Susan Seddon Boulet Technique Revisited

Susan defined oil pastel and ink work. It took me a long time to refine the process. It seemed so mysterious and impossible at first. I love working the way Susan did, bringing a work into focus through the laying down of media on paper.

Susan defined oil pastel and ink work. It took me a long time to refine the process. It seemed so mysterious and impossible at first. I love working the way Susan did, bringing a work into focus through the laying down of media on paper.

Susan Seddon Boulet was an amazing artist who grew up in Brazil, and made her way in San Francisco. She died of cancer, but not before leaving the world with her archetypal layered oil pastel, ink, and colored pencil works. Her art features gods, goddesses, folk heroes, children's stories, medieval clowns, dragons, wizards, shamans, and animals. Admirers continue to collect her work, and publishers sell calendars, cards, and books that feature her works. The world she fashioned truly lifts the heart and spirit.

Anais Nin wrote:

"These figures are out of our dreams, those which flee from us upon awakening, those which are dispersed like dew at dawn, those which fall apart between our fingers like dust-roses.

Susan has a more muted step, or perhaps she is invisible...more soft-voiced, soft-gestured, as the images do not escape from her.  She can return from her voyages with intact descriptions...from places never visited by us but which we remember."

View Susan's work at Turning Point Gallery online or in Media, Pennsylvania.

Susan defined a unique technique for producing works of art. It allowed the artist to lay down abstract ideas, and develop them through layering. I've provided an outline below.

 

STEP 1 - Choose a subject and make it your own. Limit your color pallette by working in two to three analogous sets of colors. I chose autumn gold greens in varying shades, and cold stony blacks. I used a warm black instead of a cold black. Choose colors that you are feeling. Good exercise: visit the Benajamin Moore paint selection every day and choose a paint strip to represent how you are in that exact moment. See how your choices change over time. Keep a journal. Choose four to five oil pastel colors.

STEP 2 - Choose an etching ink wash. This will work as a kind of "mordant" for all the work you lay down in oil pastel. It will simultaneously dampen, while connecting and harmonizing all of the work. It ties the work together while providing deepened shadows and a layer to work on. By working in these layers, your work will "sculpt" over time on the paper. You will bring out the details from your initial oil pastel layer on the paper.

STEP 3 - Sketch your subject in colored pencils. Choose a colored pencil that harmonizes with your color scheme. I used a gold, because I planned on using my gold green hued oil pastels.

STEP 4 - Lay down your oil pastels according to your drawing.

Apply a layer of diluted etching ink (it must be etching ink, not india ink or watercolor ink) over the layer of oil pastel.

Apply a layer of diluted etching ink (it must be etching ink, not india ink or watercolor ink) over the layer of oil pastel.

STEP 5 - With turpentine and a brayer, dilute the etching ink. Roll thin sheets of color over the oil pastel. This will "dye" all of your oil pastels, but only on the surface.

STEP 6 - Dry overnight, or twenty-four hours.

Scratch through the surface of the dried etching ink to reveal the brightly stained paper and oil pastels. Add details, highlights, and emphasize shadows.

Scratch through the surface of the dried etching ink to reveal the brightly stained paper and oil pastels. Add details, highlights, and emphasize shadows.

STEP 7 - Use wood and clay tools to scratch through the layers of ink and oil pastel through to the paper. Depict highlights and emphasize shadows this way.

STEP 8 - Lightly go back with a brush and turpentine to smooth out sharp or unwanted marks. Go easy on the brush because it removes a lot! It is difficult to reapply oil pastel and ink to paper that has been doused in turpentine. Go very gently with the brush, only to smooth out sharp section. Do not depend on the brush to change or do magic to the whole work, it's only there to soften harsh marks.

Voila! You created a work like Susan. To further engage the viewer, try layering different subject matter like animals and figures. Try complementary color schemes out too!

I chose a woman in the pose of a sleeping beauty. Instead of holding a flower or rose, she's holding a longer lasting symbol, a diamond. She knows who she is. She clings to who she is like a diamond fashioned out of hard coal and stone. She is not angry, she is the woman in an Icelandic tale about the trolls who stole a man's wife, and killed her. They placed her body in a glass box, like the story of Snow White, and she stayed there for all of time. The trolls promised not to steal anyone anymore, or kill anybody ever again. Her beauty will last forever, but only because she will never reach old age.

For a photographic walk through of the process visit my first blog posting about Susan Seddon Boulet's technique here.