Brooks, Susan

I am fascinated with all of nature, but especially with the human countenance. I have lived in Africa, Europe, and the US, and I love painting people of various cultures. My work has been described as “moving” and as showing the “beauty and dignity” of the subjects. I want to elevate the dignity of every person that I paint or draw, and honor the image of God in every human.

The study of the effects of light and color on my subjects are an endless source of inspiration for me. I have developed a unique style of painting with oil pastels that results in striking portraits that glow with dramatic light, various textures, and complementary color contrasts.

I work with oil pastels on a textured surface of mat board or pastel paper, which allows me to build up many layers of color with a thick, buttery, texture in some areas, while leaving other areas thin, allowing the background colors and the texture of the surface to show.

Often I choose a dark color of paper or board for the background because the oil pastels tend to be intense in hue and light in value. This results in dramatic lighting effects, with the colors glowing against the dark background.

In the beginning, the portraits have to be worked in reverse, looking like an old photo negative as I work with a light color on a dark surface to draw outlines and establish proportions. The dark surface also pushes me to build up many layers of color, building up skin tones until the portrait begins to emerge from the background almost like a relief sculpture emerging from a flat stone. For me, working with oil pastels is the best of both worlds, allowing for painterly textures and colors combined with expressive mark-making.