Soosen Dunholter has had a lifelong passion for creating art. Her work is organic, instinctive and always evolving. She has a signature style that feeds the soul, inviting viewers to pause, slow down, and appreciate the details inspired by the natural world and vintage paper collections.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
As far back as I can remember, making art was what I was meant to do. From childhood I gravitated toward creating, painting, drawing whimsical pictures and making quirky sculptures. I remember as a young kid painting rocks that I collected on the beach and selling them to friends and neighbors.
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I embraced the label of artist early on. I had a tough time academically in school, but artistic expression came naturally. I went to a liberal arts college and took a wide variety of art classes, but I would say that I am mostly self-taught. My work is organic, instinctive, and always evolving. As I mature, so does my artwork.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
My work is cheerful, good humored, untroubled, and easy going, I would say my art feeds the soul. I have been “creating whimsy” long before I heard of this wonderful community of makers. I hope through my work that people experience an urge to pause, slow down, and spend some time taking in the details.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration everywhere; particularly from the natural world around me: salt lines on the road, a rock wall, seed pods, – or a walk in my garden just outside my front door in Peterborough. Inspiration can be found in an engraving, poem, sentence, or even just a single word on a page in my large vintage paper collection. A series I called “Uncommon Ladies” were inspired by a collection of garden books I found at a yard sale.
What different creative media do you use in your work?
I work mostly in painting, monoprints and collage. I love combing these media in a variety of ways. It could be adding collaging into paintings or prints or using fragments of monoprints to create new collages.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am definitely an improviser, but I do spend a great deal of time “daydreaming” about work I might create. Currently, I’m thinking about creating a wall-sized collage of my work from the last 25 years. I do tend to plan seasonally. I find that I work on my collages in the late winter and spring, my painting in the summer, and I turn to printmaking in the fall.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
After many years of working wherever I could squeeze it in, I am blessed with a wonderful studio. It was a long time coming but I have been in it for almost 10 years.
It had formerly been my 2½ car garage. Who needs a garage? LOL. My son and husband designed and remodeled it, so it no longer resembles a garage. It is an amazing space to create, collect and show my work. I welcome visitors by appointment or chance, and I’ve been participating in the annual Monadnock Open Studio Tour for many years.
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
I have several different “stations” in my studio. It’s a gift to be able to leave projects out in one area and then be able to move to another space and come back later to something I started or left marinating on a worktable.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I have kept visual journals on and off for over 20 years. My journals are little works of art unto themselves. They contain drawings, quotes, names of artists current and historical that interest me as well as sketches of designs I might create. I often have a few original collages and drawings included.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I usually work on collage projects during the winter where I can sit close to my heater LOL I tend to shift to painting and printmaking in the summer months. Often, I go through my studio with the idea of “cleaning up.”
I have so many projects that are in flux that one frequently leads to another. I might find a scrap of an old book page or a leftover ripped edge of a monoprint, and it makes me think of something I had been waiting for just the right moment to use. They are all little stories to me.
Can you tell us about the inspiration and process of one of your works? How does a new work come about?
Inspiration for my recent whimsical collages came during the pandemic. Like so many others, I was not going out at all, and I very much wanted to get back to being creative knowing it would lift my spirits and give me something to do with so many things cancelled.
I stumbled on an Instagram challenge called “Februllage” in which you were tasked with creating a collage each day for the entire month of February. It got me back to the studio every day and I learned a great deal about the vast variety of collage making techniques.
By my third year I had refined my style and was branching out to create my own fanciful, playful, mischievous collages. People were following me on IG and enjoying my daily creations. I even began challenges for myself.
How has your creativity evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new media/kinds of work/ways of working?
As my art practice has developed over time I have matured personally. I have seen an evolution in my work that I would describe as more defined and increasingly effortless. There are many threads that appear again and again – sometimes very subtly, other times a direct link. One recurring signature element is my use of a distinct black and white stripe.
I continue to motivate my practice by taking workshops and getting together with art buddies to go see exhibits at galleries and museums.
Over time, I have embraced a more reasonable approach to being an artist. These days I feel more relaxed and calmer in my art making. I’m more confident in what I have accomplished and where my art is today, I no longer stress about getting into shows and exhibits. I’m back to my childhood instincts creating for the pure pleasure of it.
Every day, I go into my studio and review my work old and new, considering, gathering, musing, and then diving into the joy of making. Lost in my own imagination, I go to another dimension of blissful artistic creation.
Browse through more collage inspiration on Create Whimsy.