Born in the farmlands of New Jersey, Susan was interested in art from an early age. She spent her time drawing the natural world around her, playing in the woods, and helping her mother and grandmother with farm chores, feeding the chickens, milking cows and collecting the eggs. She was fascinated with animals, and had a ring-necked pheasant for a pet.
She knew from about the age of 5 that she wanted to be an artist “when she grew up”, and after high school she studied art at Virginia Commonwealth University. After graduation, she taught art in Newark, New Jersey, while continuing her studies at the New School in New York City, in photography, and animation.
Susan moved to Canada in 1980. Her father’s family is Canadian, so she has dual citizenship, Canadian and American. This means she gets to vote A LOT.
Susan illustrated her first book in 2000. It was A Seaside Alphabet by Donna Grassby, published by Tundra. To create the illustrations, she traveled all over the East Coast, from Boston, Massachusetts to Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, finding the right setting and models for her paintings. Icebergs, puffins, all sorts of whales, bustling cities, quiet villages and dramatic landscapes – she was in heaven.
Her books have taken her to Sable Island through the photographs of Zoe Lucas, where she illustrated Jamie Bastedo’s story Free as the Wind: Saving the Horses of Sable Island. She has also toured the neighbouring province of New Brunswick, where she discovered more wonderful people and places (F is for Fiddlehead: A New Brunswick Alphabet, text by Marilyn Lohness).
Up Home, a poem by Shauntay Grant, was released in May 2008. Through Shauntay’s wonderful poem about growing up in the African-Nova Scotian community of North Preston, Susan got to know a generous people and had a great time painting a portrait of a childhood in a very special place. Up Home won the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Illustration and the Best Published Book Award at the 2009 Atlantic Book Awards.
B is for Bluenose: A Nova Scotia Alphabet, which Susan both wrote and illustrated. B is for Bluenose celebrates Nova Scotia through the alphabet, and takes the reader on a tour of the province including the Carboniferous Period of the Joggins fossils, the coal mines of Cape Breton, Pier 21 and the history of immigration.
At the 2014 Atlantic Book Awards, Susan won the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Awards for Excellence in Illustration for Lasso The Wind, Aurélia’s Verses and Other Poems. She also won the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Full Moon Rising (2003), Up Home (2009) and The City Speaks in Drums (2011).
Susan lives in Halifax with her husband and fellow artist Richard Rudnicki where she works creating paintings, illustrations and multi-media collaborations.