MNWS Demo Artist – Suzanne Shaff

7: 00 pm to 9:00 pm

Hopkins Center for the Arts

1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins, MN 55343

Suzanne Shaff 


The Cuban Portrait Painting Project:    

Adapting Heart-Head-Hand to Imperial-Sized Watercolor Painting

There is more to painting on an Imperial-sized sheet of watercolor paper (29.5”x41”) than just making everything bigger. It’s a qualitatively different painting experience.

When I talk to others about the messy, convoluted process of making art I speak in terms of Heart, Head and Hand. The Heart is about inspiration. The Head is about strategy. The Hand is about the making. 

During my years as a professional photographer, I discovered the life-changing joy that comes from slowly allowing my innate vision to move out from under all of the external noise and internal doubt. This conscious/unconscious knowledge directed my camera everytime I lifted it to my eye. I’d found my personal style.

When I returned to watercolor painting after a twenty-nine year hiatus I had a Heart full of ideas and a well schooled Head overflowing with how-to knowledge. But, I seriously disliked the way my Hand applied the paint to the paper. My proverbial ‘slip twixt the cup and the lip’ was my Hand. 

If I could do with painting what I had done with picture taking, would an authentic watercolor style eventually flow from my Hand? In a surprisingly short time, with the encouragement of my mentor, I was able to quiet all of the ‘shoulds’ and what-ifs. Astonishingly, the Hand delivered! I was cautiously in awe of what my Hand could do with watercolor paint. Heart, Head and Hand became a working triad. 

At this point I moved quickly into the Cuban Portrait Painting Project which marked the beginning of my relationship with Imperial-sized watercolor paper. 

My presentation will explain how I had to adapt my vision (Heart), my preparation (Head) and my application of paint to paper (Hand) to work with the real estate of a piece of Imperial-sized paper. 

The exhibition Suzanne Shaff is Back at It was presented at the Zeller Gallery, Hopkins, in 2019.

The watercolor “Self-Portrait in Green Silk Shirt” was awarded Best of Show in the MNWS Spring 2020 competition and juried into the 2019 MN State Fair Fine Arts competition.

The Cuban Portrait painting “The Barber of Baracoa Waits for You” was awarded third honor in the MNWS Spring 2021 show. “The Barber” was juried into the 2021 MN State Fair Fine Arts Competition and received the Friends of Hopkins Center for the Arts Award as well as the North Hennepin Community College Memorial Award of Excellence in the name of Art Instructor Joseph Gazzoulo. You should see the huge lime green rosette ribbons! I felt like the prized pig!


February Live Demo