Susan Birdsong’s watercolors flow from a nucleus of chance.
The Albuquerque artist randomly plops paint across damp paper and lets the painting tell her what to do.
This seemingly backward technique has served the artist well. The winner of multiple awards and honors, Birdsong will hang her work in the New Mexico Watercolor Society’s Fall Exhibition at EXPO New Mexico beginning next weekend.
The juried event draws more than 120 new watercolor and acrylic paintings by New Mexico artists. The names include such luminaries as Peter Hurd. This marks the show’s 50th anniversary.
Birdsong began as a realist when she first discovered watercolor 35 years ago. A former real estate agent, she took a class that became an epiphany.
“I decided I was going to quit real estate and become an Albuquerque artist,” she said. “I love the transparency and the flowing colors” of watercolor.
The co-owner of the Scottsdale Village Tumbleweed Gallery from 1982-1992, Birdsong soon shifted away from representational imagery.
“My style now has gone to the experimental,” she said.
Birdsong created “Tantalizing Trail” using powdered pigment and water. First she sprays or throws water across the paper. Then she fills in the composition with collages from another painting.
In other works, she uses filters or templates such as doilies or a potato sack, sprays the paper with water and pours three colors on top.
She conjures imagery from the resulting chaos.
“When it’s dry, I pull off all these imprints,” she said.
Her floral “In the Garden” and “Maiden”germinated from this technique.
“I realized the paint would flow together and have a softness,” she said. In “Maiden,” “I saw her head with her hair. Also, there was a circle forming the edge of the pot.”
She calls these her “leap of faith” paintings.
Birdsong has taught art through her church for 15 years. Her work can now be seen at Gallerie Tamaya at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, Santa Ana Pueblo and at Onyx Swan Gallery in Old Town.