Time to create: After a career in science, Macon artist finally finding her muse

After years of sideline painting and photography as a pastime, a now retired Sue Weathers is finding an abundance of inspiration in the mountains of Western North Carolina — far away from her childhood home in England.

Since moving to Macon County five years ago, Weathers, who previously worked in laboratory safety, has been able to refocus on her first loves — painting and photography.

“Mostly what I’ve done, I’ve done here; I’ve learned to do here,” Weathers said.

Weathers does not paint many still-lifes and detailed portraits but instead emphasizes the shapes within a scene and the feeling the view evokes.

“What I paint is to do with the shapes that I see and also the feeling it gives me,” Weathers said. “I don’t do a lot of detail stuff.”

Weathers uses oils or watercolors, or both, to illustrate her picturesque surroundings in Macon County where she has lived for five years. “How can you not paint something like that?” Weathers asked. “I have just been taken over by the landscape.”

The watercolors offer a flatter mountain background, while the oils allow parts of the painting to stand out, giving the work perspective. Weathers avoids pieces that could be mistaken for photography — another art form that she has dabbled in since the age of 7.

“I don’t like my paintings to look like photographs,” Weathers said. “(Although) I like my photographs to look like paintings sometimes.”

Weathers received her first camera — a Kodak Box Brownie — when she was just six or seven. She later graduated to a Kodak 35mm camera

Her father was a master photographer and owned a retail camera store in England.  He sold cameras and equipment, developed film, and took photos. Her parents would spend most of their days and nights working at the shop, and Weathers would spend the time painting or entertaining herself with other activities until early in the morning, sometimes 1 or 2 a.m., when the work was finally done.

“It was something to do,” Weathers said. “There is a lot of down time when your parents are working.”

With her early life immersed in photography, it seems only natural that she would delve into the art herself. However, her dad had qualms about the matter.

“I really wanted to do photos, but my dad didn’t want me to. He thought there were better things,” Weathers said.

So, she went to the University of Liverpool and earned a degree in science. Weathers then moved to Alberta, Canada, before settling in the U.S. Weathers moved to Rabun Gap about five years ago after living for a time in Florida and recently moved closer to downtown Franklin to be closer to the Macon County Art Council’s Uptown Gallery.

Similar to her painting, Weathers’ photos focus mostly on nature.

For the most part, Weathers allows her photos to speak for themselves and does very little doctoring.

“I don’t mess with my images very much, but I do saturate them,” Weathers said.

Weathers enjoys both mediums — one allows for more abstraction, while the other is more detail-oriented. One of her paintings is a perfect example. Weathers photographed a nature scene with trees lining a river and mountains in the background. And, although the photograph captured each leaf and crevice, it could not capture the way the sun hit the rocks well enough to Weathers’ liking. So instead, she painted it.

If she had to choose, Weathers said she would stick with painting.

“I think I am growing more as an artist with the painting,” Weathers said.

Weathers currently shows works at Uptown Gallery in Franklin and will open a studio in her home this summer.

For more information about the artist and her work, visit sueweathers.wordpress.com.

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