While browsing through the Western Michigan University library, Susan Hostetler chanced upon the original Dard Hunter (father of American papermaking) books with samples of handmade paper from around the world. Inspired, she completed her Masters of Fine Art in printmaking and drawing and added hand paper making to these two disciplines. Her groundbreaking research in this area was rewarded with a grant and led to it becoming an integral part of her creative life.
After graduation, Hostetler headed west to California and was there only a year before receiving another grant to return to Brookston, IN and an apprenticeship with Twinrocker Handmade Paper. Over three intensive years of perfecting her craft and making custom papers for such artists as Rauschenberg, Warhol and Jasper Johns, she started her travels through Europe. Seftling in Germany in 1980, she set up a mill for making paper by hand in Friedberg.
From there she moved to Spain and set up her painting studio in Barcelona, her base over the following three years of travel in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean regions. During her travels she would sketch, photograph, and collect flora and fragments evocative of countries, which would help her paint when she returned to her Barcelona studio.
Whether working in gouache and mixed media on handmade paper or oil and canvas, Hostetler has always been inspired by nature. From a grove of trees to a solitary petal, or the wing of a bird in motion – all nature becomes her muse. Travel influences the themes, light and colorations of her series.
Travel continues to be a major part of Susan Hostetlees life and art, whether they are domestic trips to Lake Michigan or the Chesapeake Bay or to Italy, the Pacific or Africa, “Travel has always influenced my work,” she said. “Sometimes I think of myself as a ‘travel painter’ as one might call an itinerant scribe, a ‘travel writes – I see, and experience, other cultures and lands through the fauna and flora and light there.”
Susan Hostetler has created large, multi-panel site-specific commissions for the Federal Reserve Bank, as well as special awards commissions for the US.