Artists are their own worst critics.
Intense, determined, passionate, sometimes frustrated but obstinately tenacious, professional artists know full well what they are doing — most of the time.
“One of the favorite awards I ever received is the WSU Chancellor award for a painting that I threw in the garbage,” says watercolor painter and private art teacher Suzi Vitulli of Richland.
“My husband pulled it out and said he liked the painting. So I tried to see what he saw in the painting, and it spoke to me in a way that allowed me to add a few tweaks to complete it in a way that I felt improved it. I then submitted it to the Chancellor exhibit and won.”
From Blank Paper to Bright Color
It was an amazing experience, she adds. And a humbling one. For that matter, the very act of starting with a blank piece of paper and palette full of paint, and winding up with a finished, successful image, is a continuously amazing, humbling experience.
“People say that watercolor is the most challenging medium to learn and master, and maybe that’s why I like it,” Vitulli — who doesn’t remember when she first decided to be an artist because she can’t recall not wanting to be one — adds.
“It’s like a puzzle — you get to put together something colorful and create new sections of it, until this fabulous piece of artwork forms right before your eyes. At least, hopefully that’s what happens: sometimes a big muddy mess is formed, and that’s okay too, because I always learn from each experience when I paint.”
Layers of Color
Due to its transparent nature, watercolor does not take kindly to mistakes, Vitulli explains, because once an area is painted, it’s challenging to lift out the color, especially transforming a darker color into a lighter one. Because the viewer can see through the layers, it is difficult, if not impossible, to cover up errors. But that’s if the artist persists in calling them errors.
“So you ask yourself, ‘How can I incorporate this into my painting?’ and it becomes even more of an opportunity to be creative in the process.
“We call these, ‘flopportunities.'”
For Vitulli, flopportunities and opportunities abound, in both her own work and in teaching her skills to others, and the act of painting requires the entire brain, mind, and soul of the artist. To teach, which she does in regional workshops as well as at Richland Parks and Recreation and Kennewick Community Education, she depends upon analytical thinking, math, timing, and planning, while in the studio, alone behind the easel, she dampens relentless logic so that the creative side has its say. Maintaining balance is crucial.
“Finding inspiration is the most difficult part,” Vitulli adds. “Sometimes I feel like the paper is staring at me, waiting for me to do something, my mind feeling as blank as the paper.
“But then other times I have so many ideas I feel like I might explode, and I clamor to get them noted somewhere so I don’t forget them.”
64 Colors and More
Vitulli is an unabashed fan of color, describing how she entered heaven itself when, as a child, she received the iconic 64-pack of Crayola crayons. Initially in her adult art career, she created handcrafted jewelry, her designs selling at Nordstrom’s and other boutiques throughout five western states. Later, her designs were published in the Hot off the Press book, Fast and Friendly Plastic by Susan Alexandra.
After her kids were in school and she went to work as a secretary (“Not very artsy, I know, but there was a regular paycheck”), Vitulli dabbled in watercolor and quickly discovered that she had found her niche. Weaving between impressionism and expressionism, Vitulli explores texture along with strong color, with the ultimate intent of creating something beautiful and inviting, enticing the viewer to step in and take a closer look.
She has sold her work throughout the U.S. and across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom, and her accolades include creating posters for regional art, music, and wildlife festivals as well as a number of wins from the Eastern Washington Watercolor Society. An especial honor was a painting featured in the Splash Watercolor Series books, a juried display of work selected from entries by thousands of artists.
Living the Dream — In Full Color
With a personal motto of, “I’m in my ‘right’ mind and living my dream!” Vitulli’s goal with her art is not to make a political statement, but a rather more meaningful one:
“My art is about another very important issue — happy people and a happy society.
“My goal is to create beautiful, colorful, interesting and sometimes funny pieces of art, giving people a place to find a few moments to relax into the right side of our brains for awhile.
“It’s a mini getaway, so to speak, to give us balance in this crazy busy left-brained world we live in.”
Suzi Vitulli is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, March 12, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, April 7, 2018.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.