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Flagler Artists: Susan Hanssen

Palm Coast is home to an ever-growing artistic community. Some are locals, most are transplants. Some are lifelong artists and others started recently. Talents, all. Susan Hanssen is the latest local artist to join the Palm Coast community.
Susan is an award-winning painter who established herself in South Florida for her unique and exciting work. She was a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, the American Watercolor Society, and the Florida Watercolor Society. Susan has twice won medals at prestigious American Watercolor Exhibitions in New York.
Originally from Buffalo, NY, she went to Syracuse University to study fine arts. She worked for 28 years in advertising, ranging from New York City to Denver, and Dallas. All that time, she never lost her interest in the arts. One day, she decided she needed a change. In 1998, she quit her job and moved to Ft. Lauderdale with her husband. The pair of them lived on a sailboat docked there for 23 years.
While in Ft. Lauderdale, she spent 12 years teaching at the Boca Raton Museum Art School. She would then start her own studio and teach privately. Enjoying illustration and eclectic pieces, watercolor became her preferred medium.
Susan gives special credence to her mentor, Dianne Manse. She encouraged Susan to explore stories through her paintings. “I make paintings that are thoughtful, that make people stop and wonder,” Susan says.
And this has become Susan’s philosophy in painting ever since. It is not enough to just paint a picture for people to enjoy. They are designed to be conversation starters. Each one is part of a greater series. One series she started with focused on sheep, which had her community referring to her as the Sheep Lady. The Coral Springs Museum hosted an exhibit to display these pieces.
Susan’s more recent series is centered on a character named Prudence. She is a young girl living an idyllic childhood, oblivious to—what Susan describes as—the character of life looming behind her. A piece titled “A Fateful Choice” shows Prudence holding a magic wand in one hand and a bull’s tail in the other. “She trusts in magic, still,” Susan says.
Admittedly, Prudence is semi-autobiographical. Susan is not the exception to the regular struggles artists experience. There is always the financial blow of leaving an office job to pursue the arts. Teaching classes helps fund her painting, this passion that keeps her brain active.
Every so often, though, she finds those high points that make it all worth it. The exhibits, the shows, all the places that host her paintings. One can only imagine the feeling of seeing this passion hanging up and admired by others. The pieces are meant to be to spark conversation. She can walk past the onlookers and hear their creativity coming alive from her work.
Susan moved to Palm Coast a year ago. For a similar reason I have heard many people claim when moving here: Just wanting a change. And she has already hit the ground running. During this past September, her art was displayed in Expressions Art Gallery on Colbert Street with fellow artist Sheryl Fletcher Coon.
Sitting with Susan and listening to her talk about art, there is no doubt her mind is a creative labyrinth of ideas waiting to come out. She loves to discuss all creative topics, a constant student of art, be it old masters or new trends. Though she is new to the area, once upon a time we all were, and I hope the community welcomes her and her vision.
Susan’s work can be viewed on her website at www.susanhanssen.com or her Instagram @susanfrosthanssen.