Susan is a Michigan-based illustrator, author, and art teacher. She teaches at Calumet High School—the northernmost high school in the state of Michigan, located in the Upper Peninsula. She loves family, students, running, reading, knitting, skiing, and shoveling snow. She could write a whole book just about shoveling!
"I am drawn to creating books that prompt conversation and questioning. I think of my books as an extension of my work as an art teacher. Working with students, I strive to get them talking—to have engaging, mindful, and fun discussions interpreting an artist's work or an art movement, and about their own art and ideas behind it. My books occupy that space between people and art and story, connecting people to an idea, a person, place, or a memory. I wish to spark imagination in my readers and create a meaningful connection through words and pictures. Art communicates the human experience. My book art is about designing projects that utilize dialogue and storytelling. As an art teacher and book designer, a foundation of my art is to encourage a steady conversation with readers about exploring varied and numerous topics with creativity, curiosity, respect, and understanding. My books are small and specific with large ideas and universal appeal. Think: Beatrix Potter meets Roz Chast and collaborates with kids, teens, and adults."
Why is art important?
"Art helps us make sense of the world and expands our experience and understanding. Art enables us to imagine the possibilities in other subjects and connects us to the past, present, and future. It challenges students to develop lifelong skills such as analytical thinking, clarity in writing, collaboration, and communicating effectively. Art provides students with the creative problem-solving skills necessary to thrive in the global, 21st-century economy. When students are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of innovation that will be important throughout their lives. Art gives us all the opportunity to make life better. As the artist Vincent Van Gogh said, 'Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.'”
Why did you want to become an art teacher?
"Art has always been the lens from which I see and understand the world. I knew I wanted to pursue this in college—and combined with my passion for learning about how people learn and grow—teaching art seemed to be a good challenge and continues to be my quest. I love designing projects where students improve their observation skills, learn art techniques, learn about art history, and use their creative problem-solving skills. Working with students, watching them problem-solve, and helping them express their creativity and their perceptions of the world is rewarding. I love helping students connect art, expression, critical thinking skills, and art history—preparing them for their next step in education and beyond school."
Do you have a slogan in art class?
"I always say to students, 'You don't have to be a great artist, but you do have to be great at trying!' It is really about how we approach obstacles and challenges and applicable to anything in life."