Hello, my name is Susan Mills. I am a self-taught artist and have been painting and drawing since I was old enough to get my hands on paper and the necessary instruments required, hence the several pages of scribbles found in the family collection of Childcraft books. Painting was the one pursuit I could lose myself in and surprise myself with and so I always intended to go to Art College after secondary school. But at the 12th hour, in fear I might fail to sustain a viable career, I chose science. I went on to earn a Ph.D. and worked in research for many years. I painted when I could but those moments were rare and with time always being of the essence, I never produced anything I was happy with.
Still something was gnawing at me – there was something else I should be doing with my life. The gnawing became unbearable and one day I handed in my notice. It wasn’t my immediate intention to become a painter but something happened that changed all that. My beloved Tibetan terrier Lady died and in my grief I painted her and it was only then that I understood the power of painting what you love. I have always felt a connection with animals, with their vulnerability perhaps. Lady deepened that connection; she taught me the joy of loving and caring for another creature through her unconditional love for me. She taught me the true beauty and serenity of animals which I strive to capture in each of my portraits.
I am originally from the rural village of Knockanore in County Waterford but live in County Kerry now. I paint animals 3 days a week and on those days I wake with a smile. A typical painting day is a simple yet spiritual process for me – I call it my therapy! I always begin my animal paintings with their eyes, nose and mouth because then I immediately feel a connection with the subject on the canvas. If doing a commissioned portrait I ask my clients for information about the animal’s personality and I keep that in mind when painting. I become deeply engrossed in the process and could work on one section all day just capturing the expression in the eyes or the texture of the fur. I have learned that each animal requires a different technique thus each tends to be a new learning curve. It usually takes a few attempts to determine which paint brushes work best for each new project. The process requires a burst of faith each time but then the creature starts to emerge on the canvas and at that stage I seem to enter a deeply meditative state – no longer having to think but to follow some elusive but certain ‘knowing.’