myCornwall’s Rebecca Holden went in search of Suzie Williams a Porthleven based artist with an affinity for nature and the wise old crow.
As soon as the quaint coastal town of Porthleven came in to view it was easy to see why Suzie chose this corner of Cornwall to base her studio and gallery.
Still lingering in the midsts of winter, it was a surprisingly warm day and I couldn’t help but smile at the prospect that Spring was on its way. As I unlatched the garden gate and walked through, a snug summerhouse caught my eye and I couldn’t help but notice the intriguing black crows apparently nesting in two plant pots adorning the doorway, a link to her gallery The Four Crows perhaps? It was whilst studying these that the door opened and Suzie appeared having clearly been in the throws of creating one of her paintings.
Welcoming me inside, I entered her studio and creative haven. Palette in hand, Suzie began to tell me a little about her artwork and the space in which she paints.
“When it comes to my paintings I use mixed media, so I mix acrylic and oil together on the same canvas, which I think is quite unusual in itself. I work really quickly and I like to create texture and layers, but find that I can be quite haphazard when immersed in my creative flow.”
“I tend to spend a long time working on a piece and keep going over it, so often find that I work on a few pieces at once. I re-apply paint and add layers as I go. Sometimes I can leave a piece for a few weeks and then go back to it. I tend to use acrylic mostly, but I like how the mix of acrylic and oil creates a really fantastic pattern when they fuse together. I’ve also been doing a lot of ink drawings that I can do in my gallery.”
Setting down her palette and paint brush, Suzie beckoned me towards the house and with a quick smile at her dog in the porch we were soon seated around her kitchen table, enjoying the sunshine pouring through the window.
Being an artist is clearly a defining part of Suzie’s personality, but has this always been the case?
“I’ve always been arty, I used to draw a lot in school and I’ve always done a bit of drawing and painting. Once I had my kids I started doing a few evening classes in various things, pottery, paper mache and then I started a painting class in the village for a couple of years, but strangely enough I actually trained as a hairdresser and years ago when I was about nineteen I had a small studio, which in a strange turn of events has ended up being the space for my shop and gallery, The Four Crows.”
Having completed a foundation course in art at the University College Falmouth (now Falmouth University) Suzie went on to do her BA in Fine Art at UCF.
“It took me seven years part time to complete the entire degree in Fine Art. I worked and completed the degree simultaneously, graduating in 2011.”
But when her time as a student came to an end the next step wasn’t clear.
“I thought what am I going to do now? I didn’t feel confident enough taking my work around to galleries so when I noticed the same premises that I had rented previously available to let again, I knew it was meant to be and decided to take on the space again, this time using it as a gallery and shop.”
Has Cornwall always been her home and source of inspiration?
“I was born in Surrey but my family moved to Cornwall when I was about seven years old so I grew up down here. I’ve lived in Porthleven since I was about eighteen, and find it to be a very inspiring place to live.”
I agree that it’s hard not to be inspired by Cornwall’s rugged landscapes and creative individuals and Suzie explains that both combine to impact her work.
“My work is very much organic and nature based, and I collect things when I am out walking, pick up seeds and bits of grass and all sorts of things that catch my eye. I also take lots of photographs which in turn inspire my paintings.’
“There are also lots of local artists that inspire me, I love Michael Porter and Nicola Bealing. Other outside influences come from the places I visit, I do tend to travel quite a lot so there is always something new and different to feed off creatively.”
As it turns out Suzie’s creativity runs in the family. She is one of four sisters and this was actually the inspiration for the name of her gallery, The Four Crows, with each crow referring to a sister.
“My maiden name is Crowhurst, hence the ‘crow’ reference. One of my sisters sadly passed away but my other two sisters are very creative in that the eldest does a lot of sewing and my other sister writes poetry, so we all have very different creative abilities.”
“The Four Crows, will have been open a year in April, and it was quite a scary project to start up on my own. It was a big challenge, as originally I only had my work to showcase so I had to put a lot of time in to sourcing the work of other artists. Having said that, I’ve really enjoyed it and the gallery now has a mixture, including pieces of my own artwork, and pieces by Cornish designer makers. It’s very small but I’ve managed to fit quite a lot in, turning it in to a bit of an Aladdin’s cave.”
So what’s next?
“Currently, I’m working on a commission for a couple that live in Ashton, they live over looking a lake and they wanted me to go up and get inspiration and see what I come up with.”
“I also have an exhibition planned to run over Easter from Wednesday 27th March until Saturday 27th April called Birds, Bugs and Beasts, so I’m currently trying to find some artists to take part in that. Looking to the future I am soon to be moving the gallery to a harbour front location in Porthleven and I am hoping to organise a few further exhibitions and also some solo exhibitions for local artists.”
Four Crows Gallery, 3, Commercial Road, Harbourside, Porthleven, TR13 9JD
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‘ARTIST PROFILE: Suzie Williams’ is taken from our April/May 2013. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.