Librarian books art shows at local libraries.
BY CHRIS BARLOW
Lots of young children can spend an entire afternoon with crayons and finger paints. Some of them grow-up to become artists of all kinds while others might never try to create a piece of art again. Local retired librarian John Suess followed an artistic path all his own. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Suess, 74, has always fed his passion for art.
“I started painting and drawing when I was three,” Suess said. “The first thing I remember drawing was a saber-toothed tiger that I got out of the back of a comic book or something. I thought it was great and my grandmother said, ‘Oh this is fantastic.’”
Suess’s grandmother was so proud of her grandson that she framed it and hung it on her wall, never hesitating to show it off to her family and friends.
“That stayed in my brain,” Suess said, noting that his grandmother further cultivated his artistic side by buying him a Kodak Brownie Box camera. “She gave it to me as a present and immediately I was like the kid in A Christmas Story with a BB gun, looking for something to shoot.”
After high school, he pursued a degree in commercial art at Milwaukee Area Technical College, but realized he was more interested in fine art instead. He eventually transferred to UW-Milwaukee where, after a brief stint in the Army Reserves, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in ancient history and a master’s degree in library science.
Suess spent the next 34 years working in the Milwaukee Public Library system, with the majority spent at MPL-Central in the science and business department. There, Suess met his wife, Mary, who is also a retired librarian.
Since retiring in 2007, Suess has devoted his free time to playing golf, working in his award-winning garden, taking photographs. And of course, painting, a hobby which he feels combines all the rest.
“I find my inspiration outdoors. While working in my garden, playing golf, or taking a walk or drive, I will often be captivated by the beauty of nature and stop to capture it with my camera. Then, I’ll make it come back to life on canvas,” Suess said.
Suess works primarily in acrylics and occasionally oils. His favorite subjects are landscapes, especially local scenery. He describes his style as impressionist, tonalism and color field, with some realism.
“I can paint a barn and you can recognize different aspects of the barn like the doors and the bricks that make up the barn,” Suess said. “But I will leave things out from a photo that I don’t like or change some things.”
He has produced over 150 works of art in the past 15 years and has come full circle, now displaying his art at various galleries and businesses—including several shows at local libraries. Suess’ recent showings include the Wauwatosa Public Library as well as libraries in Mequon, Greenfield, and Cudahy.
He has also had exhibits with the Milwaukee County Parks. A selection of his work featuring local golf courses was showcased in the clubhouses of courses such as Dretzka, Currie, and Hansen, and he recently was the featured artist at the Park People Gala, a benefit for the Parks system.
“I’ve loved having the chance to display my art in various locations for local communities to enjoy and I’m always grateful for the opportunity to bring my paintings to a new part of town. After the last two years we have all had, it is nice to be able to visit places and interact with others again. It’s long overdue and I hope many will check it out,” Suess said, interjecting a little of his librarian humor.
Galleries and businesses display his art, but so does his family.
“He literally ran out of wall space in his own house,” Suess’ daughter, Caitlin Moyer, said. “And now every room in my house has a John Suess original, too.”
Suess has also completed several commissioned works. In 2019, Suess was commissioned by his parish, Christ King, to produce works in celebration of its 80th anniversary. The largest of these paintings, Christ the King, a 30×40 acrylic on gesso board, is on permanent display on the southeast wall inside the church. Four other paintings, capturing the local church’s iconic steeple as viewed during each season, are on display in the vestibule.
Suess’ next exhibit is this December at the Menomonee Falls Public Library; it is free and open to the public during normal business hours. He is also part of a show at Creative Edge Landscapes in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin which runs until the end of the year.
The complete collection of John Suess’ work can be viewed on his website at JohnSuessFineArt.com and fans can follow him on Instagram and Facebook. Many of his pieces are available for sale on Etsy but those in the area who’d like to buy can save on shipping by contacting John directly via his website.