Interveiw: Susan Lethbridge

Exhibit running from Saturday, September 19th to Friday, September 25th
Painting by Susan Lethbridge

Painting by Susan Lethbridge

Susan Lethbridge is an artist who combines her backgrounds in both art and psychotherapy to create her work. Below, I speak to her about her past in art school, psychotherapy and her work today.

When did art first come into your life?
I went to art school at 17. When my children had grown up, I qualified as a psychotherapist. Having done that for several years, I went back and did an arts degree at 58.

Do you find your degree affects your art?
Oh, yes. All the training took about 9 years, so I could use the ideas of Freud and Jung and Winnicott, and the belief of the unconscious, into my paintings. I’ve also been fascinated by stories from the consulting room. I try to let go of accurate drawing, and let the art grow. I like things that happen by accident.

That’s wonderful! And I agree.

I got a First in my art degree which was amazing, too, and that was because I practiced happy accidents. I wanted to see what would happen – they were quite pleased with it. I think they liked that I didn’t do what others were.

What did you create?

Paintings, and a few prints. I just need to do what I need to do, without worrying too much about careers and formal galleries – that’s the point I’m trying to make. That’s why I like the Glorious’ attitude. Don’t you? I think it’s brilliant.

It is! It’s about the art itself.

Yes, and I’m really pleased to be doing this. People need to be able to say what they want to do. Young people find it very hard to find a job they can stand, and do what they want to do. I find it amusing how many people go into art after retirement here in Devon.

There’s a lot of inspiration.

Yes, there is the scenery, but it’s also because they now have time.

And you – what materials have you used in this exhibit?

On the whole, I prefer oils, but I also use acrylic and canvases. I’ve got a few glazed and framed, but usually they’re simple box canvases with oil. I’ve done some landscape and portraits – it’s quite a mixture.

Do you have a favourite?

I like one of them best, it’s an abstract landscape. But, but, but! Lots of my friends like it the least.

Why do you like it the most?
I just do. It sort of developed from going out and sketching landscapes, and it was a new thing for me to try, being abstract with the landscape.

Can I ask why your friends like it the least?
I don’t know [laughs]. I have very honest friends, and they all have different opinions, and that’s fine, because people don’t always like the same things. My husband is fairly conventional and likes things like that, and some of my friends find it boring. And so the conflict goes on, and I have to decide what I want to do! It’s a struggle to choose what you want as opposed to what others want.

It seems like a struggle for many creative people. Could you tell me about your creative process?
Well, I love landscapes and I’ve done a lot of pen and ink sketches. I’m not very good at working drawings – I turn them into actual paintings very quickly. Lots of the old masters used to do umpteen sketches. If I see a face I think is interesting, I might start painting that. Once I painted a face I liked, and it turned into a portrait of my long-dead father. They’re not portraits – they have a life of their own.

That’s very interesting. And do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
What I’ve decided isn’t necessarily best for everyone else – trying to shut out everyone else’s opinion!

Well, that’s a great piece of advice in itself.

Want to know more? You can contact Susan Lethbridge directly on