Artist: Susan Klinger

Painter Susan Klinger presents her stunning portfolio of work, and talks about her process and inspiration.


"Island Reflection, Guana Cay" pastel, 18" x 14" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Island Reflection, Guana Cay” pastel, 18″ x 14″

ABI:  How did your work evolve from using watercolor to pastel?

SK:  While working on my graduate degree, I took a plein air painting class. We were transported each day to an Amish farm to paint. It was an extremely hot summer. I took along all my watercolor supplies, lugging them onto the farm each day. After a week of painting, I was frustrated and disappointed in my work.


"Coconut Palm II" pastel, 24" x 16" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Coconut Palm II” pastel, 24″ x 16″


The intense heat and humidity caused my watercolors to behave quite differently than they did in my home studio. I wasn’t happy with my results. We had been required to purchase pastels for the class, so for the second week I decided to try them. After just one painting, I was hooked.


"Water’s Rush" pastel, 8" x 12" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Water’s Rush” pastel, 8″ x 12″


Pastel was far less cumbersome to handle on location and I found myself being bolder in my use of color and in my application of the pastel to the surface. I was excited by my results. At some point, I might try a pastel over a watercolor underpainting.


"Marsh Reflection" pastel, 12" x 9" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Marsh Reflection” pastel, 12″ x 9″


ABI:  What is your current direction and focus?

SK:  I am currently focusing on a series of paintings that have the sky as the focal point, with an emphasis on sunset and sunrise. I recently challenged myself to complete one small sky study each day for a total of 24 studies over a one-month period.


"Suburban Sunrise" pastel, 9" x 12" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Suburban Sunrise” pastel, 9″ x 12″


I consider myself a slow painter, so the idea of working within such a tight deadline was, in itself, a challenge. But, I also wanted to see what I could learn by devoting a concentrated effort to a single subject. I thought I might run out of ideas, but it was exactly the opposite. Mother Nature continues to provide fresh inspiration every day!


"Sunset at Green Lane" pastel, 8" x 12" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Sunset at Green Lane” pastel, 8″ x 12″


The studies were a success and I learned a great deal, so my current focus is a concentrated emphasis on paintings that feature the sky as the focal point. I also enjoy painting reflections, in glass or water, so I see the sky series developing further into pieces that feature the sky, not directly, but as it is reflected in a body of water.


"Wintry Shadows" pastel, 18" x 12" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Wintry Shadows” pastel, 18″ x 12″


ABI:  Describe your technique and how you create a painting from concept through completion.

SK:  My work typically begins with images that grabbed my attention going through daily life. Many times, I carry my camera, but cell phones have made capturing that unexpected scene much easier. As with my sky studies, I sometimes go on photographic field trips, in search of a specific subject.


Painting progression by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

The painting “Lyrical Cascade” from original photo, through progression to the finished work, pastel, 14″ x 21″


Once I have selected a photo or group of photos from which to work, I will create a notan sketch. A notan is a sketch that breaks down the scene into just two values, black & white. This becomes the underlying value pattern for the painting. It is at the notan stage that I can manipulate the dark and light shapes to create a more pleasing or dynamic value pattern that will carry through to the completed work.


"Fresh Citrus" in process: Notan and finished Pastel, 16" x 12" by Susan Klinger. See her artist profile at

“Fresh Citrus” in process: Notan and finished Pastel, 16″ x 12″


I almost always work on a toned or colored surface, preferring a sanded pastel paper. When not toning an overall color, I may do an underpainting in pastel to which I apply odorless mineral spirits with a brush to create a loose impressionistic base. I apply the layers of pastel by building the scene gradually, at first with broad applications of color. Later in the process, my marks become more deliberate and controlled.