Blue Dream of Sky

A Celebration of a Colorful Life

Sue and Nance Sneddon learned by example from their mother (artist and painter, Lil Sneddon) to “paint when the spirit moves you”.  After Lil died in November 2013, the sisters found a folder in Lil’s dresser drawer that included poems, cartoons, articles from newspapers and magazines…with notations she had written, like –“my favorite” and “wish I had written this”.  One item was excerpted from an e.e. cummings poem, printed as — “I thank God for this most amazing day…and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite.” 

In this exhibition Sue and Nance are honoring their mother, especially her creative spirit.  Lil had four daughters, the oldest a special needs child, and even in her very busy life as wife and mother, she always found ways to surround her family with beauty, humor, music, and encouragement to pay attention to, and hold reverence for, the natural world.  In her life, spent in southwestern Pennsylvania and then the low country of South Carolina, she found a wealth of inspiration for her landscapes, seascapes, and abstract paintings. 

This exhibit makes clear the influence Lil has had on Sue and Nance in their separate careers as artists, as well as in occasional collaborative work, all of which is represented in “Blue Dream of Sky”.

About Sue Sneddon

Becoming an Artist

One of my first memories of drawing was trying to figure out how a dandelion flower turned into a ball of small seeds with fluffy tops that could be carried by the wind. I was probably five at the time, and at that early age I was drawing what was in front of me—bugs, flowers, clouds, trees—realistically, so I could attempt to understand how nature worked.

I grew up in the beauty of the Allegheny Mountains and Laurel Highlands area of western Pennsylvania, in a family where creativity was highly valued. My mother and three aunts were all artists, and my father was trained as a classical violinist, but became a jazz enthusiast, along with my mother. My fascination with Carolina landscapes began on childhood vacations to Southern beaches.

I had my first thought of being a painter was when I was 13 or 14. My mother and I were discussing whether the pink in a bank of oyster shells was a reflection of the pink sky or in the shells themselves. We were on the south end of Pawley’s Island, SC witnessing a glorious sunset. I said to myself, if I could paint the joy I feel in this moment, then I could be a painter.

Most of my work, as it turns out, is exactly that—fleeting moments of light in the sky, on water, or on wet sand. These moments do something to me that I can only express by trying to capture them on paper or canvas. I continue to realistically approach a subject at first, so that it gets filed in my brain somewhere, to be called on when I want to express how I feel about the moment of a sighting that has moved me.

I live for these moments of joy and wonder and reverence. Whether or not there is a human figure in the work I create, I may also be influenced by a conversation, visit, walk, or relationship associated with a particular moment I am trying to capture. And although water-related subjects are the ones I most frequently choose, there are other landscapes that I have painted over the years, particularly rural settings of trees, fields, and aging barns and houses.

Mixing a palette of colors for an oil painting is very intense for me. This ritual signifies the commitment of many days, weeks, or months of painting to capture this one moment. The application of a medium onto a surface can transport me to that first inspiration. I may hear the water, wind, birds, or a song I was humming. My senses are filled as if I were witnessing it for the first time.

I work from memory. My memory is sometimes sparked by the notes/sketchbooks that are filled with these moments that I don’t want to forget. There are a lot of notes and sketchbooks. Sometimes I do see something and immediately paint it. But there can also be a long process of distilling an experience to its essential elements and then working to capture those in my work.

Oil, pastel, acrylic, pencil, gouache, watercolor, oil pastel, pen and ink, and mixed media all have a station in my studio. I like to have options in my choice of medium, and also in the music that accompanies my work day. My tastes there are eclectic, as well, ranging from jazz to rock-and-roll, to classical, to folk and other genres. All of my artwork seems to have a soundtrack.

I am fortunate to have a studio that gives me access to my main sources of inspiration and allows me to mark my time by sunsets, tides, moon phases, solstices, and equinoxes. My studio looks out onto the marshes of a tidal river, the Shallotte River. And a 10-minute drive takes me over a bridge to the Atlantic Ocean, the place I feel most alive, where that powerful body of water meets the soft sand, with the ever-changing play of light on water. There is no check-out time. I am so very thankful.