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Artist makes dream a reality

September 07, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- As an artist, Suzee White doesn't have to look far for inspiration.

She finds it in her family and friends, places she visits and strangers she meets.

But telling her story with a stroke of a brush is relatively new.

"It took me a while to realize this was the path I was meant to take," White said.

In fact, it was only a few years ago that she recognized she had an artistic talent.

"As a child, I liked to draw and do projects," said White, 32. "But it was fun -- nothing I took seriously."

Instead, following graduation from Grace Academy, she headed off to Penn State Mont Alto, where she studied English.

Following marriage, White lived in Ellicott City, Md., and landed a job with a small gallery that sold collectibles and clocks. Soon after she arrived on the job, the owners decided to expand their business to spotlight the work of local artists.

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"I began helping to set up shows hosted by the gallery and offered to design brochures and posters for the events," White said. "I enjoyed it so much I thought that maybe I should pull out my paints and see where it led."

She began trying her hand at still life and landscapes and received positive feedback from those who saw her work.

"But this was still a bit of a hobby," she said.

After the breakup of her marriage, White decided to move back to Hagerstown and commute to her job in Ellicott City.

It wasn't long before she became weary of the long drive and began looking for local work.

"I also decided to use this as an opportunity to find a new direction in my life," White said. "So I set goals for myself and decided to become more focused on art."

White said she enrolled in painting classes at Hagerstown Community College and put herself on a schedule to paint every day at home.

"I started to get excited that I could do this," she said.

White said she started posting her work on MySpace and got good responses from friends. But she credits an art teacher at HCC with helping her find her artistic niche.

"I liked doing still life and landscapes. But I never felt they were good enough," she said. "Then one of my professors got me started on an abstract piece saying, 'Do whatever you want, whatever you feel.'"

There was no photo to duplicate, no scene to reproduce, she said. "I just relied on my emotions. I loved what I was doing. Now, I'm able to express myself, show more of my personality through art."

White said she began to set another goal for herself. As she felt more comfortable with her work, she wanted to do an art show.

She approached Ron Lytle, owner of the Contemporary School of the Arts and Gallery in downtown Hagerstown, who took one look at her work and said, "Let's do it."

A show was scheduled for late August and was kicked off with a reception that drew about 35 people.

More than a dozen of her paintings were featured at the gallery, including several with special meaning.

An abstract painting called "Rick" is dedicated to a friend, Rick Barnhart, who died earlier this year. Another, Dementia -- Memories Falling in the Fog," is in honor of her late grandmother who had Alzheimer's.

"I really do draw inspiration from life and the people in my life," she said. "And with abstracts, there are a lot of ways to say it."

White said she works in acrylic on canvas and loves using bright colors.

"Color is very important to me," she said. "That's my personality. I was always someone who dressed in black. Now, there is more brightness to my life. It's a breakout for me, freeing me from the darkness I used to be in."

White said she feels like she has come a long way as a person over the past few years.

"I was married, divorced, had some bad times that I had to get through. But I have no regrets," she said. "Everything in my past has made me who I am today. I feel lucky to be doing this. I'm not pursuing a career right out of high school. But I was still able to make a dream a reality."

White said she recently moved into a house in Waynesboro, Pa., where she has been busy planting gardens and decorating rooms.

"But I'm most excited that I now have space for my own studio," she said. "Eventually, I'd love to have my own gallery. But that's another dream."

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