Classical art builds Spar's skill

"Art is a language," says Susan Martin Spar.

"If you haven't been born into a language, you have to learn all the basics. Until you own that, you can't joke."

Once you have the basics, she said, "You can go wherever you want."

To learn - and to teach - the basics of art, Spar uses the atelier method, which is private instruction with a small number of students, following a progression through various steps. Atelier is French for artist's studio.

"It's not for everybody," she said. "It's for people who really don't mind sitting there and spending a lot of time on a graphite drawing."

Once an artist masters the basics, they can be applied to contemporary or modern art.

Spar studies two days a week with a master painter in a Seattle atelier and paints almost daily. Spar teaches one atelier class each week and offers another class for students with work under way.

Spar grew up in a family of art lovers and spent childhood afternoons visiting art galleries. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and lived for a while in Europe, where she was influenced by the Dutch masters.

After side trips into journalism and counseling careers - she earned a master's degree in psychology in the 1990s - Spar returned to her painting. She works in pastels and oils.

Between studying, teaching, painting, and fulfilling her obligations to the Blue Whole Gallery, she works about 60 hours a week. A couple of years ago, she took on the professional challenge of producing a painting every day. She joined Daily Painters, a group of artists committed to completing a painting every day. The paintings are posted online and listed for sale.

Through the discipline of daily painting, Spar said, "I think my painting took exponential leaps. I learned to edit detail, so the places your eyes are drawn to have the most detail."

Her work hangs in both private and public collections in the U.S., Asia and Australia. Her work will be on display throughout the month of August at the Blue Whole Gallery at 129 W. Washington St. in Sequim.

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