A retired Wisconsin librarian has become a popular local landscaper

While waiting for their turn to play, most golfers try to think about how they want to hit their next shot.

John Suessa local artist and retired librarian, often looks around to see what might make a good painting.

Judging by his 6.4 handicap and the quality of his works, the approach seems to suit the 73-year-old Milwaukee native just fine.

Suess (rhymes with “geese” not “goose”) had his paintings exhibited at the Greenfield Public Library in January.

He gave a demonstration similar to Wauwatosa Public Library in July 2021.

Members of Christ the King Catholic Parish in Wauwatosa may also be familiar with his work.

In 2019, Suess was commissioned by the parish to produce works for his 80th birthday.

The largest of these, Christ the King, a 30 x 40 acrylic on gesso, is on permanent display on the southeast wall inside the church; four more featuring the church’s iconic steeple in each season are on display in the vestibule.

But much of his work revolves around outdoor scenes, many on golf courses, or on the way to or from a course.

Autumn Mosaic, a painting by John Suess

There are plenty of opportunities for that.

Suess, who retired in 2007, said he played about 85 rounds last year.

“I find my inspiration outside,” Suess said. “While working in my garden, playing golf, taking a walk or driving, I will often be captivated by the beauty of nature and will stop to capture it with my camera. Then I will bring it to life on the cloth. “

Suess works primarily in acrylics and occasionally in oils, and describes her style as impressionistic, tonalistic, and color field, with a certain realism. His favorite subjects are landscapes, especially local landscapes.

decide what to paint

So how does he decide what to paint? Or what to photograph, then paint?

It is centered on light, he said. Specifically golden hour, the period of time after sunrise or before sunset when the sunlight is less harsh.

“It’s that kind of light I’m looking for, whether it’s morning or evening,” he said. “What I’m looking for are the shadows and where the light comes through the shadows. The paintings that I like or the photographs that I like are the dappled light of the trees and that kind of thing.”

Suess has always been drawn to art. He began to draw and paint at the age of 3.

Learning photography with his grandmother

His photography also started early.

When he was 5 or 6 years old, Suess said his grandmother gave him a Kodak Brownie camera, a compact camera that took 2 1/4 inch square pictures on 117 roll film.

“I remember it vividly…she put the film on and I immediately ran out, taking pictures of anything, just to see what I could find,” he said.

John Suess, 73, holds his first camera, a Kodak Brownie that his grandmother gave him when he was about 5 years old.  The camera is no longer functional but has great sentimental value for Suess.

After taking the film to a nearby pharmacy to have the film developed – which would take a few days – his grandmother would give him feedback on his photos.

“She started criticizing what I should have done or what I didn’t do, and if she liked something, she pointed it out to me,” Suess said. “So I learned composition indirectly from her, and it got better when I was in college.”

It was at Milwaukee Area Technical College that Suess studied commercial art and took photography classes before realizing he was more interested in fine art.

But those photography classes taught Suess about composition and editing, reinforcing and adding to the lessons her grandmother had passed on to her.

“At that time there were dark rooms and you had chemicals and all that, you had to manipulate and dodge and burn images and then we’d be graded on how well we printed and how well the composition was,” he said. -he declares.

Suess eventually transferred from MATC to UW-Milwaukee where, after a brief stint in the Army Reserves, he earned a bachelor’s degree in ancient history and a master’s degree in library science.

He spent the next 34 years working in the Milwaukee Public Library system. There, Suess met his wife, Mary, who is also a retired librarian.

Take care of retirement

Since retiring, Suess has spent her free time playing golf, working in her award-winning garden, taking photos and painting. He has created over 150 works of art since his retirement, many of which have been sold or gifted to family and friends.

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Suess’s complete collection can be viewed on her website at JohnSuessFineArt.com and many of his pieces are available for purchase on Etsy.

His art is also set to be featured at the Park People Gala on November 12, 2022, at Boerner Botanical Garden in Hales Corners.

Once the weather warms up, Suess will no doubt try to hit up as many rounds of golf as possible, thinking about her next shot, be it a golf shot or a photo shoot.

“Looking at the surrounding landscape and seeing if there’s anything (to photograph), and even if I don’t take a picture of it, I admire it and it calms me down,” he said. “So I don’t have to think about mechanics and all that stuff for the next shot that’s coming.”

Contact Bob Dohr at 262-361-9140 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @BobDohr1.

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