"In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette,
which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love'.
The Color of Love: An interview with Susan Roseman of Artie Art
Susan Roseman sees her life as a journey. So far the journey has had its joys and losses, its colors and its shade, its ups and its downs but there are some things that are constant: on her journey Susan has always had loving companions, laughter, and always creativity and joy. In the studio with Susan every day are her husband, artist James Feehan, and the doggies that inspire their art.
One constant in her journey is her commitment to giving back to the community. She credits her parents for instilling in her a spirit of volunteerism. Susan’s Artie Art project has supported many dog rescues around the world, most notably our own local Lulu’s Rescue (which features one of Susan’s prints in their logo).
The pursuit of an artist is one that enriches others but Susan and James are also motivated by a desire to give back to the community. Our community has shown that the feeling is mutual. When a fire destroyed Rosemoon Studio in 2005, the response was phenomenal. Susan notes that she and James still have a feeling of indebtedness to all the friends, neighbors, and artists who helped them get through that trying time; a time when they learned about loss but also the love of the community.
In this interview Philip Stephano talks with Susan Roseman about the richness of her life as an artist in Bucks County. Susan’s prints are currently on display at Max Hansen Carversville Grocery through the end of February.
PS: So tell me a little bit about how you came to be working in the printmaking medium...
SR: I was a painter actually and I painted very large. We lived in an apartment and it was hard to paint so I started printmaking but I was also very influenced by a couple of my instructors from college that were graphic teachers. I loved printmaking in college but I was mainly trained as a painter at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
PS: Is that where you and James met?
SR: No, we met in New Hope at Havana's out on the street.
James Feehan: I was working at Havana's!
PS: What year was that?
PS: Havana's in '81 was a happening spot!
SR: (laughing) Oh, you betcha!
PS: Can you tell us a little about what is inspiring you everyday? Obviously what is around you...
SR: My surroundings, happiness and dogs.
PS: What is it about this area, this studio, this light, this place?
SR: Oh I love this area. I moved to New Hope in '73 and never wanted to leave. We found this place in 1985. We lived in the Laceworks in Lambertville. We actually built the apartment on the third floor. We loved it there. We always wanted kind of a factory building and we saw this building (the studio) for sale. Everybody thought we were crazy (laughing). We bought it. There was the big cinder block building, there was no running water, there was electric, and a porta potty!
SR: And we did have a wonderful studio here. We had a fire and we learned about loss in 2005. I had a lot of blocks that were lost in the fire. You know you are supposed to print your editions;I shouldn't be saying this but I don't. I'm really bad at it. Most of my prints there are maybe just like 4 or 5 of the editions and that's it. But I lost a lot of plates in the fire. But we love this space.
PS: How did the community respond to your loss?
SR: They were beyond amazing. It was ....They went beyond the call of duty. They were unbelievable. We are so grateful for our community and beyond. So then the gallery we had flooded that April of 2006...
PS: Oh God. It sounds like an apocalypse.
SR: Oh, it was...
PS: What was the gallery?
SR: The gallery was Riverbank Arts in Stockton, NJ
PS: So a lot of changes, a lot of challenges but you are still a happy person...
SR: Right, you learn to go along with the journey. Think of it as a journey. Ups and downs.
PS: Can you speak of some of the constants in your life. I see that there are quite a few changes that you had to go through, what are some of the constants?
SR: Art, really. Art and dogs.
PS: Tell me about the puppies...
SR: I'd always had animals growing up. I loved dogs. We had a great dog, Artie, that's where Artie Art started. Artie actually died a day after the gallery closed.
PS: Oh God, what a horrible time….
SR: IT was pretty bad... and that kind of was the inspiration for Artie Art. Plus I had no idea what I was going to do with my work. I also worked at a couple of restaurants: one that was sold and one that was closed up so I had lost all my jobs. You move on. It was art that saved me and it was inspired by Artie...
PS; Can you remind me of the date as to when that nexus of events happened?
SR: Jan. 1 2012 was when Artie died.
PS: Was Artie a Jack Russell?
SR: He was a rat terrier. Artie was an incredible dog. He had personality. He was yin yang! he had charm. He was a very smart dog. He (laughing)... he was a character...
JF: We loved him.
SR: So that's where all my characters kind of came from for my Artie Art brand was from Artie. We were at the vet. I guess they had to put a muzzle on him and we were at the emergency vet and there are all these people with their dogs. The room is filled. Artie comes out from back with the nurses and he started rubbing his nose in my legs and he was just going "ehh, ehhh, ehhh" (plaintively whining), like he had a hard time, they had to put a muzzle on him and he didn't like it. And everybody in the room started laughing and Artie picked his head up and he went around the room and he went "ehhh, eh, eh eh, ehhhh" He was like, "I need to kvetch. I need to complain. " Fetch, kvetch, whatever! (Laughing).
We have so many stories like that of Artie where he was actually a comedian.
Then I lived with James who wanted to be a comedian in elementary school (laughing).
JF: Oh, you never even knew that till I told ya...
SR: (laughing) That's true. Well, I knew something was funny! (laughing) NO pun intended.
SR: I grew up with great parents. I was an only child and my father was a character. James and I called him "Saint Peculiar." He was a saint and he was so peculiar but he was funny. He would be sitting at the dining room table and you would look over and there he's got a suction cup to his forehead! Or my father was the type that he went to a party and he shaved half his mustache off and didn't tell anybody and nobody noticed it until he finally said something. He was a character. I had a lot of characters in my life. I guess that's where they all come from.
I was weaned on volunteering. My parents were big time volunteers.
PS: Where did you grow up?
SR: I grew up in Fox Chase and then moved to the far Northeast of Philly. We'd come out to New Hope on the weekends from high school and always loved it and I knew this is where I wanted to be. It is a special place that we have here. It's truly amazing.
PS: I always think of this place in terms of light and we have so many pleasing parts of the landscape...it's more than that; it's the people.
SR: I think so. Very much so. Somebody said they heard Bucks County and Hunterdon County area is built on a crystal shelf and that's what makes this area so special. Who knows if that's true. I'd like to believe it though. It's kind of nice.
PS: Is that a sketch for a puppet?
SR: I grew up with puppets, paper dolls, and coloforms. It was Kukla, Fran and Ollie. It was Bertie the Bunyip. You have to be from the tri-state area to know about Bertie the Bunyip. There were puppets everywhere. We would go to the circuses, the sideshows, the fairs. There were always puppets all around. I guess I was smitten with the puppets (laughing). Not with the clowns but with the puppets!
PS: What is it about puppets we just like so much.
SR:They are universal, delightful and storytellers that share.
JF: Klee was a puppeteer...
SR: Oh yes! He did incredible puppets. We have a book of his puppets. (James gets the book)
PS: There was something about them that took you to another world
JF: They are mysterious...
PS: ..and a little bit strange.
JF: Klee was great with the kids. He entertained and would create these theaters. I did a painting once on the idea of one of the puppet theaters.
(Looking at the book together)
PS: Look at this.
SR: Isn't it incredible? His (Klee's) puppets were outrageous. This is the painting James did from that. It's called “Kasperl's Theater.”
PS: There's a little religious iconography there too. There's a painting within a painting. That's cool.
SR: Did you ever look at James' Instagram feed?
PS: We'll look at that later. I want talk about you. You are a hard one to crack because you like to talk about other people (laughing). Tell us about your puppet project...
SR: How did they start? Oh, I know. We kept throwing out sponge brushes (James laughs in the background) and I thought it was so wasteful. So I started making puppets out of them. I start with a sponge brush and I put Reynolds wrap around it and then I tape it. And I tape newspaper and then modge podge I build it up.
PS: That looks like one of James' characters there with the crown...
SR: I made that to look like his piece. So we don't know what to do with these.
PS: Puppet theater!
SR: We don't know where they are going yet. We're thinking of them more sculptural.
PS: Maybe it's dioramas?
SR: Dioramas, that would be kind of cool.
SR: I’ve been playing around with different things made with paper. (plays with a telescoping puppet (see video))
PS: Tell me about these again...
SR: These are for my little surprise packs. I started to make paper goods from my childhood memories from the 50’s. In the 50s everything it seemed was made from paper. We had paper dolls, telescopes and finger puppets. And am now having fun working on puppets with moving parts.I also decorated his party hat.
PS: Obviously Lulu's Rescue and Artie Art are perfect together...
SR: Well, it's a way I can give to the rescues and I can share my art for the dogs. That's what it is all about. And Lulu's is a great organization.
PS: How long have you been working with them?
SR: I can't remember. I think even before they started (laughing)
PS: Who is it over there who you've know from the beginning?
SR: Michele Armstrong, she's the director of Lulu's. I remember when she first started it but she was always rescuing dogs before she started the organization. Like I said, it's just a way that I can give. I can give of myself and promote their cause. I've been doing it with other rescues. I'm working on a card for a rescue in New Zealand, a "grateful for you" card that they can give to their donors as a "thank you" for donating money. They can use my image for promotions. I'm trying to do more of that. Opening it up. Muttville.org is in San Francisco. I did one recently for Carrie's Rescue in upstate NY. So it's nice to be able to share the images; it's all about the dogs.
I have a pdf available of a card that I offer and it is for your wallet it says: If I'm ill or injured my dog is home alone, etc." People can request it and print it out and I'm getting all these requests from New Zealand, Australia, all over the world. JF: ...and she made it an attractive design.
PS: Where can we find that?
SR: It's on the website. Let's link it in the blog. We can offer it. We have it for cats and for dogs. And so you have your contact
info on the back. It's really good to have if you're an animal owner.
PS: let me get a little video of the dogs. I think they are part of the inspiration
SR: Yes they are! Very much so. They direct our life..
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