The Art of Creating Art for Visual Artists


One could replace the word “creating” with “living” in the title of this piece as both define the same space in each of these women’s existence. Each artist has a distinct style of her own and each work in different realms of media. To gather information I sent a questionnaire to them and have their responses here to share.

By: Dana M. Irwin


Susan McBride.
Artist of Serious Passion

What is your art training background and where do you create your work?
I graduated from the Pittsburgh Art Institute in 1984 with a degree in Visual Communications.  I also studied illustration techniques at the Atlanta College of Art, and have studied German indeprendently from my art studies.
I design at Wright Creative, 795 Haywood Road in West Asheville. I have the loft space upstairs. I also use the studio for meetings with clients. Most of the painting happens at home in the kitchen or diningroom when no one else is around.

Where do we find your work and any plans for future direction?
Most recently, I participated in the Mountain Housing Opportunites Art Auction in Sept.2011, and am preparing for the Mimi Strang Collective Holiday Show this December 10 and11 at her studio. I have participated in a number of art shows at Lark Books, downtown. Also, I have shown my work in Atlanta when I was involved in a women’s painting group. I am working on small paintings of whimsical, fanciful beetles—the insects not the cars. I am also painting pictures of acorns—I never get tired of those interesting little things. Earlier in the summer I was doing a cat a day painting of my pets, they are both black and white and very graphic.
Are there any teachers or artists who have inspired you?
Yes! Henry Koerner was my drawing and painting teacher in art school. He was an Austrian citizen who escaped Nazi occupation, but sadly lost both parents. He came to the states and was hired as an illustrator for Time Magazine, painting covers. He painted Popes, presidents, and opera singers. He and his family settled in Pittsburgh and he was an instructor at my school. His work is amazing, but his personality was so much more. I posed for him a few times and we became friends. He swore all the time and was the most passionate person I have ever met. I loved to watch him paint, he broke every rule and saw the beauty in the midst of so much ugly. I was so lucky to make his aquaintance.
John Tenniel, the original Alice in wonderland illustrator; George Herriman who created Krazy Kat; B. Kliban—what a wit that guy was; All the german expressionism art inspires me; Paul Klee’s sense of color and texture is amazing. Andy Warhol, crazy genius–really too many to mention.
Why do art, and who needs it?
I have to do art, it keeps me going.
We all need art. Look at what happened in history when art had been removed—complete dispair. Look at what remains of eastern bloc countries stripped of anything of esthetic beauty—wasteland. Our souls require art in its many forms. Many don’t really seem to see it but boy would they miss it.
It’s very important for me to look at art often. It helps to keep me healthy, and encourages my need to create.
How does your work affect others?
People generally like my little paintings, there is something precious about “little.” I like to work small so all the parts come together to make one big thing. Still the little paintings need to stand on their own too. It’s fun to visit a friend and see my paintings. Sometimes I wish I could take them home with me again!
Do you think everyone is an artist in some way?
No, not everyone is an artist. I used to hear myself saying that yes, everyone has that possibility, but I have changed my tune. I think I was playing small to make others feel big. It takes guts to be an artist and work through the fears of failing not making something “good enough” or “useful.” Artists have to make art, it’s not really a choice. Artists as crazy as some of us are, are so necessary and not everybody gets to be one.
Art has universal language, it’s like a smile or tears. Everyone sees it and knows something of what it is, even those folks who like to say: I don’t get it. Good art knocks my socks off, delves deeply into memories and emotions, and it gives me a lot of hope for the future too. If you want to feel good, go look at the art children are  making.
I love to use my creativity to record what is important to me in the moment. I am also grateful to share my work with others. My collections of sketch books and paintings are now a visual diary of my life and experiences. I started to draw in my high chair and hope to die with a pencil in my hand.
Do you have any good art stories—life experiences, dreams..?
In first grade my class made trees out of clay and toothpicks. I made an intricate creation that was really lovely. We displayed our work on the window sills in the room and went home. My teacher approached me in the hall the next day, she was crying. She was a very tough cookie and her tears freaked me out. She told me another student had crushed my tree and no one would admit to it. I think she thought I was going to faint or have a fit or something. I was kind of surprised by what she told me, but at the same time it wasn’t too awful. I told her, “It’s okay Miss Clinton, I can make another one, no problem.” She just stared at me then asked me to take my seat.
11 years later, as I was preparing to walk across the stage as a senior in highschool to receive my diploma a classmate came up and hugged me. She said she had crushed the tree in first grade because she was jealous and it had always bothered her. She said she didn’t like me because I was a good artist. I could never figure out what I had done to offend her for all those years. I told her I forgave her and she hugged me again and said now she could graduate with a clear conscience. (people are so weird)
What media do you work in?
Painting, acrylic and water color, and guache. Linoleum and rubber carving for print making, collage, assemlage, line drawings. paper mache, you name it.


Mimi Strang.
Artist of and by Nature


What is your art training background and where do you create your work?

BFA Rhode Island School of Design.
15A Domino Lane Asheville, NC 28806

Any plans for future work? I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to experiment with forging metal and casting glass.
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by nature, architecture, structural mechanics, industrial machines and color.
Making art is the perfect combination of challenge, which comes with problem solving and joy, which comes with discovery. Mostly I make art because I enjoy the act of making things. If people like what I make, that‘s definitely a bonus. 
Looking at my artwork doesn’t affect me as strongly as making it. Making art calibrates me because it keeps me stimulated, focused and is a continued source of accomplishment.
What media besides metal do you work in? Fabric, wood and clay.





Margaret Couch Cogswell.
Artist of stories

What is your art training background and where do you create your work?
I have a BA from Rhodes College in Memphis TN, with further study at Rhode Island School of Design, Greater Hartford Community College, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, and Penland School of Crafts. 
I was also a Resident Artist at Penland 2008-2011.
My studio is located in the River Arts District, Northlight Studios, 357 Depot Street in Asheville. I have a small paper goods business with one of my sisters,Jessie Brinkley, a graphic designer who lives in Raleigh.  We use my images and Jessie’s graphic design skills to produce quality cards, calendars and bookmarks.
Any plans for future work?
I’m working on 3 separate projects at the moment. Two are making pieces for group shows in 2012, DOG SHOW at Blue Spiral 1 opening Jan 5, 2012 and WAKING UP WITH VAN GOGH at the Hickory Museum of Art, opening April 14, 2012. And the project taking most of my time is a book I’m writing for Lark Crafts to come out Spring 2013 . It’s my spin on a how-to book emphasizing a playful and sustainable approach to making books.
Are there any teachers or artists who have inspired you?
There have been many teachers along the way who have broadened my view and been examples of living a creative life. Mary Barringer, a potter, who is currently editor of STUDIO POTTER; Doug Beube, a photographer and book artist in NY City; Paulus Berensohn, artist, dancer, journal-keeper, book maker in Penland; Dolph Smith, painter, book maker and person extraordinair, to name a few. Learning skills and techniques is important, but more important to me is witnessing a life lived with curiosity and creativity. A lot of what inspires me is the world I see around me- the light, the colors, the everyday moments that subtly enrich our lives. I enjoy visits to museums and galleries to see “art”, but more often it’s observations and experiences in my day to day life that feed my desire to make things with my hands.
How does art affect your life?
I’ve always felt I was an old-ball- a square peg in a world of round holes. The world seems a curious and often harsh place. Making things with my hands creates a context for my life and gives it stability. The physical action of making helps me to understand the world and at the same time provides a vehicle for my own story.
My work doesn’t speak to everyone. That’s natural- we all have different tastes. I find that the people who are drawn to my work make a connection with the emotional content of the work. There is a recognition of understanding which creates a spark that ignites their own imagination. I like to think that my work is about storytelling. I don’t mind if the “viewer” doesn’t get the whole story or even the exact story I’m trying to tell. I hope my work is a trigger for imagination. In other words, it’s only the beginning of the story.

Do you think everyone is an artist in some way?
Yes, people are inherently creative in one way or another. It’s a survival skill as well as an activity for pleasure.
Artists Statement:
“Book” is the structural form by which I tell my stories. I define “book” broadly and the stories are often written in images rather than words.  Using simple materials and techniques such as stitching, paper mache, paint, found objects, and cold connections I create stories that are both intimate and public. I often employ humor and a child-like sensibility as a way to initially engage my “reader”, with more sensitive or sophisticated content beneath the surface. Without sacrificing craftsmanship, the hand of the maker is always apparent and visible in my work. This conveys my interest and appreciation of the rough, unpolished moments in our existence. 
What media do you work in?
My imagery is consistent, but I work across a wide range of media- painting, artists books, textiles, paper mache and tin.  Dogs are often in my work. Even though I’m a cat person, I am fascinated by dogs. They come in all shapes and sizes and are very expressive- just like people. The first thing I ever made as a kid was a dog out of discarded things lying around our house.



Donna Price.
Forger of Simple Beauty



What is your art training background and where do you create your work?
Studio location: North Asheville.
Penland School of Crafts: 2 wk. summer session, 2000 (blacksmithing) and 2007 (blacksmithing/woodworking)
John C. Campbell: Summer class, 1999 (blacksmithing), Winter class, 2000 (blacksmithing)
A.B. Tech: 1998 (blacksmithing)
Shows, collections
Solo and two-person shows at
SemiPublic Gallery. Asheville, NC, the Upstairs [artspace]. Tryon, NC, Warren Wilson Store. Asheville, NC, Abecedarian Gallery. Denver, CO,  EdgeWay @ Edge Gallery. Denver, CO
Private Collections in the USA, Austria
Any plans for future work?
Deeper exploration of 2-D work as well as combining 2-D with 3-D.













Are there any teachers or artists who have inspired you?
My 4th grade art teacher
Heidi Zednik, Andy Goldsworth, Martin Puryear, Jasper Johns, Jenny Holzer, Joseph Cornell,
Ed Ruscha, Ann Hamilton + many more. My profession as a gardener/landscaper is also very inspiring. I experience the natural world on a daily basis which is often reflected in the work I make.
Why do art?
Art fulfills an undeniable need to be creative, to explore an idea, to push the limits in order to see what is possible, to be vulnerable.
Who needs art?
I believe everyone needs art for the sake of sanity. Art takes one out of the daily grind, makes one think and wonder. Art pushes our senses on many levels, if not to transform, at least to stir the viewer. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, but everyone encounters art at some point in life that is admired for its’ beautiful and inspiring nature.
How does your art affect your life?
Art keeps me centered and grounded. It gives me something altogether different to focus on when I’ve had an otherwise routine day.
As an artist, everything I see in my day to day routine becomes potential material for creating. I can’t look at anything without imaging how to turn that object into a sculptural piece; whether it be a seed pod, rusty tool, cast-off materials from a construction site, a twisted branch, whatever. Everything has sculptural potential.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker