A Q&A with artist Suzi Zimmerer

[The above image is an untitled book by Suzi Zimmerer.]

Suzi Zimmerer may be the most creative person I know. Not necessarily the most productive or the most famous, but the most thoughtful and expressive. She lives this definition of creativity in its broadest form in a rarified and wonderful life. A true artist.

LEO: Describe your creative journey. Did you study art in college? If so, what was your concentration?

Suzi Zimmerer: In thinking about the questions you have posed to me, I tried to link the notion of creative journey to some fact of my formal education. I tried! Formal education (grade schools, high schools, universities, trade schools) is most excellent — or should be — at providing a student with tools. Tools, of course, can be ideas, methodologies, piles of current facts, social networks, etc. Tools in this sense are quite different from creativity. My creative journey began with my DNA, I suppose! This is either a blessing or a tragedy for children, depending on their environment — thankfully for me, my parents, creative themselves, made it a blessing. Encouraged to enjoy the visual arts, dancing, theater and literature, and encouraged to be myself, allowed self-expression to flower. (Thank you, Mom and Dad.) I did attend art school — Gebhardt’s, an art school offering tuition in both fine and commercial arts. I loved it, especially the life-drawing classes.

I think drawing, in fact, is a real passion for me. To use it toward narrative ends opens successive doors of creativity. My husband, Keith Kleespies, also an artist, has enormously inspired and nurtured my creativity. For over 38 years! But journeys are ongoing. So hopefully, my creativity will grow and extend and be of some use in this crazy world.

LEO: You mentioned drawing is your passion and that you prefer to use it in a narrative way. Please explain that a little more.

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SZ: Yes, drawing is my passion. When I speak of drawing, I am referring to the delineation of form, with line, with shadow, with the edges of things, with the shaping of space between things to create visual, emotional and rational movement. A sense of time evolves from the interplay of these things and that is the most important element of a piece for me. I think of this sense of time as narrative, or “a narrative.”

LEO: What type of artist are you? What media do you work in today?

SZ: Currently, I am working on paper — most often in the book form — with watercolor, acrylics, pen and ink, pencil, cut and torn paper, using many techniques including drawing, relief printing, stenciling, painting, sgraffito and collage.

LEO: Artists find inspiration from unusual sources. What sparks your creativity?

SZ: Life IS exciting, isn’t it? And to be able to have minutes, hours or days to dwell in the world of the arts is a state of good fortune. THAT’s exciting. Okay, though … your question. Of course, like many artists, my urge is to answer, “Well, everything!” And while that is true, it doesn’t describe very well. So, I might also answer: winding pathways, stone steps leading into shadow, colored pennants flapping in the breeze, 19th century toy theaters, symphonies by “the romantics,” big knotholes in trees, tea kettles whistling, petroglyphs, stargazing, bookmobiles, jars of old buttons, long walks in alleys. Yes … and time to dream into these things!

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