Monday, December 26, 2011


Veronica, 2010

© 2010 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

This photo isn’t the best technically, but I like it for its content.  It features a color combination I find pleasing (purple, brown and green), the diagonal orientation of the flowers guides the eye through the composition, and it showcases the unusual, gradated petal markings of these pretty little flowers with the sophisticated name.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Agave Victoriae-Reginae

Agave Victoriae-Reginae
Agave Victoriae-Reginae, 2010

© 2010 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

On its surface, this is a photo of a Queen Victoria Agave, taken at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.  I was drawn to this lone little plant by virtue of it seeming to grow out of a rock.  The little stream of water emerging from the crevice only added to what I found to be worthy of a photo.

From a compositional point of view, it occurred to me how much I’ve ingrained the rule of thirds.  The photo wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if I had placed the agave in the center of the frame.

Upon closer inspection, it struck me how much this composition embodies Japanese aesthetics:  simplicity, asymmetry, tranquility, understated beauty, subtle grace, humility, etc.*  It’s an aesthetic I would like to incorporate more into my artwork.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Cosmos, Mexican aster
Cosmos, 2009

© 2010 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

Not too many people plant cosmos in my area (a pity), but I was lucky enough to come across a small bed a couple of years ago.

The lighting was just a tad too low when I took this picture, and I remember it was a bit breezy that late-summer day, so getting an in-focus shot was a challenge.  But I liked the photo just the way it was and didn’t change a thing.  The position of the cosmos happened naturally, and they look so otherworldly, as if they’re floating in the air on gossamer petals.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Goldenrod Feast

Goldenrod Feast, bumblebee and goldenrod
Goldenrod Feast, 2009

© 2010 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

Many of my best photographs come to be by virtue of carrying my camera with me when I take a walk.  You never know what you’ll find along the way, even if you often take the same route.

On a fine summer morning, the goldenrod was in full bloom as I walked along the wetlands that are located near my home.  I happened upon this bumblebee going to town on one of the goldenrod plants.  Bumblebees, at least the species in my area, couldn’t care less about your presence, as long as you leave them alone.  They just go about their business, and this behavior allowed me to get really close to the bee in this photo.

At the time, I only had a mid-level point-and-shoot camera, but I was able to get a good shot with it that day.  I love the bright yellow of the goldenrod against the clear, cerulean sky.  The bee looks like it’s wearing a rich mantle of fur and sparkly bronze lamé.  I also got the depth of field just right without even trying.  Point-and-shoots do have their moments.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Monarchy, female Monarch butterfly
Monarchy, 2009

© 2010 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

My original intent for this blog was to share my artwork.  Initially, I mostly used photography as a means to an end; that is, as a tool for the artwork.  However, somewhere along the way, photography became an important means of artistic expression in and of itself.  So, with this evolution, I’ve decided to share some of my photos here.

Like so many photographic opportunities, the situation that allowed me to capture this beautiful Monarch butterfly was a serendipitous one.  Having been planted in several flowerbeds in the middle of a parking lot, the purple coneflower was in full bloom, and I wanted to take a few photos for reference.  As I was shooting the coneflowers, I noticed this butterfly flitting among what appeared to be some kind of milkweed.  I was able to take several shots of her that day, and thought this one was the best.

It’s such a joy when situations like this arise, especially since there aren’t as many Monarch butterflies around as there were when I was growing up.

If you’d like to support the declining Monarch population, please consider planting milkweed in your garden, in as large a mass as you can in bright colors.  Many species of milkweed serve as a food source for Monarchs, and it’s where they lay their eggs.  Milkweed attracts several other butterfly species, as well.  And don’t let the name fool you:  Milkweed is a very attractive perennial that comes in a variety of beautiful colors.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Brush, graphite
Brush, 2011
Graphite on paper
6 x 4 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

A humble little scene on the edge of civilization that caught my eye.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Fine Day in Green and Blue

A Fine Day in Green and Blue, colored pencil
A Fine Day in Green and Blue, 2011
Colored pencil on paper
4 x 6 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

For this piece, I wanted to sketch loosely and not overthink it, the way I enjoy drawing the most.  I like the sort of retro I look I get when I draw this way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fall Reflection

Fall Reflection, graphite
Fall Reflection, 2011
Graphite on paper
6 x 4 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

This view’s complexity, unusual backlighting and evocation of Monet’s Poplars compelled me to figure out how to render it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Goldilocks, chipmunk, graphite
Goldilocks, 2011
Graphite on paper
6 x 4 1/2 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

Several years ago, a robin built a nest outside my window, and I had the privilege of observing two sets of chicks being raised.  The following year, I noticed a chipmunk (no doubt one of those who kept stealing my lily bulbs) taking a nap in the abandoned nest.  Of course, I ran for my camera and woke him up as he unwillingly acted as my model.  After getting my shots, I left the little lily thief to continue his nap.

Apparently, both my poor lilies and the robin’s nest were “just right."

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Firestorm, colored pencil
Firestorm, 2011
Colored pencil on paper
8 1/8 x 4 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

Lately, I find I’ve been instinctively handling colored pencils as I would graphite pencils (often holding the pencil more loosely away from its point and positioning the pencil at a more acute angle to the paper) to help achieve form, texture and fine juxtapositions of colors, as opposed to choking up on the pencil to carefully lay in smooth tone.  I find this method to be freeing and think the results are visually interesting.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Stella d'Oro

Stella d'Oro, graphite
Stella d’Oro, 2011
Graphite on paper
7 x 5 1/4 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

I drew this piece using an adaptation of Mike Sibley’s negative drawing method.  The technique is effective for pushing darks to achieve strong value contrasts, and encourages one to rely on tone rather than line to render shapes.

The next time I attempt something like this, I’ll use paper with a smoother surface, perhaps bristol smooth or hot-pressed watercolor paper.  These papers are often favored by graphite artists, particularly those with a photorealistic style.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Purple Crocus in Sunlight

Purple Crocus in Sunlight, colored pencil
Purple Crocus in Sunlight, 2011
Colored pencil on paper
6.5 x 5 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

Previous to this drawing, I’d never employed monochromatic underpainting.  However, accurately capturing the values in the crocus petals was essential to the results I wanted to achieve, so I used lilac to underpaint them first.  I then applied additional colors to attain the ultimate hues I wanted.

I’m pleased with the result.  The drawing reminds me of the vintage botanical illustrations I admire so much.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reynolds Family Winery, Napa, California

Reynolds Family Winery, Napa, California, graphite
Reynolds Family Winery, Napa, California, 2011
Graphite on paper
12 x 8 inches
From a photograph by Elizabeth Weinberg
Private collection

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

Drawing this complex scene stretched my skills and made me a better draftsman.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Morning Sunlight

Morning Sunlight, graphite
Morning Sunlight, 2011
Graphite on paper
4 7/8 x 6 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

For me, making art involves constant inner debate—whether to make something traditional or unconventional, something within or outside my comfort zone, something that is more likely to be admired by the majority or something that simply satisfies me.

As hard as it can be to break the mold, I find I’m more satisfied if I push my boundaries and try new things, be they media, techniques, styles, compositions, etc.  Some results are more successful than others, but the personal growth is invaluable.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Cranesbill, colored pencil
Cranesbill, 2011
Colored pencil on paper
5 x 5 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

There’s nothing like taking a closer look and noticing something one would never have seen otherwise.  It’s like discovering treasure.

In reality, this cranesbill was white.  While I was struck by the perfection of the bloom, at first I didn’t think it would make an interesting enough subject.  But upon closer inspection, I saw subtle blues, lavenders and greens in the petals, and I had to draw it.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Dianthus, graphite
Dianthus, 2011
Graphite on paper
6 x 4 5/8 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

My drawings begin with studying my reference.  However, as the piece progresses, my reference almost becomes secondary as I gradually transition to being more concerned about how the artwork reads.  I make adjustments that might not be there in reality, although the reference remains the basis for how to achieve what I want to convey.

A good resource about this and other creative concepts is Passport & Palette, a PBS series that features plein air painting.  It’s more a wide-ranging discourse on the creative process than it is the usual how-to, although it includes some of that, as well.  If you haven’t seen the series, I recommend checking it out.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Coreopsis, watercolor
Coreopsis, 2011
Watercolor on paper
5 1/2 x 4 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

While there’s always something more to learn, I’m comfortable enough with graphite and colored pencil that I usually don’t do much preparatory work, if any, before diving into final artwork.  Not so with watercolor.  I’m still a novice with this medium, so I did a lot of preliminary work before starting this piece.

I have a long way to go before I feel I’m at least somewhat proficient with watercolors.  As frustrating as it can be learning a new medium, it’s just as exciting when one begins to unlock its secrets.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

At the Edge of the Pond

At the Edge of the Pond, graphite
At the Edge of the Pond, 2010
Graphite on paper
5 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches

© 2011 Susan M. Lohse.  All rights reserved.

I think that we sometimes see the subject matter of certain well-known artists and conclude that the subject matter that speaks to us can’t possibly measure up.  But we choose subject matter the same way they did:  It’s what we see around us, what has meaning to us, or what concepts we want to convey.  It’s the objects, the people, the colors, the lines, or the play of light against dark that we perceive as beautiful or interesting.  Subject matter doesn’t have to be monumental to be a poem worthy of interpretation.
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