I usually paint in oils for the ability to achieve accuracy in line and color. I like to paint on stretched linen. I am skilled in pastel, charcoal, graphite pencil and pen and ink.
I have been painting for myself since 1960. I keep a sketch book at all times and I have a carton of sketch books from my time drawing and painting. I attended the High School of Music & Art in New York City and attended the Cooper Union Institute. When I graduated from Cooper Union in Fine Art and Design, I moved to northern Canada from New York City. There I was a caretaker of a log cabin in the wilderness, situated on the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City. I built my own easel and painted a version of the last supper putting all my friends in place of the disciples. My first portrait was of a woman then 69 years old, and her husband told me that I had captured both her youthfulness and her age in the same painting. I was hooked then, because inwardly I knew I had the ability to translate what I felt onto canvas.
I have taught in Whitehorse, and also in San Francisco. I obtained a life time certificate from the state of California to teach art to adults in Community College. I have been an art instructor for seniors in residence homes. It has been very rewarding and inspiring to see men and women who are upwards of 80 years, who didn't think they could draw to turn out very accomplished and interesting art works. In some cases it has increased the self esteem and helped people to socialize more in that residence setting.
For the past 20 years, since about 1994, I have specialized in the painting of jazz musicians as they performed. At times I would use their photos to create works, such as when I was hired by a jazz historian, Ted Gioia, to illustrate for articles written about jazz musicians on www.jazz.com The address there to see some of my digital paintings is www.jazz.com/gallery/suzanne-cerny/
At the present time I am painting on very large 4 to 6 foot canvases depicting the conceptions of a scholar, artist and musician who is also knowledgeable in the fields of religion, mythology and legend. This collaboration allows me to share my technical knowledge while imparting certain principles to the creator of the designs, and where I test out different solvents, and create layers of underpainting in burnt umber and white. Later the artist will do the final painting with color mixtures based on the Munsell system.
I moved from portraits to landscapes when I lived in Santa Barbara, CA, because there is a large group of painters there who only paint the central coast landscapes. They raise money through art sales to benefit environmental work in the area. This group is called the O.A.K. Group. There are many wild oak trees in the California hills. But their acronym stands for Open Air Klub. Something in that order anyway. I studied with reknowned painters Ray Strong and Michael Drury, founders of the Group. It was in Santa Barbara that I sketched in a small storefront jazz club, and created a collection that I would now like to sell because I would like it to be kept together as a collection.
My most recent mural was for a middle school in Richmond, CA. However, my mural history is long. I did the History of the Klondike for the Whitehorse City Hall in 1967. This was a $5,000 prize for a contest where I won over the architect of the newly built City Hall. At that time I was working as a typist for the Yukon Daily News. The bid for the mural artist was open and I applied at the urging of the editor of the Newspaper. He told me not to create it in paint, because I wasn't good enough in those days, but to design it in another medium such as wood. I created the design and a cabinet maker helped me to implement it.
in Lompoc, California, I designed The History of the Blacksmith Shop. This was also a prize winning situation where the annual Harvest Festival event sought a master muralist to paint the theme that was chosen for the year. In Santa Barbara I was becoming known for murals, and so I also painted one for the offshore Oil Transport Company in Ventura, for their outdoor dining room.
In Tucson, Arizona in 1999, I designed and painted a Lebanese Souk, which was very successul. It was commissioned by Ali Baba, a family restaurant owned by Lebanese folk, and their food was excellent. I ate their as often as I could.
During my stay in Arizona, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and Russia. In Italy I was aghast at the amount of art everywhere. I became infatuated with religious subjects and so started a series of old testament legends, and at the Jewish Community Relations Council I was awarded a prize for my painting 'The Test of Abraham'.
Back in California I began showing jazz art paintings at the 57th Street Gallery. Owned by Floyd Pellom, it had a very successful 5 year run, eventually having live jazz in the evenings, but the gallery is now closed.
I would like to spend a few months, painting in Italy. I spent a month on each of my two visits, one traveling by train in central and northern Italy, and one in the regions of Ravenna and Emilia Romagno. Everything Italian is very exciting to me, because it's new to me, and I consider Italy my birthright. I am currently studying the language, and watching Italian films which are very popular in the San Francisco area.