deep state of grief and needed to explore new mediums. So, that’s when I started working with leather and gemstones and began making wrist cuffs, boot straps and purses. Then I went to jewelry and wire wrapping. I hand-stitched and re-designed vintage clothes. Then I started beading because my hands were tired of wire wrapping. I started making seed bead necklaces with no formula or pattern. Everything I did was an art piece.
This work and this process were fragments of my healing period through grief. I prayed as I created every piece. So, my current studio, this journey show, helped me put all of the fragments together to tell my story of healing.
How has this ongoing pandemic affected your work/practice?
The pandemic enabled me to find a beautiful vacant space to use for my pop-up that might not have been available to me otherwise.
When did your journey as an art maker/administrator/etc. begin?
My journey began when I was 15 years old, I started doing realist portraits of musicians in charcoal and then switched to colored pastels. The women in my moms bridge club saw my work and bought all of it. I made $500. So I started selling my work from the beginning of my career.
My father was abusive and my art gave me an escape.
I went to college, got married and had a baby by the time I was 21. My first marriage wasn’t working out and I had to figure out a way to support myself and my baby. I realized that I could use my talents as a portrait artist to do commission work while I stayed home with my son.
My big breakthrough happened when my portraits were accepted into the juried exhibit at the Del Mar Fair. I won the People’s Choice Award and from that I started getting more commission work by word of mouth. After I won the People’s Choice Award for several more years, my business really took off and I worked on commissions for the next 15 years.
What/who are some of your greatest influences?
My grandma Ruth loved me and she loved my paintings. She framed all of my work. She was the person who saw me and she loved me unconditionally.
Lastly, is there any advice or wisdom you’d like to provide to rising artists/arts leaders?
I’m at peace when I am creating something. When you are creating something with your hands, you’re in the holiest place on earth because you’re in a state of no mind, perfect peace. There’s no pain in that place, no fear, nothing but peace. If you can get there, if you can find that place, be in there as much as you possibly can in this life. If you have that chance for peace, take it. Create a space for yourself to nurture that if that is available to you.
You can find Susan online via: susanneville.com
Or on social media: @sneville224