Sue Beetle

Artist Sue Beetle

Getting outside is important to me for my health and well-being, and a frequent source of subject matter. 

Q&A with Sue Beetle

How would you describe your background?

While having no college or formal training in the arts, for as long as I can remember I’ve been drawing or making things. In first grade the art teacher commented that I’d drawn a horse’’s hind legs “properly” (ie: not bending like human legs). As kids we watched the John Gnagy drawing program on black and white tv, and as teenagers a neighbor taught oil painting in her basement. Our grandparents kept both my sister Kate and I supplied with age-appropriate materials, starting with crayons and coloring books.

I read artists’ books and magazines, have taken some in-person workshops, and Zoom classes on the laptop.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

It never occurred to me that I wasn’t an artist: I just wasn’t getting paid. After high school I made my creations in my leisure time after work. I wasn’t “driven,” but pretty much always had something going on, whether a craft, photography, or drawing. In school I was drawing/making constantly, in the art room more and more. My projects tended to be a much larger scale and more complicated than the basic assignment.

What would surprise people to learn about you?

Years ago I took an 8 week course on how to be a clown, thinking I’d do that when I retired. I got hooked—it’s hard work but so much fun to make people laugh! I continued with the group for 25 years +/-, until after I moved back to New Hampshire. We performed in parades, and volunteered at fundraisers and charitable events where I did face-painting. I’m no good at balloon animals—I shut my eyes, afraid the balloon will pop!

How would you describe your art to someone who has never seen it?

I’m fascinated by the rounded and massive shapes of old vehicles, the aging of the surfaces and try to render them, not photo-realistically but emotionally, mostly using colored pencil .

I find architectural shapes equally attractive but draw them using first pencil, then old style dip pen and ink. 

Living things—animals, plants, leaves—I carve a woodblock and make prints using the white-line method, which completes each print in its entirety before another print is made from that block. These prints use watercolor paints. They are technically un-numbered monoprints. 

My prints are simpler lines with few details compared to the other two mediums.

What achievements in the area of art are you proudest of?

I participated in the MAAA  Art In The Park for the first time in 2022, and won third place for my body of work. It was my very first show!
In 2023 I entered pieces in the Jaffrey Civic Center Art Gala: one of them was chosen for the Live Auction, made reserve, and Sold, so both the Civic Center and I profited. And I made sales later that year while showing again at the MAAA  Art In The Park. 

As a “newbie” this is very encouraging!

How would you describe your art process?

I work mostly from my own photos, sometimes needing to find reference material for something like details on a bird…. I’ll do a little cropping on my phone, then email it to myself and print it out roughly the size I want, in both color and black and white. Once I’ve got my drawing on the chosen surface I’ll use that color photo to start choosing the pencils, but then bring up the photo on my tablet for more accurate colors. Decisions are made depending on the choice of paper, whether white or tinted or black, whether I’ll use watercolor pencils or odorless mineral spirits to blend the pencil colors, etc. 

I don’t need the tablet if its a woodcut. My color choices are simplified and mobile once the block is cut and ready to print. White-line woodcuts are an interesting blend of planning and spontanaity. And the drawing has to be transferred in reverse to print “proper.”

Working with Pen & Ink is the simplest, sketch onto paper and then ink it, or just go straight on with the ink.

What is your usual studio/working day like?

My studio time is erratic. I do try to spend at least some time making art daily, inserting it in depending on weather, necessary activities, appointments… Getting outside is important to me for my health and well-being, and a frequent source of subject matter. When time is limited, a pencil painting is much more available to work on — just color or shade an area, and leave it when needed. The print session requires more of a time commitment for set-up and clean-up. Both are very absorbing — once started, hard to stop..

Natural light is preferred but doesn’t always happen, especially in winter.


What is the most delightful part of your life outside of work?

Well, I’m retired, so any “work” is what I assign to myself… My partner and I are looking forward to becoming grandparents: his daughter is due to have a boy very soon! A knee injury has slowed down playing in the snow this winter, but after I get my new knee I’ll be working hard to get back to gardening (in New Hampshire that’s another way to say “rearranging rocks”), hiking, camping, kayaking, and going on lunch trips with him on any of his three motorcycles.

Getting together with friends is always wonderful, I’m still in touch with some from grade school and high school!