Outdoor Palette: Susan Bull Riley

The Green Depths of Summer, 14”x 20”, watercolor

Susan Bull Riley has the eye of a naturalist, the discipline of a classical musician, and the sensibility of a plein air artist. These three attributes combine in a wonderfully unique way to lend her paintings an authentic vitality.

Riley was trained as a classical musician for 20 years, and she explains that the discipline required in her musical training has had a strong influence on her painting esthetic. She is always thinking about achieving balance and harmony in her visual work, and often reflects back on the Baroque esthetics that directed her musical studies. It is interesting to keep this in mind when looking at her work.

“The Green Depths of Summer” is first and foremost a painting about atmosphere and color. This rather small watercolor brings us into a fully formed world of green and gold. It is a place we know if we are familiar with the New England woods, a world with its own hum and energy. When it is familiar to us, it feels like home. When thinking about this particular artist and her history, we can begin to imagine the cadence and rhythm of the woodland stream pictured here.

Susan Bull Riley has won numerous awards, most recently first place at Westmore Association Plein Air Paint-out in July 2016; she also won the Hunter Award of Excellence at the Vermont Watercolor Society Annual Juried Awards Exhibition in 2015. Susan has an upcoming solo exhibit at the Compass Center for Music and Art in Brandon, Vermont, August 25 through October 28, 2017. She can be reached through her website.

  1. Maureen Asper → in Pennsylvania
    Sep 25, 2017

    This is a beautiful painting.  I am also a plein air artist and can appreciate the time and work involved for creating such a nice piece.  Greens are so hard to get right.  And in wc no less! Good job!

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