Local artist looks back at 40 years of work
● By J. Chambless
By Richard L. Gaw
As a child, using crayons, Susan Bankey Yoder drew pictures of animals on the bedroom walls of her home, first in her hometown of Detroit, and later in Chester County. Rather than be punished for it, she was praised. After all, her father was doing the same thing.
"My father was talented in the art respect as well," Yoder said recently. "I still have a lot of his pencil sketches from the Army. His pencil work was really nice. My father remains my biggest fan, and he nurtured my skills as an artist."
In many ways, Yoder's long and productive career as an artist was inspired by her father who, when Yoder was a child, drew cartoon characters on his daughter's bedroom walls, then filled them in with paint. Although he has passed on, he remains Yoder's largest artistic influence. His presence will be felt this Saturday when Yoder celebrates her 40 years as one of the region's premier wildlife artists. A new art series, "Adaptations," will be held Nov. 15 at the Historic Beale Manor in Parkesburg from 5 to 9 p.m.
Yoder grew up loving all kinds of animals. Her childhood love of drawing and animals dovetailed by the time she reached her teenage years, and when she entered Henderson High School, she dove into her art. She sketched, created animation and sculpted. She drew her friends' pets. She painted people's cars -- a cool thing to do in the 1970s. She created scenery for Henderson High School's musical productions. In short, she was an artist in pursuit of the world, and eventually, she got to see it.
Yoder does not create her watercolor and acrylic paintings about wildlife in a studio. Throughout her career, she has been on a criss-cross journey across the United States, on a quest to transfer wildlife from nature to the canvas, often with camera and sketchpad in hand. In the Florida Everglades, she went on an air boat to do sketches of alligators. An avid lover of fishing, she's traveled to the trout streams of Montana and Wyoming, where she has been face to face with grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, foxes and deer.
"The outdoors is my office, and I never stop," she said. "One of the things about being an artist is that you see things. You see the shapes and the shadows and the dimensions. It's constant seeking of knowledge. The outside experiences give me all of the food I need in order to create and tell a story. In my current series, 'Adaptations,' I want to show how wildlife can interact with humans, in terms of how they adapt with the environment that we created, in an effort to survive."
A signature member of the Society of Animal Artists, Susan has won many awards and honors for her watercolor paintings, and many are in corporate and private collections. She is a two-time winner of Pennsylvania’s Working Together For Wildlife conservation print competition, and has toured with the Society of Animal Artists Art and the Animal National Exhibition. Her artwork has been published in U.S. Art, Wildlife Art, Ruffed Grouse Society Magazine, Keystone Conservationist, Sporting Classics and Mid-Atlantic Fly Fisherman. She has also shown at prestigious shows such as the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Charleston, the Easton Waterfowl Festival, and the Florida Wildlife Expo in Lakeland.
To those who who look at Yoder's work with a passive eye, the paintings are exacting, crystal-clear images of nature. To the more trained art lover, however, Yoder's art offers a deeper place -- a feeling of spirituality within the framework of the wildlife paintings she creates.
"I want to convey the emotion that I feel when I experience being near wildlife," she said. "It is deep. Sometimes I cry when I'm near wildlife, just because I'm so overwhelmed by it all. I don't paint for the sake of making something pretty. I can only work on one painting at a time.
"While it hits me, while it's in me, it comes out of me, and I don't stop until it does, and when it's done, then I move on. I almost get inside the animal. I want to capture the way the animals think and feel."
To learn more about Susan Bankey Yoder, visit www.susanbankeyartist.com .
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrating the nationally acclaimed artist
Susan Bankey Yoder
Nov. 15, 5 to 9 p.m.
Historic Beale Manor
200 S. Church St., Parkesburg, 19365
An evening of art, wine tasting, hors d'oeuvres and music
Paintings and prints will be for sale