Susan Kendall, Plein Air Artist

Committed to Plein Air Painting & the arts community.

Susan Kendall of Sonora is a creator of fine arts and is well known for her plein air paintings. As a child, Susan drew and sketched, growing in her talents as the years passed. She has always loved painting nature, buildings and the countryside, especially on location. Dabbling with a variety of mediums over the years, she has come to prefer oil on canvas because of the sheer flexibility in color and use that it allows her to have. Since 1994, Susan has been showing her finished works and letting the pubic sphere into her world as an artist. Eleven years later in 2005, Susan became introduced to plein air painting.
Plein air painting is a French-based practice which means to paint in the open air. Plein air painters set up their easels in charming scenic locations and base their work on the landscape before them. Contrast to studio work, painting on location allows artists to take in every angle and sense the presence of nature for the expression of more than color and scene alone.

Parallel to her love for painting is her passion for the vehicle she drives while doing it. Her classic blue 1972 Wagon DS Citroën pictured here is her traveling studio. On outings to paint “en plein air,” she pops the trunk and sits down for the process of another creation. Read more about the journey of finding her Citroën and why she cares so deeply for it, here.
Susan is a translator stationed at the midpoint between the natural world and those who are greeted with the sight of her masterpieces. Painting is not simply an act to portray a pretty picture. She draws the emotions of physical presence into the brushstrokes of each painting. She listens to the wind in the trees and feels the dirt beneath her feet, adding notes of life-breath to her pieces as felt in the very moment of creation.
“Outdoor painting from nature is the best teacher because you observe the light and shadows moving,” Susan says. “[You] have to paint quickly to capture it.” She loves the benefits being outside so much, putting time and reflection into watching nature simply exist. It allows one to lose themselves in the experience; to soak in the sounds and light. “It’s very dream-like in a way.”

There is a consistency to Susan’s style, and her work is recognizable around Tuolumne County. Finished works are graced with a permeable calm, waiting to enhance the homes and businesses of their new owners for the delightful essence of the outdoors in any room. “In particular,” says Susan, “I am attracted to colors and the shapes of trees and flowers. I also like stylizing figures trying to get the essence of a person using very few strokes.” Her stroke technique and usage of color adds creative flair and jubilant vibes for a playful effect.
Being self-taught, she perceives her skills as noticeably distinct from the craft of trained artists. Traditional “en plein air” painters which she refers to as Masters of Color often do not use the same “alla prima” thick brush strokes as herself. She has taken the traditional art form and integrated her own heartfelt approach for a truly idiosyncratic style. Her technique is quick and unapologetic, allowing room for mistakes and flexible resolution in order to commit to the experience as much as to the final statement. “I’m never married to one type of composition or approach… it makes me flexible and somewhat forgiving,” Susan asserts. “I like to think that translates into how I interact and look at people too.”
In the act of sharing her art with the world, Susan hopes that viewers feel the palpable joy and happiness carried within her work. “I hope people will see a new way of looking at their surroundings,” due to the beauty often passed by in the world. Each piece carries an episode of her life with it. Once finished, it becomes a final resolution to the hardships or worry she may have endured during the period of time spent on it – most notably present in her works within “The Healing Series.” Painting helps heal in a multitude of fashions. It allows her to filter the world and deal with ADD; to problem solve and stay social.

One of the many ways that Susan contributes to the growth of arts and arts education in the area is through her participation in the Mother Lode Arts Association Plein Air Painting Group. Led by Susan Lea Hackett and Maureen Carden, this group meets on Tuesdays at various locations to take in the beauty of the Sierras and paint together. Susan Kendall joined this “Merry Band of Painters” in 2014 and aims to paint outdoors 2-3 times a week, with the group or on her own.
Susan is an integral member of the Mother Lode Arts Association. Meetings are held at the Sonora branch of the Tuolumne County Library on Mondays at one. She attests to the wonderful resource this group is to her and other artists because they are able to share artistic tips and information on events, shows, art trips, classes, awards and other accolades. The MLAA works endlessly for the advancement of art in the area.
As a board member of the Tuolumne County Arts Association, Susan also helps foster the growth of many community programs including Poetry Out Loud, Arts in School, The Makers Lab, the local radio station and much more. Right now, the Tuolumne County Arts Association is looking forward to “Love the Arts” month in February. Downtown Sonora will be dressed with hearts to share the love.
Susan’s art is sold in various locations around Tuolumne County. To view one of these masterpieces or take one home, visit The Pinecrest Art Gallery, Columbia Mercantile 1855 Argonaut Gallery, or The Clouterie in Twain Harte. All are welcome to come see Susan’s work at her studio in Cuesta Serena in Sonora, by appointment only.
Find Susan Kendall Art online through Facebook and on her website. Contact Susan to join her and other locals in creating a plein air piece of your own or to sit in on one of her free classes!

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