Bizzie Bee's Artist Interview: Sue Perks

Hello Bizzie Bees. What's new and exciting in your neck of the woods? What May happenings in Hong Kong should we go check out?

This month, we have Sue Perks sharing her art journey with us. Look carefully at her artwork above.

What do you see?

What elements of art like line, colour, and shape can you find?

What materials did she use to make it?

Ask yourself questions:

How do your eyes move around the art?

What part did you notice first?

How does the artwork make you feel?

What does it remind you of?

Have a read to find out more about Sue, her paintings and where you can see her work.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and grew up in York, a beautiful historic town in Yorkshire in the north of England. I emigrated to Australia in 1991 after completing a BA degree in Textiles and then moved to Hong Kong in 2003. I live in Sai Kung with my husband and we have two children.

How did you start your creative journey? At school I discovered I was good at drawing and I always loved being in the Art rooms. I vividly remember being taught to draw mushrooms in tone with no line and realising I had found my style. I studied Art and Fashion Design ‘A’ Levels and taught myself photography. The school let me set up a darkroom in a cupboard under the stairs—a bit like the one that the movie character Harry Potter sleeps in. One of my elder brothers went to Art College to study Graphic Design so it was an easy decision for me to go to Art School to study Foundation Art.

Why do you make art? Art is what defines me and is something that I just have to do. I feel frustrated if I am not making something and cannot sit still for long at home without starting a new task. For me it has always been an opportunity to slip into a different mind space or zone.

What is your workspace like?

I am very fortunate to have a really good sized studio space which is set up with two large work tables and an easel. I tend to work horizontally and then use the easel regularly to stand back from the work and reflect. I am on the ground floor and have a huge double size door to let in the natural light and allow the air to circulate.

What is your favourite art form and why?

I studied a combined degree so I had the opportunity to explore Drawing, Painting, Printmaking and Design and I have continued to vary the mediums that I work with. Whilst living in Australia I painted with inks and wax resist and also attended printmaking evening classes to do more etching. In Hong Kong I have exhibited large canvas paintings, silkscreen prints and digital prints. However, over the last four years I have settled upon encaustic and mixed media painting on panels and this is what I will be pursuing long term.

What inspires you and how do you keep your creative spark?

I am a very visual person and see the world as a series of patterns and shapes. I am constantly inspired to be creative from my travels. I particularly love the colours and urban environments in India. I live by my own little mantra of ‘Make It Happen’, which I have always used to keep me motivated, it is on my studio desk and my bedside table so that it is the last thing I see at night. I regularly re-read chapters of The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron when I am travelling too, just to keep me on track. I strongly believe that you can make things happen. If you know what you want, you just have to work at it. A little task each day takes you a long way towards your goal.

What is your favourite tool for making art and why?

My favourite art tools at the moment are my large hake brushes and a blow torch.

Who did you admire when you were younger that inspired you to be an artist yourself?

I was very fortunate in having a good, inspiring Art teacher at school. Mrs Scalway encouraged me to be in the Art room as often as possible and taught me to be true to myself. Sadly she has passed away but I still think of her often.

What role does the artist have in society?

Art education has a really important role in society as practicing artists, fashion and product designers, marketing directors and industrial designers all apply their visual training to everything that we use and appreciate in our contemporary world. The fine artist offers a very valuable voice or narrative which can culturally reflect or record our society and culture.

What are you working on right now?

My schedule for 2018 has been based around some major shows. I was part of a group show with Kambal Gallery at the Hong Kong Visual Art Centre in January with a collection of encaustic paintings called Unitatis, in which I explored theories of composition based upon urban structures. I am currently finishing a collection of works entitled Meander using patterns and shapes taken from side views of urban structures juxtaposed with aerial views of natural coastlines and river courses. This collection will be showing at The Hong Kong Affordable Art Fair with The Fellowship Studio in May. I will then move directly into preparing a new collection which will go to the Manila Art Fair and The Affordable Art Fair in Stockholm. The Fellowship studio will also be exhibiting in Central in September. This is a group with myself, Gail Deayton a sculptor and Nic Gaunt a Hong Kong based photographer.

How do you know when a work is finished?

I let my abstract compositions sit for a day or two before I decide if they are finished but it is usually intuitive.

What's your favourite place to see art?

One of my favourite places to view art is The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney. I used to work there and love revisiting their collection. They also show some strong contemporary touring exhibitions.

What's the last show that you saw?

The last show that really excited me was in Prague where I saw the black and white works of Frank Kupka which really inspired me to revisit the study of compositional principles.

What is your favourite museum?

I love the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, particularly their textiles collections.

What's your favourite art work and why?

It is really difficult to name just one favourite artwork so I will give you a list of artists: Fred Williams, John Olsen, John Firth Smith and Peter Lanyon. I have also recently discovered the work of Egyptian artist Huda Lufti.

What are you reading right now?

I travel a lot and read when I am on the move. I read travel related non fiction, usually biographies or travellers' narratives. I love to read what others gain from their cultural experiences.

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

I am a dog person and have always lived with Labradors. If I could be an animal, it would probably be a Labrador at my house where I would get lots of love, walks and swims.

What do you collect?

Whilst at school and university I was obsessed with collecting Victorian tins and Victorian children’s books with classic illustrations. I sold my collection when I emigrated and I now live in a very minimalist way in a three level white house with very simple furnishings and some artworks on the walls. I love the whole idea of minimalist living and do not surround myself with anything that I don’t need. I even have a very minimal wardrobe and only wear black.

What do you love most about being an artist?

I am constantly looking and thinking about art and I cannot imagine not having that stimulation and focus in my life.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.

I travelled by myself through Rajasthan in India and was inspired to do a collection of painting works entitled Indian Journey which was my first solo show in Hong Kong in 2008.

What are three things you can't live without in a day?

I am not a coffee or tea drinker but really need my breakfast and I can’t go without eating every few hours. Other than that, my needs are pretty simple.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

Whilst at school I worked in a crafts shop selling lace making products and after my Art Foundation course I set up my own clothing label and shop. I have also managed retail fashion shops and in Sydney I painted my own silk scarf collection and screen printed silk ties to sell at the Australian Crafts Council. I teach Art and am passionate about sharing with others how to draw and see the world as an artist. I call it ‘Learning to Look’ and base my teaching on applying the art elements and composition principles along with conceptual thinking.

Name something you love, and tell us why. I am very family and home orientated and love being in my own space painting. However, my husband does travel regularly and we have plans to travel more extensively in the future. I do love being out in the Australian bush—camping and trout fishing are my favourite activities and skiing on a beautiful blue sky day can’t be beaten.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

The best advice I have received is from my husband and my fellow artists who are always so supportive. They encourage me to just keep on working at my art whenever I have self doubts.

What advice do you have?

My advice to others would be to surround yourself with like minded people and think like an artist. Go on courses, go to galleries regularly, start life drawing, go out urban sketching or just sketch with your friends. Make sure that you draw every day, keep a positive mindset and be kind to yourself. As a student, be experimental, take risks with your materials, learn from the mistakes and turn them into happy accidents.

What is your dream project if there were no restrictions on time or money? What would you create?

If I had no restrictions, my dream project would be to document the rural and urban landscapes of India, Japan and South America for a solo show of really large scale encaustic works. I am aiming to make it happen!

Anything else about yourself that you'd like to share?

Follow me on Instagram for daily posts as I prepare my new Meander collection for the Hong Kong Affordable Art Fair. You can visit The Fellowship Studio at booth C10 on the 18th-20th May, 2018.

Learn more about Sue and The Fellowship Studio.

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