My Story

I am an artist and maker who studies, experiments, creates and teaches in northern Idaho.  I work with all manner of materials – fiber, clay, glass, wood, metal, paint, and paper. I love to teach drawing to people who don’t think they can draw. I am a Certified Zentangle® Teacher and have taken instructor training with Mona Brookes, creator of the Monart Drawing method.  I write about my projects on my blog and can be contacted via email at susan@susanejwhite.com.

collage of artwork by Susan E J White

I have always loved to create in a variety of media. I first learned knitting, sewing, crochet, weaving, basketry and more from my mother and grandmother. There were painted rocks, painted paper boxes and additional skills learned through Girl Scouting. I loved pottery and craft classes throughout high school. For some reason, I never took the painting or art classes that might have set me on the path to studying art in college. Instead, I pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation and fit in Jewelry Metalworking and Photography when I could.

After moving to northern Idaho from Michigan and starting a career with the US Forest Service, I continued to create as often as possible. Three kids and building our home put a bit of a crimp in the time available.  Our kids were in grade school when, with inspiration from my father, I began to study drawing from books on drawing by Betty Edwards, Mona Brookes, and Bert Dodson. I discovered what a powerful feeling it was to know that I could draw. I wanted our kids to have that feeling and get art instruction in grade school – to color on machine copied drawings was not enough.

With an artist recommendation from Mona Brookes, I set up a day of workshops for teachers and for students. The turnout was dismally small but the impact on me was big. The workshops really put all of the pieces of Mona’s first book together for me. In experiencing how to set up a directed drawing class, I realized that I could teach the drawing to my kids in their classrooms.  I wanted a productive way to invest some time in the school – grading papers didn’t cut it.

At that time, the kids were in first, third and fifth grade. I went to their teachers and volunteered to do a drawing lesson in each class following the guidance of Mona’s books and the methods I learned in the workshop. Wow! That was so much fun and so well received that I went to one of the fourth grade teachers and offered another class.

These first four classes in late spring of 1997 were so successful and fun that I arranged with my kids’ teachers the following Fall to teach drawing classes most Fridays for the following school year. I incorporated what was already being studied in each class into the drawing lessons. I gradually expanded on the success of the drawing classes to teaching other types of art and craft and continued until my youngest child moved out of grade school. My last project with the sixth graders involved two 4’ x 7’ tile murals for the front of the grade school involving tiles they drew and created from clay slabs. 

collage of 3 images showing tile mural closeup.

Eventually, life with teenagers and employment became too busy to continue as a volunteer teacher. I did continue studying on my own and traveled for a variety of classes as time and work permitted. In 2004, with a gift of a propane torch and lampwork glass kit from my SuperGuy, I set about learning to create glass beads. I started my Middle Maiden Arts business and began selling my lampwork beads and jewelry in 2006.

At the end of 2012, I retired from the US Forest Service as the Geographic Information Systems Program Manager for two national forests.

Now I am able to focus on my continuing projects, experiments and artistic studies. I teach drawing as requested, both drawing in a realistic style and Zentangle. I enjoy traveling to learn from some of my favorite artists on an occasional basis. Stay tuned as I continue to explore and experiment with techniques that are new to me. I’m discovering and pursuing a growing interest in illustration, graphic design, and textile design.