Living and Moving in Art (and Making Cement Cars)

A guest post by Sue Pelletier

finding inspiration

As an artist, and as someone who lives life a bit on the edge and always by the seat of my pants, but certainly as an artist, mother, teacher (not always in that order), I am constantly finding inspiration everywhere. Often in the last places one would expect to find inspiration. Case in point: my house. As life goes on, I am in the process of downsizing my house. It is big. It is old. It is drafty. It is where my kids grew up. It is where my life changed with the ending of a marriage, but at the same time it was where I found myself as a single mom. And it was where I found out that a life full of art was the only way for me to live.

But back to the house. The green house with the purple shutters. The house that maybe some people would think doesn’t have big closets, or the proper amount of anything (except laughter). It is on a busy-ish street with no granite anything.

But what the house does have is an amazing studio space. I have a finished second floor of a barn. I use it every day to paint, to explore, to experiment, to live surrounded by things I love and by art.

finding inspiration

Which is why in between the packing, the organizing, the moving of one pile to another pile, I stopped, because I found an old box of Petra Lite. This is where the whole artist thing comes in. I had to stop the other part of my life and play with the Petra Lite. This product is a dry mixture that, when blended with water, turns into a cement/stone mix. You could add this onto a wood or canvas panel and paint over it for a textured background, or you could do as I did and dip objects into the mixture. I had a stash of plastic vintage toy cars–the perfect thing to dip into fake cement. (I did use a bit of sandpaper to scuff the cars up a bit). The other thing I tried was to create molds of the cars and then pour the cement mixture in. I tend to just experiment as an artist. I did not know what the outcome was going to be, but I do so love dipping and dripping things into plaster…why not a cement?

Here are how my little cars and trucks came out.


Some are created with molds and some are dipped in the cement mixture. I am not sure what I am going to do with these yet, but I am building up a stash of them. This is why it is taking me 17 times longer to go through every little piece of fabulousness in my studio. I am literally picking up a piece of canvas with dried paint on it (probably no paper towels at the time), or I will look at a piece of old fabric with some cool stitching on it, and think, “slap some gel medium on that and collage it into a painting.” It’s hard reorganizing or redoing a studio space when there are so many possibilities in every nook and cranny. That is how artists see things: in a different way, where the ordinary and mundane can be turned into something spectacular. So going through my studio and my house almost had me overwhelmed…almost. I began to see many things as things that were not necessary to have and take with me because, well, they were just that. THINGS.

So what do you take?

Well…the paintings are coming with me­–the ones my kids did when they were 5 and 6 years old, and the ones I did last week. The name tags for Art Is you that Ellen Legare has made for me for the last 3 or 4 years? They are coming with me. The collections of letters with X’s and O’s that are sprinkled throughout my house? They are coming with me. The carnival wheel I bought for $20 at a flea market from a spectacular woman with a beehive? That is coming with me. The three couches, china place settings for 12, 4 frying pans and the giant T.V. I never watch? Yeah, not so much.

So by going through my house and my studio I have come to realize what is important to me, what gives me inspiration each day. What makes me smile and get up and want to create art, each and every day.


The box of Permastone combined with the time to explore and create with it in my studio is coming with me. The memory of the studio space is coming with me also. There will be another studio space. There has to be because being an artist is who I am and what I do. I did not always know that, but now I do. Think about this for a minute: I find that when I get very stressed and overwhelmed in life, it is directly connected to the fact that I have probably not been creating art. Does this happen to you?

So I do know this, I will create wherever I end up. I will always make time to stop and make the little cement cars and trucks. It may not be the second floor of a barn, but there will always have to be a corner or a nook (and when the warm weather comes, room outside), to create some big, raw, dripping, smudged, layered, dimensional paintings.

Because really that is what I really need.


Her Loose Woman stencils are available on, her blog at and on Facebook.

Words, whimsy and humor inspire her art because that is how Sue approaches life. Drawn to collage and painterly surfaces, her art has naturally progressed into a combination of both. She works with images that are true to her—the house form, childhood toys, vintage dresses—because as an artist and a mother it is what she holds near and dear to her, her kids and the day-to-day journey of life. Sue’s work has been published numerous times in Cloth Paper Scissors and Somerset Studio. She has an MFA from Pratt Institute and teaches elementary school art. She is most happy walking around in paint-splattered clothes, drinking an iced coffee. She has two teenagers, Harly and Connor, who make her laugh each day. She lives in an antique farmhouse in New England with purple shutters. Sue has two painting DVDs from Interweave: “Textures for Collage” and “Preparing to Paint.”

Apter_Pulse_CoverYou might also enjoy The Pulse of Mixed Media in which Seth Apter asks 100 artists about their favorite practices for finding inspiration.





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