AT HOME: Opposite page, Susanne Boonen at work in her art studio. Photo Troy Baker D8483-09

SHARING skills she wishes she’d known years ago as a budding young artist, Susanne Boonen has transformed her home into an art studio designed to do exactly that.

Earlier this year the well known artist began holding regular classes and workshops in her newly created space, giving both budding young artists and those turning their hand to art for the first time, the opportunity to learn about the basic elements of art; line, shape, form, colour, value and texture.

Add to this some principles such as light and proportion, and Susanne believes anyone has the ability to produce something “creatively appealing.

“So many people tell me they can’t draw, or they can’t paint, but I think anyone can. It’s just about learning how, practising, and training the brain,” Susanne says. “I think everyone has the ability to become an artist. Art is an expression of what is within.”

Long known for her own work across a number of art mediums, Susanne started her career with painting. She later switched to pottery and ceramics, which resulted in her eclectic range of pieces. This includes her pottery project Antics Sheep, which sees people purchase a small, numbered, pottery sheep as a gift for friends abroad, or to take on an overseas trip themselves.

A photo taken of the sheep in whatever country it has ended up is then emailed back to Susanne who posts the image in its location on the digital world map on The Antics Sheep Project – World Domination website, “just to see where they all end up,” Susanne says. “It’s fun.”

The mother of four, who has at varying times been a primary teacher, a policewoman and a cafe owner, says she’s finally reached the point where she can devote most of her time to art, and, as she has long wanted, to share her passion and skill with others. “It’s a dream I’ve had for a long time, and it’s wonderful to be finally doing it,” she says.

Using her newly created space, Susanne has been running weekly drawing classes for children, which also include creating art through a number of mediums; collage, painting, and pottery. Adult pottery and mosaic classes are also under way with Introduction to Drawing weekend-workshops scheduled to begin next month.

CREEPY CRAWLY: One of Susanne’s insect creations climbs a wall in her studio. D8483-22

“I’ve lived in this house for 25 years and I’ve always wanted to do this, so it’s very satisfying. I think we’re all born with an internal drive to create something and I’ve always wanted to share what I’ve learnt with others.”

Susanne says she’s committed to keeping her classes small. “Between four and six with a focus on one-on-one teaching.”

While having loved to draw since she was very young, Suzanne says it wasn’t until high school that she began working hard on developing her talent. “I had an amazing art teacher at Trident High. He really nurtured my love of art and that’s really when it all began for me.”

Like many artists, she says, she constantly doubted her ability, and still does. It wasn’t until her water colour, Snapper Feeding Hole, won a Telecom Art Award in the late 1990s that she says she decided that what she was doing must be good.

“But really,” she asks, “who’s to say what art is good and what isn’t? Art is subjective. An award-winning painting might be deemed good by one person’s standard, but not by another.”

In 2015, Susanne held a solo exhibition at Te Koputu and there have also been joint exhibitions. She has worked as co-ordinator for the Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Awards and has been featured in a book showcasing Eastern Bay artists. Through it all, while Suzanne’s mediums might constantly change, the message that comes through all of her work, never does – a reminder of the need to take care of the environment is always present, somewhere.

“Conservation, and the beauty and diversity of our country, influences all of my work,” Susanne says. “Art can give you the ability to convey a message and I think it’s a powerful medium for doing so.”

For Susanne, the messages clearly highlight conservation, but she says, for others, the message will be different.

“I think we are all born with an internal drive to create something,” she says. “I’m really enjoying helping people to connect with that.”

Further information about Susanne’s art classes can be found through her website, or by phoning her on 07 3088015.

By Lorraine Wilson