Last winter, I commissioned a painting from artist Susan Ruiter. I found her work on Instagram and fell immediately in love. The way she paints women: curvy, round, happy, sassy. All the words that can describe what it is to be a big beautiful woman in the world and the way we move are what Susan captures so perfectly.
I knew I had to have one of her paintings. I reached out to Susan with full trust in her craft. I asked her to draw inspiration from a series of pin-up photos of myself in a polka dot bathing suit. The result was just magic: two wonderful, beautiful, and curvy ladies.
I wake up every morning to these beautiful ladies. Even if I am in a rush, I always catch them out of the corner of my eye. There are days where I stand in front of this painting and just stare. It is truly a wonderful feeling to know that I could inspire such beautiful art.
The two ladies are a reminder that I exist outside of my routine, outside of these four walls. I exist in a world where I move beautifully.
I like to see the ‘two ladies’, as Susan calls them, as two parts of me. We always have two sides to ourselves, intriguing, similar in some ways, but inherently different.
Photo Credit: Solight Photography
As a supporter of body positive artists, I wanted to know more about Susan and her process. Below is an interview conducted with Susan.
As a child, did you have an interest in art?
Not especially in art. But I was very creative. I loved drawing, painting, making clothes etc.
What draws you to paint women?
I like to draw people and animals and love round shapes (curves), humor and color. The combination of these made me start drawing the colorful, happy ladies. And I was inspired by Botero, a Colombian artist.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
From daily life. I can get inspired from a walk through town, from magazines, pictures. Anything.
When you have a commission piece, like mine, where do you start? What is the process?
If possible I visit your home or company, so I can see your interior and talk about your wishes. If I do I bring along some paintings, it’s so you can see what size and colors you would like the painting to have. Then, we talk about: What colors you would like, if you would like a personal touch (car, animal, company logo, daughter)? Etc.
After this, I make a few sketches and mail them to you so you can tell me what you do or do not like, and if you wish to change anything. When you agree with the sketch, I start with the actual painting. It takes about 8 – 16 weeks before it’s done. When the painting is finished, I mail a picture. Again you can tell me if you’d like anything different. When you’re happy with the painting as it is, I varnish the painting and bring/send it to you.
Is the painting I commissioned your first one to make its way to the U.S.?
Yes, your ladies were the first to travel this far. Since then, I had another one commissioned for the U.S. and shipped one to Australia.
What has been a highlight in your experience being an artist?
Opening my own gallery in Vlaardingen (town near Rotterdam), were I have a workspace as well.
I feel that often an artist’s work reflects part of them. What would you say about your paintings reflects who you are as a person, artist, or woman?
My paintings reflect me as a person. I draw confident women who enjoy life. That’s how I like to see myself as well.
Many body positive advocates and plus-size bloggers are very familiar with your work. How has the response been to your work?
Are they? I did have a lot of positive reactions, one of my favorites is: “Your view on confident, curvy women is inspiring.” And I loved your response to your commissioned work too! You said: “I love it, it is a reminder to me that I’m beautiful every morning.”
A Dutch plus-size magazine placed an article about me once and I’m currently in contact with a plus-size magazine in Canada/U.S. about placing an article.
What are some of your favorite artists?
Botero, Lita Cabelut, Nico Vrielink
What would you say to young artists who are starting out?
Find your own way and stay true to yourself.
Your artwork is certainly making an impact on the body positive community. What message or beliefs do you hope comes across in your work?
Enjoy life and love who you are. Confidence is the most beautiful thing you can wear.
What future projects do you have in mind with your artwork?
I just had the first bronze statue of one of my ladies made and I hope to make more in the future. I keep trying new things in paintings, to keep developing myself.
Photo Credit: Galerie Sille
What parts of the world would you like your art to be showcased?
All over the world!
It is not hard to see why Susan’s work is so captivating and even more at how wonderful she is. Celebrating the beauty of the female body, its curves, its movement, its existence, is imperative. We need to see the celebration of plus-size, curvy bodies. We need to be reminded just like I am every morning that big is beautiful.
Read more about Susan and view her work at her website.