Exercising the right side of the brain

Q&A with Susan Woodson

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Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 12:00 am

Many do not know that Chancellor Randy Woodson's wife, Susan Woodson, is a painter. Using bright colors and dramatic graphics, Woodson paints various-sized paintings and has converted the basement of the chancellor's residence into a tucked-away studio. Technician sat down with Woodson to hear about her past experience in art and her future endeavors at N.C. State.

Technician: How's it been here in North Carolina so far?

Woodson: It's been fun. We love it. The day we drove in the driveway I felt like this was home. N.C. State's wonderful. It's a great school. Hillsborough [Street] was a little challenging when we got here but it's beautiful. I am so excited that it's all done. It looks so good.

Technician: When did you start painting?

Woodson: When I went into art as a major, I was a painter. I always loved arts and my mother was very encouraging and very creative -- we were always decorating. There were three girls and we were always moving furniture around and rearranging, so I always had that interest for design. And really for art, what did you do mostly at that time? You painted.

Because graphic design kind of took over my life, my fine arts kind of went by the wayside and then I had children and life was busy. But two years ago, before we moved here, we had built a house and the basement was empty because we didn't finish it. It had these great windows that looked out over these great woods, so I got some canvases and started painting again.

Technician: Where did you get your degree from?

Woodson: The University of Arkansas. I went to school there and then Randy followed me. We were high school sweethearts.

Actually, how I really got into graphic design was after Randy and I got married, we moved to Ithaca, NY to Cornell and I got into the design department, the publication department and I got great experience. Now, it was different then. It was not computerized. Everything was hand-done. Then any time we moved, my experience immediately got me a job. In between that I was having children and it was something I could do on the side, but then the world changed and it all became computerized. I had to go back and get my masters and get all the computer skills, which was so hard for me. It was before I had even sat at a computer. Our world was not computerized, so I had to make myself go back and get experience in how to design. In that time, I taught at the school and got a more well-rounded view of design and art and how it all worked together.

Technician: What was your impression of having to use the computer versus the old-school way?

Woodson: One of the reasons why I went into design was because I loved the hands-on about it. It was creating something with my hands, but also in the end have a great publication piece that you printed and saw the end results. I love that. I couldn't stand the idea of doing it on the computer, but the more I got to know the programs and familiarize myself with it, I realized the endless possibilities there are. But I always say: if you don't have that basic design skill and training, then you really aren't a designer, even though anyone in the world who has a program thinks they're a designer.

Technician: Have you ever attended any of the ARTS N.C. State events?

Woodson: When I first arrived, first I met with Marvin Malecha, a couple of people in the design area. I've gotten a lot of ideas from them of things I want to develop at N.C. State.

The Gregg Museum is great. I met with Lynn Enis and I went over and toured, then I took Randy over and toured. In the whole process, I said "let's put some art in the residence and the chancellor's office this summer." I don't know if you've been in his office -- it looked real boring -- so now it looks wonderful. You'll see all the art came from the Gregg Museum. Some of the art in [the chancellor's house] is from the Gregg Museum and there is some more to come.

I've been to the openings for the Gregg Museum and I went to [Art to Wear]. That was so fun and I was so impressed with how creative everybody was and how well done it was. It was quite a show.

Technician: What kinds of plans do have for your future involvement in the design school?

Woodson: I would like to start an art co-op on Hillsborough Street. In West Lafayette, they had a nice art co-op where artists worked in their homes or studios and sold their work at this co-op and they would have to work in the co-op. So I am interested in getting that started in the real near future -- there are some places we are looking at on Hillsborough Street. I have someone else I am working with on this and I think it could be really exciting and it also would give me a place to show and sell my work as well as other people in the community. And hopefully students can get involved in it.

Technician: What inspires your work?

Woodson: I'll just pick up a brush and start painting or have an idea in my mind. It never turns out like what I have in my mind, but it's just the creative process of producing something and watching it develop -- nature, my dogs, inside rooms, interiors.

Technician: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Woodson: I always say -- and I have a daughter who is a photography major -- to follow your passion. If you follow your passion, you'll find something with that that you love to do and you will be able to find something to support yourself in some way.