Susan Falk is an artistic force.
A lifelong artist and veteran teacher, Falk has been a pioneer in the Fraser Valley arts community for decades. Her professional foray into the art world began in the film industry where Falk worked as a makeup artist. After cutting her teeth in the industry, Falk then served as the head of the program for twelve years at her alma mater, John Casablancas.
In 1998, after years of studying painting and, eventually, selling her work part-time, Falk transitioned into her career as a full-time painter artist and instructor.
“While I was teaching at John Casablancas, I moved out to Langley. And so the commute was quite interesting. But I just kept practicing my painting, and taking different night school and summer school courses when I could,” recalls Falk. “After teaching in the makeup industry, I knew I could make the transition into teaching art, so I ended up going back to school again to get my instructors certificate.”
Today, Falk divides her busy schedule between teaching a selection of art classes, creating and showing her own original works, and caring for her 10-acre hobby farm in South Langley. Her works are often inspired by her horses, and the abundance of nature on her property.
“I ride both English and Western but definitely it’s been English Dressage for the last 20 years. That’s another love of my life. I love it,” says Falk. “Horses, you know, that’s a whole art form, especially English Dressage because it’s as if you’re dancing with your horse. I’ve done many many paintings on horses.”
Today, Falk continues to share her love of art and painting, with the community. Her busy schedule includes a weekly Saturday morning class at the Gallery Central Plaza in White Rock and drop-in Life Drawing classes at the Semiahmoo Arts Centre. Annually, Falk hosts a summer en plein air event on her idyllic property; for $120 guests come for the day to paint, draw, in the company of a live model, and Falk’s clan of four-legged friends.
As a teacher, Falk is a natural.
“I enjoy teaching very much. I’m quite free-spirited at teaching. I always say to people I’m when you’re taking my classes that it’s not about coming out with perfect paintings–you can go to other instructors for that. From me, you will learn about color and about design. My strengths in teaching are with colour and composition. I use a lot of colour with good, true paints.” she says. “I’m very visual and hands on naturally, but if I’m teaching a group of people and somebody may learn differently. With my teaching style, I try to accommodate everybody so that everyone gets something in their own learning style [out of the class].”
As a working artist, Falks has learned over time to balance the demands of her teaching career while conserving energy for her own works. “It’s important for me to make sure that I give myself enough time to create my own work,” Falk shares.
She was recently an artist in residence at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, where her paintings will be showing into the spring. In March 2020, Falk partnered with fellow artists, Tony Oregan, Marilyn Dyer and life model Kat Siemens for their collaborative show “Better Nudes and Gardens” at the Landmark Pop-Up-Town Art Gallery in White Rock.
“Life Drawing is a really important element to my work,” she says, “we’re calling this show ‘Better Nudes and Gardens: Arts and Vintage’ because Kat, one of my favourite models for life drawing, will have some of her up-cycled vintage items for display as well.”
For those interested in brushing up on their painting skills or taking-up art as a brand new hobby, Falk teaches classes for all ages, abilities and levels. Her Saturday morning classes at the Gallery Central Plaza are all about painting: both acrylic and oil paints are welcome in the space.
As for advice for new students, Falk is chock-full of wisdom.
“Before every new class I do a little talk and encourage my students to just relax. Paint like you’re a child and nobody is watching. Don’t focus on your neighbours, pain with freedom. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about the outcome. The more you paint, the more you will understand the process.”
Written for West Coast Curated by Brittany Tiplady