Featured Artists

Susan Lyon art
art by Susan Lyon

400 Series Pastel

About Susan Lyon

photo of Susan Lyon

Susan Lyon grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. Her initial interest in art was sparked by a television show on Georgia O'Keefe. "I hadn't seen art like that before. Her work touched me emotionally and seemed so personal -- a sort of window into her soul." Lyon studied painting at the American Academy of Art in Chicago and  Chicago's 100+ year-old Palette and Chisel Club. It is there she first began exhibiting and selling her work.

Susan draws much inspiration from painters such as Zorn, Malavin, Sorolla, and Celia Beaux. Lyon's technique is to paint wet on wet to start and then wet on dry for her finishing touches. She occasionally thins her oils with mineral spirits to obtain a balance of scratchy brush work against thick opaque strokes for the lights. "My style is realistic with as much impressionistic color as possible. I like to combine wide brushes for sweeping strokes in the background with small, soft brushes for subtle details in my center of interest."

Many of the ideas for her paintings come from her travels or the everyday objects that surround her such as stuffed animals, dolls or the occasional curious kitten playfully exploring her studio. "What I hope to accomplish is to convey the whimsical beauty I see around me as well as to make the viewer smile when they look at my work. When I started out as an artist, I struggled against my own more feminine tastes. I feared people would not take a painting of stuffed animals or dolls seriously. Once I overcame this self-consciousness, I was happy to find that what I enjoy looking at day after day also reaches others. Even when I'm painting fairly traditional things, my greatest joy is figuring out original ways of setting up the most common of still life objects so that they appear dynamic. What inspired me in the beginning to paint was the human form. Through the years I've done still life's and people in the landscape. As my journey has evolved I find that my first love is the lasting one. I paint either the nude figure or portrait at least once or twice a week. If I could do nothing else but draw from the figure I would be happy.

Susan Lyon lives in a rural area of North Carolina with her husband, artist Scott Burdick, whom she met at the Palette and Chisel in 1989 and married in 1993. She moved there to escape the hectic pace of city life as well as to experience an entirely different part of the country. Surrounded by nature, Susan's studio allows her the space and privacy to grow as an artist. It also serves as a perfect home-base for her painting trips and travels which have included most of Europe, Turkey, Greece, Mexico, Canada, Nepal, Thailand, China, Peru, Tibet, India and Africa. "The excitement of traveling, seeing so many new sights, and incredible works in museums; combined with the challenge of painting on the spot make me a travel addict! Even before I go on a trip I'm planning the one after."

Susan's mediums of choice are oil and pastel pencil and charcoal, with occasional forays into watercolor.

Book of her paintings "Visions and Voyages" published 2008
website - SusanLyon.com
Self produced Online educational videos through website and a Drawing the Portrait DVD published by American Artist Magazine

Gallery Representation
Sage Creek Gallery
200 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Insight Gallery
244 West Main St,
Fredricksburg, TX 7862

Germanton Gallery
Germanton, NC

Sylvan Gallery
171 King St,
Charleston, SC  29401 

Interview with the Artist

How did you interpret using the Strathmore Thistle for the pad cover artwork?  Anything else you'd like to share about your piece?
Since I was doing a portrait for my cover piece I thought that putting the thistle symbol as an earring would be appropriate.

How did the Strathmore paper you used for the project affect your drawing (or painting) techniques?
I worked on the smoother side of the paper, it still had a little tooth to it which gave a nice texture when I softened the pastel with my finger. I felt the paper held up against my repeated layering of the material and it allowed me to erase what I needed to.

Which artists inspire you?
My biggest inspiration right now is a Russian artist Philip Malavin.

What advice would you give to beginning artists?
My advice is to work from life along side other artists as much as possible. A group atmosphere helps the creative energy.

Jonathan Santlofer art
art by Jonathan Santlofer

400 Series Charcoal

About Jonathan Santlofer

photo of Jonathan Santlofer

Jonathan Santlofer is a well known artist with work in such collections as the Art Institute of Chicago; Institute of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Newark Museum, NJ; Montclair Museum of Art, NJ; Mississippi Museum of Art; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; J.P. Morgan Chase; AT & T; IBM, NY; Bank of America, CA; among others.

He is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts painting grants and has been a Visiting Artist at the American Academy In Rome, the Vermont Studio Center and serves on the board of Yaddo, the oldest arts community in the U.S.

His artwork has been written about and reviewed in such publications as The New York Times, Art In America, Artforum, ArtNews, Arts, Interview, Portfolio, and he has been profiled in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post, and more...

Santlofer, also a successful writer, has published five novels and his short stories appear in many anthologies and collections. He lives and works in New York City.

Interview with the Artist

How did you interpret using the Strathmore Thistle for the pad cover artwork?  Anything else you'd like to share about your piece?
I used the thistle as part of a plant motif that frames my portrait of the artist, Marcel Duchamp, and one of his artworks, and ties the drawing together.

How did the Strathmore paper you used for the project affect your drawing (or painting) techniques?
The paper's tooth set up a wonderful texture for the charcoal, which I allowed to show through. I use Strathmore bristol plate when I draw with pencil because of it's smooth surface, but the charcoal paper was perfect for exploiting the effects of this particular medium.

Which artists inspire you?
So many and for different reasons.

Marcel Duchamp has always been an important artist to me, which is why I chose to draw his portrait for the pad cover. The way in which he moved from painting to questioning the nature of art set the groundwork for so much modern and contemporary art, and his intelligence and playfulness is still with us and always will be.

As for painters, Cezanne, Manet, Giotto, Caravaggio, Velasquez, Giotto, John Singer Sargent, Willem de Kooning, and of course Picasso.

Different artists become important to you because of something that's happening in your work at a particular moment.

What advice would you give to beginning artists?
Work. Experiment. Be brave. Never wait for inspiration or you will be waiting a very long time, just work every day. And never let anyone tell you that you can't do something in your art -- just do it!


Jesse Payne art
art by Jesse Payne

400 Series Bristol Smooth

About Jesse Payne

photo of Jesse Payne

Jesse Payne received his academic degrees from Indiana State University (BFA, 2001) and Northern Illinois University (MFA, 2003) with an emphasis in painting and drawing. In 2008 Payne completed a one-month apprenticeship with the renowned Norwegian figurative painter Odd Nerdrum and recently took a one week workshop with the New York figurative artist Steven Assael.

Jesse has received recognition for his work through exhibition awards and publications. Most recently his drawings based off of Leonardo da Vinci's Grotesque Heads were published in American Artist: Drawing edition, (Summer 2009) in an article entitled "Fleshing Out Leonardo's Grotesque Heads" by Bob Bahr.

Interview with the Artist

How did you interpret using the Strathmore Thistle for the pad cover artwork? Anything else you'd like to share about your piece?
I wanted to come up with a way to use the thistle that was subtle. I wanted to illustrate to the viewer the maximum capability of the medium on the surface that I was using.  The 400 series (smooth) Bristol has proven to be the best surface for my graphite drawings.  I use the 4-ply surface which is strong and durable and eliminates the possibility of any subtle dents or tears that can happen in lighter weight papers during maneuvering.

How did the Strathmore paper you used for the project affect your drawing (or painting) techniques?
The 400 series (smooth) Bristol is the ideal surface for my graphite drawings because I tend to work the surface quite heavily. In the beginning layers of my drawings I do a lot of heavy cross-hatching and stumping of the graphite into the paper. After I achieve the gradations I am looking for I then begin an additive/subtractive approach by which I am erasing some highlights that were lost and adding further details in with various mark-making techniques.  I find that the 4ply Bristol can take anything, even a light sanding if needed and the graphite erases very easily.

Which artists inspire you?
I am inspired by many artists but to define some working in graphite or other drawing media today I would have to mention Steven Assael, Sofie Jodoin, Kent Bellows, and James Valerio.

What advice would you give to beginning artists?
Never give up and believe the old saying that practice makes perfect. Measuring your drawing proficiency is like watching a plant grow; you don't notice it at first but once you look back over time you notice huge changes.  Also, strive to get better than someone who you know is better than you.  Being inspired by someone else's work is important. Setting goals that are obtainable but challenging keep you interested in what you are doing.

Leslie Cober-Gentry art
art by Leslie Cober-Gentry

400 Series Bristol Vellum

About Leslie Cober-Gentry

photo of Leslie Cober-Gentry

Leslie Cober-Gentry is well known for her unique and uplifting conceptual style.  Her humorous illustrations are created in mixed media, which includes gouache, dip pen, India ink, colored pencil, and collage.  Born in New York City in 1963, to a professional illustrator father and creative mother, at the age of 7 she began to pursue her dream of becoming a successful freelance illustrator.  By 15, she completed her first assignment for the New York Times Op Ed page.  After graduating from Syracuse University's School of Visual and Performing Arts in 1985, on merit scholarship, she continued to illustrate professionally for many of the most prestigious magazines, newspapers, corporations, and advertising agencies in the world. 

Some of her clients include, The New York Times, Forbes, BusinessWeek, Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Hallmark Cards, Sony Records, Ford, Chevrolet, and the Entergy Corporation. She has won several awards including one from the Society of Publication Designers and Print's Regional Design Annual, a gold medal from the 2006 Vision Awards Annual Report Competition, a bronze award from the 21st Annual Mercomm/ARC awards Competition, an American Graphic Design Award from Graphic Design USA, a Children's Choice Award for "Sisters Club" by American Girl, and has been included in the book, American Illustration, as well as a juror for the prestigious Society of Illustrator's Show.  Artist Magazine featured Cober-Gentry in a special section titled, "Crossing the Bridge to Illustration...What you need to know to make it in the Illustration field. Today's top illustrators share their wisdom." Several illustration "How to" books, including the "The Desktop Designer's Illustration Handbook" and "The Best of Best Brochure Design" have included Cober-Gentry's work as examples of successful illustrations and how they were developed.

Now after 20 years illustratring over 1000 assignments for many of the top publications and corporations in the world, Cober-Gentry as serves as an adjunct assistant professor of illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.  This is a natural continuation of her love of the illustration profession. She plans to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree in illustration in the summer of 2011 and is diligently working from her home studio on a children's picture book she has written and illustrated.  Leslie Cober-Gentry lives in Fairfield, Connecticut with her husband and two children.

Gene Ploss art
art by Gene Ploss

About Gene Ploss

photo of Gene Ploss

Gene G. Ploss Jr. was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1969. Son of a third generation dairy farmer, he was raised in a rural farming community in Western New York.

In 1993 he graduated from SUNY Fredonia with a Bachelor of Fine Art Degree. He now resides in Buffalo, New York where he works as a sign maker, fine artist and illustrator. Gene works mainly in graphite, colored pencil, ink, watercolor and acrylic with a focus on figures and portraits.

Interview with the Artist

How did you interpret using the Strathmore Thistle for the pad cover artwork?  Anything else you'd like to share about your piece?
I wanted to create an image that would show someone quietly and thoughtfully studying the thistle. They are looking past the façade of sharp thorns to see the vibrant colors and graceful shapes beneath.

As I often do, I chose an elderly person as my subject. I have always been fascinated with old faces because they are so rich with character and so full of detail. It's very satisfying to draw them. I can't get enough.

How did the Strathmore paper you used for the project affect your drawing (or painting) techniques?
This paper made drawing worry-free and more enjoyable. The surface is smooth, but still has a nice tooth. I usually apply several layers of colored pencil and graphite on my drawings. Some papers don't react well to this treatment and won't accept all the layers of color. This Strathmore product is a thick, fine quality paper and it performed very well. I didn't have to adjust my technique because I thought the paper might buckle or tear. It holds up well even under heavy pencil pressure and repeated erasure use.

Which artists inspire you?
Here are some artists that have definitely influenced me over the years: Norman Rockwell, Alphonse Mucha, David Lance Goines, Sebastian Kruger, Chris Wahl, Bruce Sereta, Travis Loui &, Fred Harper.

What advise would you give to beginning artists?
I tell beginners to do three things.

  1. Practice! Draw every day. Do it as much as you can. Always carry a sketch book with you and when you see something that strikes you, draw it! Something that doesn't seem too important at the time can become great when you look back on your drawings from that moment.
  2. Search out inspiration constantly. It is so important to stay inspired. It is very easy to get in a rut and become indifferent. Go to galleries and look at other artists work. Spend time at the library looking at books and magazines. Take note of advertising, greeting cards, road signs, anything that gets your creative juices flowing. Get out of your house and explore the world around you. You'll never know what will inspire your next series.
  3. Don't get discouraged. I was lucky enough to have encouraging people around me when I began developing my interest in making art. It's very easy to let criticism throw you off your chosen path. Don't let anyone steer you away. Persevere and you will succeed!