Welcome to the website of Susan M. Coles, Artist & Arts, Creativity & Educational Consultant.


Influences ?
Where to begin…as a child, fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson in particular and the story of the “Snow Queen”. I loved comics and waiting next to the letterbox for them to land on the mat. My eyes and mind busy devouring each and every page and then hours trying to draw my own.Comics: started with the Harold Hare comic, then graduated to the Beano, Dandy, Beezer, Topper, Bunty, Judy, The Broons and Oor Wullie (in the Sunday Post), forbidden Superman comics from the USA, which I had to hide under my bed as the parents didn’t approve.
Beano covers
The Broons and Oor Wullie

Drawing: most of the time, on paper, on walls, in my head. Imagination and creativity. Scratch of a pencil, solid feel of a wax crayon, finger lines drawn through mud, a dry fingertip sliding through the steam on a glass window, drawing patterns in the remnant of gravy on a plate, a stick dragged through the sand at the beach,ink stained fingers…bliss.

At school: one amazing art teacher who taught me so much. Sister Catherine, changed my life forever.

Watching: clouds, flames in coal fires, trees bending in a breeze, waves, rolling or whispering, as they hit the beach, birds flying, light and shadows through windows, snow falling softly, the gentle sway of a candle flame, people.

What about music? I have such a mixed taste. From Handel’s Messiah to The Cure. From Hildegard of Bingen to Etta James. I listen to it all the time when I work, except when I have a deadline and convince myself that it would be a distraction, which it wouldn’t be….that’s just me pretending to be sensible. But, does anything equal the magic of a blackbird singing sweetly in an English country garden? Doubt it!
Blackbird sings

Art art art art, where to begin ? What makes you look, notice, and then and look further ? The corridor outside the art room at my school had a picture of the “Avenue at Middelharnis” by Hobbema. I loved that image and, to escape from school, I used to imagine myself climbing into the landscape and walking along the path, under the shadow of the tall trees and saying hello to the man walking up the road. I could hear the church bells ringing and smell smoke coming from the chimneys. Then, when I first saw it, as an adult, in the National Gallery, I cried. I had no idea it meant that much. Hobbema

I have seen some of the greatest art in the world, never forgetting certain things. Such as, the power of seeing Cornelia Parker’s installations at Tate, the wonder and variety of Louise Bourgeois, being by myself in the Richard Long Tate show and feeling such a sense of scale, undiscovered little watercolours at the start of the Kandinsky show, Eugene Atget’s photos of Paris and these were seen in Paris, Edward Hopper’s sketch for “Nighthawks” and in the room with the painting, Van Gogh’s letters next to his paintings in the Royal Academy Show, The Joan Miro Fondacion in Barcelona, Ed Keinholz, Mark Titchner, Nancy Spiro in the Baltic. I also love the exhibition room in the British Library where you can see Jane Austen’s written drafts alongside John Lennon’s scribbled song lyrics and Henry V111’s prayer sheet.
Beatles lyrics

Seasons, autumn, the smell of it, the richness of the colours, the beautiful twilight time when the low sun dips down, cosy nights in. Hot radiator warming your toes, Radio 4 on the radio. A cup of Earl Grey tea. No better season.

Places, I am in love with Italy, especially Venice and the area of Northern Tuscany where I spend a lot of time. But I also love to walk along the coastal path at Souter Lighthouse, which is near where I live. I love to stand in the magnificent space that is Durham Cathedral, to walk around the stalls at Tynemouth Market, followed by a visit to the Toy Museum. I am fascinated by the solitude you can still have in the coastal areas of the north east of England.
Tynemouth Toy Museum
Tynemouth Market
Durham Cathedral

Paris is a most fascinating place, in particular the top of Montmartre, what a place to wander round.My favourite hotel in Paris

I enjoy London, the sweet smells of Borough Market followed by a visit to Tate Modern and Bankside makes a perfect Saturday for me. I like sitting on the bus and gazing down at the streets with all that history and that buzz of human activity.
Borough Market

I still feel in awe of the regeneration of the Quayside in Gateshead and Newcastle, and get a great feeling when I step out of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and see the twinkling lights of the city and the hot colours of the lights in Baltic Square and on the Millennium Bridge.
The bridge

There are so many books that shape your life as well: hard to know what to choose. I remember being hugely influenced by Robert Tressell’s “Ragged Trousered Philanthropist” when I was about 18.
“Animal Farm”, George Orwell, is another one that made me think. Anything by Margaret Atwood will intrigue and engage my mind and imagination, short stories, novels, poetry. I like John Steinbeck, Alice Walker, Cormac McCarthy, Edgar Allan Poe. I love the work of Charles Dickens and prefer George Eliot to Jane Austen, and I would choose Emily Bronte over Charlotte for the sheer excitement of “Wuthering Heights”.

People I have met are always an influence, in recent years my fantastic contacts through my work with NSEAD and with the Arts in particular, plus all those amazing people that I have had the pleasure of working with in my teaching career.

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