Sean K. Sutter, “Napa Valley #1″
By Cody Drabble
Sean K. Sutter is a painter, illustrator, art gallery preparator and full time dad in Davis. After earning his Bachelor in Fine Arts degree in painting from Humboldt State, Sutter and his wife moved to the area so she could finish her degree at UC Davis. SN&R sat down with Sutter to chat about his upcoming Second Saturday show, With Eyes to See, at the Ficklin Midtown gallery, what motivates him to meditate on natural landscapes, and teaching art to his 3-year-old daughter Cora. Sutter started out illustrating when he fell in love with comic books, and he began painting en plein air in 2011.
What’s in the show?
This show is going to be all landscape paintings. Almost all of them I did since I moved here to Davis from Humboldt County last summer. I did a lot of landscape work in Humboldt and I really like being able to get to know the area and find out the things that are beautiful about it. So I spent a bunch of time working and exploring around Davis to find things to paint.
I wanted to get really good at painting. One of the best ways to understand color better is to closely observe nature because there’s a lot of subtlety in color based on the light. Especially outside, the light changes so much throughout a day. Being able to paint on location outside is the best painting experience as far as learning.
Do you work from reference photos?
Whenever possible, I like to paint on location but it doesn’t always work. Especially with some of the larger paintings lately, I’ll end up working from photographs. I try to work from my own photographs so that I get a sense of what the life was like while I was there. I’ll even do watercolor sketches to take notes on the colors and conditions.
What drew you to art?
Drawing was my first artistic discipline, being interested in comic books when I was younger. I just felt like the finished product and the artistic appeal of something in full color was the reason why I expanded into painting.
Do you have a day job?
Right now I work as a preparator at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis. I’m a full time dad while my wife is getting her degree at UC Davis in clinical nutrition.
When and where are the best scenes for painting?
Because there’s a lot of farmland and open grass areas, I’ve found the most exciting color comes out of when the wild grasses have gone to seed and the sun gets low. There’s an incredible variety of color, ranges of purple and orange and pink. That’s my favorite light and color situation.
What motivated the jump from comics to painting landscapes?
There are illustrators that work in traditional oil techniques like Donato Giancola. He was one of the first guys that really got my attention. From that commercial illustration, like the Lord of the Rings stuff I was interested in when I was younger, through studying painting I’ve gained more respect for the discipline. There’s a painter in Sonoma named Chester Arnold that really inspired me to paint in contemporary modes, both in landscape and narrative work.
Any new comics coming up?
I will be illustrating an issue of B-Squad for Eben Burgoon in August to September. I’m working on promotional materials for the Kickstarter campaign. I have the overview for the story, and I’m working on character design right now.
Are you teaching your daughter to draw and paint?
Cora already loves to draw. She’s told my mom that “Oh, Daddy’s an artist, just like me.” I look forward to a lot more time being able to, if she’s interested, teach her about art and how to closely observe and see what’s beautiful in something. Cora is three-and-a-half now. She’s done half a dozen acrylic paintings on wood. One of my biggest points of pride for her artistic achievement is her ability to really look at color and describe the color. Ever since she could talk, I had her look at things that are harder to describe and tell me what color they are, like the shadows. She’ll be able to pick out that they’re blue or purple, rather than just a darker color of gray. Recently, she described a color of blue as Minty Blue, which was a great way to label that lighter greenish blue. Also, she saw a coral pink color that was a bit orange, and she called it Maple Pink. She can really get to the subtlety of the colors.
Check out the With Eyes to See… opening reception, August 9, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Ficklin Midtown, 920 20th St, Sacramento, CA 95811, (916) 341-0240.
Check out more of Sutters work here.