Drafted by: Marilyn R. Wilson

At VALT 2014, I connected with a very talented local designer/actor – Shay Lhea, of Oculto Masks. Seated with her in the audience on at least one night was a striking woman who turned out to be her very proud mother, Suzann Kingston. Kingston’s unique look drew my eye – her beautiful features showcased by her lack of tresses. I was totally intrigued and managed to snag a brief chat.

I next saw Kingston at a Hycroft Manor charity event where she was decked out in a beautiful white ball gown. Turns out she has a passion for singing opera and jazz. Standing by a grand piano, and accompanied by a live pianist, we were treated to several wonderful selections from her opera repertoire. Slowly our paths intertwined. She and her daughter honoured me with their presence at my book launch for Life Outside the Box and my husband and I were in the audience for her recent solo jazz concert.

In the middle of all this, I discovered Kingston’s main passion was abstract painting – with an unusual concept. She creates textural paintings with ridges and swirls in more than just colour. They are 3-D. Her art is labelled: TOUCH THE ART! because the surface has been carefully sealed so that people can experience the paintings through touch. The concept came together for me at a gallery show last spring. First I stood across the room to view the painting. Then I slowly approached it until I was viewing the intricacy of the colours from only inches away, while at the same time feeling the dimensional elements with my fingertips. A truly new experience for me and one I recommend you try soon.

Photo Credit: Aurora Chan Style By Fire
Photo Credit: Aurora Chan Style By Fire

8Q Spotlight Suzann Kingston

 What is your current career(s)?

My current career/passion is Abstract Painter. Like most artists, I have a day job that pays the bills while I build the dream of supporting myself full time with my art. I run an office 9-5, Monday – Friday, and paint like mad and build my business, TOUCH THE ART!, in every spare moment.

 Can you share an interesting thing (or two) about your journey to reach this moment?

I’ve always been artistic but never dreamed I’d be a painter because it’s something I dove into only about 8 years ago. I’ve pursued a career as a singer (with a passion for opera), I’ve written and self-published several books, and now I paint like a crazy person! A happy, crazy person! I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to lead the life I’m living right now and I’m so glad I let my heart and my instincts lead the way. I need to create. Period. Life is too short to do anything less than what sets your heart on fire, puts a smile on your face, and has you waking up each day excited to dive into it.

 What 3 things would you like people to know about you to give them a sense of who you really are?

  •  I’m a very private and solitary person. I need lots of alone time to create and stay emotionally balanced. Then when I interact with people, I can bring my best to them – but my interactions have a short shelf life. The longer I live, the less talking I’m inclined to do and the more listening.
  •  Integrity and honesty are very important to me. I hold myself, my actions, and my behaviour to a high standard. I want those who interact with me to walk away from that moment feeling like the world is a better place for the time we spent together – no matter how short or long that time.
  •  I have a passion and joy for life that I’m very protective of. I’m careful about the people I let into my world because negativity and foolishness don’t play for me. I will not permit anyone to rain on my parade. Period. But if they want to come and play in the rain with me – let’s do it!

Highest moment so far?

The highest moment so far in my life is, hands down, the birth of my daughter who is now an amazing young woman, artist, knowledge seeker and authentically weird. She is the most interesting person I’ve ever met.

 What are you working on right now? In the next 6 months?

Right now I’m working on a new line of TOUCH THE ART! paintings called: TOUCH THE ART! MINIS. These are miniature versions of my abstract paintings with each one being 5″ x 7″. I create boldly coloured, heavily textured paintings designed to make the viewer want to TOUCH THE ART! And I invite them to touch my paintings because the texture is just so much fun. Adults become kids again in these moments and it’s a treat to watch. TOUCH THE ART! MINIS are also very affordable for those who’d like to own some of my work but can’t afford the larger pieces.

 Who and/or what inspires you?

Inspiration comes in so many forms for me. I’m always looking, watching, listening… and amazing ideas come my way through friends, through music I hear, through things I see. Because my art is all about colour and texture, I’m constantly being inspired to create new paintings when I see things in my day to day life. The other day I was walking by English Bay and it had just rained. The sky was silver, the water was silver and the sun breaking through the clouds created an exquisite light. As soon as I got home, I had to create a painting. So satisfying!

 How do you personally define success?

Success is a word bandied about and used to create more unhappiness than not. People strive for this thing that is defined by others and applied to whatever they may be doing. There lies the path to madness. What could be more debilitating or irritating than to have others tell you what your ‘success’ should look like? Is success more things? Is success more money? Is success being able to name drop and impress your friends and strangers? I strive not to get caught up in the ‘success’ game.

Life is something I live moment to moment. In those moments, I strive to live my life with integrity, to find joy in my day, to treat others with respect and kindness, to be kind to myself and live my life on my terms doing what makes me happy and excited to jump into the day. When I can do these things the way I want to, I consider that a successful day. And I have a lot of days just like this. I’m happy and that’s all that matters.

 Who do you admire?

I admire my daughter. She is a woman who knows her own mind and is walking her own path – on her terms. She is a seeker of knowledge and so is always teaching me all kinds of things. She is strong and smart and artistic to the core. She has a deep well of compassion for people. She is also a thinker with a bizarre sense of humour who can always make me laugh. She remains one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.