The Art Biz ep. 176: Series, Catalogs, and Museum Shows with Susan Abbott

You will often hear me say that your art isn’t complete until someone else experiences it. Until you’re standing in front of it and talking about it with people who are interested.

In real life. Digital-only viewing doesn’t count.

Susan Abbott painting
©Susan Abbott, Early Morning, April. Oil on linen panel, 28 x 40 inches. Photo by Paul Rogers.

Every person who sees your work brings themselves and their background to your work—adding new layers of meaning to your original intention.

My guest for this episode is Susan Abbott, and she recognizes the importance of getting her work out of the studio and in front of people.

We cover a lot of ground in our conversation, but there are 3 themes:

  1. The value of working in series, and why it’s important to give yourself limitations as an artist—with special attention given to the series of paintings that came from her pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.
  2. Creating a catalog of your art and what it can do for you.
  3. Getting a museum solo exhibition and why that’s important to her.

[ Artist Catalogs: Why You Need Them, What to Include, and How to Use ]

We discuss the practical reason she started in watercolor and the complexities of the relationship with your galleries when you want to move on to a new medium and body of work.

And we talk about how Susan lost 14,000 instagram followers and rebuilt her account to where it is today (~46,000 at the time of publication).

See if you can pick up on why it pays to dress nicely when visiting gallery.


Cover of Susan Abbott catalog
Cover of Susan's 80-page monograph of paintings and text about her walk on the Camino de Santiago.

Susan Abbott Quotes

“And what I realized over time as much, uh, to preserve my own sanity as for commercial reasons, is I had to focus more and really pursue what I was interested in, in more depth.”

“[I realized] that I was going to learn more as a painter and grow more by limiting myself.”

“With that kind of a long walk, there's a spaciousness that you enter that's so hard to get in the midst of our you know normal daily life.”

“It's about a specific image that [galleries] think they can sell for you.”

“The vulnerability was a gift.”

“Any time you put your work in printed form—and remove it from yourself, by having maybe somebody else write that essay—or just having it out in the world, it really adds credibility to your work.”

“I'm not a writer, you know. I'm not a poet. I make a distinction. That -er on the end of the verb is really an important thing. To be a painter is a real commitment, you know, and to be a writer or a poet is a whole kind of knowledge and experience that I don't have.”

“I go back and forth on my blog. I love doing it. I feel like it made me a better writer.”

“I did everything you're not supposed to do and I tell my students not to do.”

Susan Abbott exhibition
Installation view for the Susan Abbott exhibition An Artist’s Pilgrimage at the Zillman Museum of Art, Bangor, Maine, 2023.

About My Guest

Susan Abbott graduated from the Maryland Institute, College of Art with a BFA and MFA, and has worked as a professional artist exhibiting in galleries and museums since that time. Her paintings are represented in corporate and individual collections and featured in media including the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The art critic for The Washington Post commented, “What makes her painting so interesting is the tension between the dazzling display of skill and underlying idea.” Abbott writes about painting on her blog “Painting Notes” and for publications such as “Artist’s Magazine.” She teaches in the U.S. and internationally and lives in Vermont.

Follow her on Instagram @susanabbott

Susan Abbott

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4 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 176: Series, Catalogs, and Museum Shows with Susan Abbott”

  1. Excellent episode Alyson! So interesting and packed with information. Thank you Susan for so generously sharing your experience & knowledge. Your work is incredible.

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