In the Artist's Studio With - Sue Stegmeier

Have you ever known anyone for years and then find out you knew very little about them? That’s kind of how I feel about my relationship with Sue Stegmeier. Our paths would cross here and there, and we would share a friendly word. Our children went to school together and as in any small town everyone knows everyone, or I should say everyone knows who everyone is but they don’t always know them.

So it was, when Sue brought her art into the gallery and became an active part of the artisan group there that I learned something about her I had not previously known. What a wonderful surprise it was! I wonder how many other people are like me, who knew Sue for her years of dedication to Literacy for Life and did not know of her talent with a pencil. A coloured pencil to be more precise. Actually… many coloured pencils.

I was excited to do this blog on Sue’s studio because I have an inclination for coloured pencil myself and I looked forward to a conversation with someone who shared that interest.

Drawers full of coloured pencils! Very neat and tidy drawers full of coloured pencils!

So many artists I've interviewed never actively pursued their artistic passion until after they've retired from their "other jobs" and their nests are emptied. As a result a popular location for their studio is a vacated bedroom. Such was the case with Sue, her grandson's bedroom has been converted into her studio and because she is a caring grandma she has kept her grandson apprised of her alterations to his room so he won't feel displaced when he gets to visit his grandparents once again.

As a bonus - using a seldom used bedroom as a studio provides a great place for a wee nap should the need arise.

It's also a great place to put a piece of furniture that you really like but don't really have a use for. Until you convert it into a supply unit for balloons and whatnot that are used in making of Juggle Balls.

Sue's been making Juggle Balls since she dreamed of becoming a clown - about 25 years.

I did a video of Sue demonstrating the "How To" of juggling. Spoiler Alert! She was a little rusty!

You can find the video on the Highwood Gallery & Gift Facebook page.

Artists are lifelong learners by nature. They are constantly learning new techniques, trying new mediums, playing with new ideas. They are the student and they are the teacher because every artist I know is more than willing to share something they've learned or discovered.

I don't know a single artist who isn't interested in learning something new from another artist. Sometimes that means signing up for a course or attending classes at the University of YouTube. Artists are some of the most open minded willing learners I've met.

Sue found a teacher by the name of Dee Poisson whose style touched her and she hasn't looked back. The flexibility provided working with pencil crayons was particularly appealing to her. They are able to be packed up and carried with her where-ever life may take her. Particularly Belize.

Dinosaurs are her next big - really big - challenge!
Who to go with first?
The fearsome T-Rex?
Or the gentle Brontosaurus?
But what about her studio?

Sue has the most amazing easel/desk/work top I've ever seen. Custom built by her brother-in-law. All I can say is "Wow - lucky girl!"

The easel is totally customizable. It can be raised or lowered,the angle can be changed or it can be folded out of the way to provide a large flat workspace. In addition she has another drawing table so she can have several projects on the go at one time.

Everything needed is close at hand.

Artists are constantly evolving. And so is with Sue as she ventures into the world of acrylics. She has already decided watercolours are not for her, although she doesn't rule out trying them again at a later date, after all she has all the supplies she might need.

Acrylics means a whole new batch of tools and materials to purchase and master. Like so many artists an art supply store is a favourite shopping destination. I even picked up a dollar saving trick when selecting pencils - thanks for that, Sue.

Brushes are a very personal item. You wouldn't think so when you see as many jars of them as I do, but I've learned that although an artist may own 100 brushes most of them have a very specific purpose and a select few are the "go to" favourite that gets picked up first. Among Sue's collection are a few favourites for a different reason - these special brushes belonged to her mother and now have a place of love and appreciation in her collection.

As I have been discovering as I do these interviews, most artists have a tool, device or special something they wouldn't want go without. I asked Sue about her's and was introduced to a tool that was totally new to me. This device heats up on one side and remains cool on the other so when working with pencil crayons or oil pastels she can slide her paper onto the warm side to aid in blending then back to the cool side where it quickly solidifies.

This tool is a time saver and believe me, anyone using pencil crayons can attest, time is a major factor in this genre. Where an acrylic piece may be completed in a matter of hours a comparably sized crayon piece may be ten times the length of time commitment. If you have occasion to purchase a piece of pencil crayon art it is best to keep that in mind.

I can't even guess at how many hours went into this early work of Sue's.

Or this one, that some lucky person is going to win at the end of May, as Sue has donated her "Poppies", print on watercolour paper, to the monthly draw at the Highwood Gallery & Gifts. (Check their Facebook page for instructions on how to enter)

Sue has been creating since she was a child when she presented this special card to her father. The poem says, "To light your matches, strike on my patches". The piece was framed with love by her dad, who, with his wife, operated Frame Tutor School in Edmonton for many years and where I attended classes for two weeks when I was learning the craft of custom framing and mat cutting over twenty years ago. It is a small world.

Sue and her husband Fred moved to High River 37 years ago with their three children, when Fred began his paramedic career here and the roots went down. It must be something in the soil in this town, roots develop quickly and deeply.

To enjoy more of Sue's art check out:

  • www.artincanada.com/artists/sue-stegmeier/
  • www.highwoodgalleryandgifts.com/suestegmeier
  • stop by Highwood Gallery & Gifts in downtown High River, AB where you can also learn more about her Pet Portraits.

See you next time.

Created By
Cathy Bennington


C.J. Bennington Fine Art Photography