Name: Susan Roberts
Location: Stuart, Florida and the Bahamas
Business: Saltwater Spurs
Gift store items: Mouse pads, phone cases, luggage tags, mugs and more!
How did you get involved in art? I always painted growing up. I was actually set to study art in college when I met Ty, now my husband, while away on vacation. Then it became a matter of which way to follow my heart. So, I chose him and we've been married for 35 years! But Ty has always encouraged me in my art - even if I had to put it down for a little while. Art has always been a love of mine, and now that I can put it on usable and functional items, it has really been great. You see, we spend a lot of time going back and forth between Florida and the Bahamas. And in the Bahamas you spend most of your time in the water. When Ty and I dived a lot years ago, it was a big deal to see sea turtles because sightings were rare at the time. So, I started doing art on gift items because it was a way to get the word out about the ocean. My art opened a door for me to see people's reactions and connect with people. Back in 2008 I was part of an art show dedicated to sea turtles at Doongalik Studios Art Gallery in the Bahamas. The whole point of the show was to bring awareness about conservation and respect and understanding the animals more. This really opened my eyes to how many people cared, especially during the time many were trying to change the laws in the Bahamas to outlaw selling turtle meat in restaurants, etc. Within a year the laws changed. Now we go diving in the Bahamas and see sea turtles all the time!
Where does the name Saltwater Spurs come from?
My daughter came up with the name to blend my love for horses and the sea together, and I loved the ring of it!Besides sea turtles, I also have a passion for horses, so I've done some of those paintings. Recently, I've learned a lot about Florida Cracker history. I had an opportunity to talk to Florida ranchers, and I was so surprised to learn about their love of their land. So many preconceived ideas I had totally shattered, and I learned a lot about them and how they respect the land. They have these parallels with other conservation groups without having the "conservationist" label. In fact, one time we rode out to part of a pasture and noticed some local burrowing owls, so the ranchers didn't move their cows into that pasture because of the owls.
What other artists inspire you?
Most of the Impressionists really inspire me. Honestly, all of the stories told through the centuries through art are amazing. I love Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. For local artists I really like Dan Mackin and Guy Harvey. Guy really opened so many people's eyes to the ocean, and it all started at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show.
What is your artistic process?
I take my painting or finished idea and then it is screen-printed onto the item. You just get an idea and you create it whether it's on paper or canvas. Paint is my medium - I use watercolor and oil. Not every composition lends itself to be reproduced on certain items, so when I create it's not for a specific item. If it works on a specific item, great; if not then that wasn't its purpose. I also sell paintings as is - not all are printed onto functional items.
What is your favorite item to print your art on?
I love the coffee mugs because I myself am a collector of mugs. I also enjoy the phone cases because they're fun to change out - especially depending on your mood.
Why do you create?
Ultimately I love going back to that moment I had at the art show in the Bahamas - raising awareness or a sense of caring among people, and saying to people: "if you don't care, maybe you need to." It's all interconnected, and we can care for these creatures through simple changes that make a huge difference. If I can impact that in a little way with my art, it does my heart a lot of good.
What project are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working with a local artist on a trio of marine life paintings. Stay tuned!
Any advice for any young artists? Never stop learning.