I loved her before I met her.
I remember seeing her artwork in a small gallery in Mendocino. She was the painting teacher of artist Shiloh Sophia McCloud. Their work was so different. I thought, how could Shiloh’s work have come from the mentorship of this artist? It looked so different, and yet as I got to know them both, I understood.
I started studying with Shiloh Sophia McCloud in 2010. I found my artistic side and I was born again. I loved the freedom and invitation to do art my way. I first met Sue via a video to learn how to paint hands. Ugh. At first I was so turned off. It brought back memories of grade school when I couldn’t sketch. I was frustrated, but Sue was a gentle teacher and she was meticulous about technique. She grew on me and by the time I met her in person, I was in love.
She taught me to paint hands, the technique of the face, the practice of sketching, to look at color, shape and texture with the eyes of an artist. She laughed out loud early in the morning while watching episodes of “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. She impressed upon me the importance of owning my power, warned me of the ingrained social practice to call a group of women ‘guys.’ She drank good beer, wore artist coveralls like her mentor before her. She had an uncommon gift of diving deep, of digging up more and more detail. In a time where most of us run from thing to thing, she relished her work. It was her who taught me to take my time when creating.
She lived unapologetically. She didn’t sugar coat things to make people feel good. At the age of 78, she worked her own land, was ready to chop down any tree with a chainsaw and was seen doing a pull up in France over the summer. She was a bit of a rascal and in the most sacred of moments, she would crack a joke. (A bit of a nightmare when holding circle, but loads of fun when participating.) She said, “I really live my arrogance.” Yes she did.
She could sculpt, paint, draw… the list was endless. She once drew a picture of me with her left hand using a branch from an oak tree as her paint brush. During her teens, she was mentored by Leonore Thomas Struass, a famous sculptor know for her public installations. She then studied biological illustrating becoming the youngest person to hold the title of head illustrator for the George Vanderbilt Foundation at Stanford University.
After 45 years she shifted her art inquiries from “What does life do in these structures?” to “How did life get into these structures?” She loved the cosmos.
She believed everything we create holds the energy of the one creating, that each of us has a sacred contract to create. We may ignore this calling, but it is always there. She knew the courage it took to listen to that creative calling and make art. She said, “It’s hard to be the 68th monkey. You have 32 more to go.”
We had unfinished business, her and I. The last time I saw her was in May at a Color of Woman Training. I had one last river walk with her, where she shared with students how to see the grass, leaves, how to draw the water. We talked of her coming back to Hawai’i and staying with me for a couple weeks, and I bringing my mom out and staying at her home, Terra Sophia for a few days. She’s old school so I was looking forward to the chop-wood-carry-water kinda learning she offered. She didn’t put up with bull shit.
I loved Sue Hoya Sellars, master artist, teacher, friend, and mentor.
She would understand my desire to create in the midst of my grief. Indeed it was she who said, “Compost your shit, baby.” She knew the power of composting our lives and creating from the muck.
So I’m inviting you to join me and thousands of others around the world, her students, and their students to commit art for the next 30 days in honor of Sue Hoya Sellars.
Comment below and let me know if you’re in. #30daysofartforSue
And if you’d like to help join us and fund her dream of an artists retreat center at Terra Sophia Sanctuary, click here.