FCOL, who goes into the woods in Alaska during rutting season? What kid strips a bedroom of all its furniture and installs a giant rock? Who scatters water droplets for the spiders in her basement?
Except Susan Jouflas.
Susan, like most artists, see the world at a different angle than the rest of us. (She nearly saw it from flat on her back when an impassioned moose backed her into a lake.) She does not see spiders or moss or dust or stick insects as little nuisances underfoot, she sees them as guest stars for her Journal of Small Things, and sometimes as her neighbors and housemates. Susan tried Big Things. She painted migrating ducks in dark, sunless Alaska, and poked around the table-sized poster-art books in the dark, sunless U of Alaska library. She sought sun in New Mexico and found ostriches and fish and dogs. For many years she lived in dark and sunless Seattle, where trees are big, and puddles are big, but the clouds let only the most determined things thrive — things that don't get very big.
Now she lives in Phoenix where Saguaros are big, and puddles are small, and the skies let only the most determined things thrive — things that can get very big. Like Susan's ideas.
Along the way, she created art and gave direction for businesses and at various newspapers (The Anchorage Daily News, The Santa Fe New Mexican, The Seattle Weekly, Seattle Post Intelligencer and The Seattle Times.) She won a stack of national and international awards. She hasn't lost sight of those little things. Birds and hares. Ozzy's hair. Jeff Bridges' beard. Phasmids and Gryllidae and Lepidoptera. Her illustrations highlight the little things that make small things special; the scruffy-ruffy feathers on a raven; the sassy, attitude-loaded crest on a Steller's jay; the luxuriant antennae on a katydid. Her newspaper pages are big and bold; she learned from the striving, warmth-seeking ducks and made stark statements in black across gray and white paper. The headlines shout, read me. I am going somewhere. I'll take you, too. (But someplace warmer, OK?)
Attention to the small things helps her art direction. if you can spot a spider under the stairs or a crow lurking under a car, like Susan can, you can see what's under your staff's skin, and help them use their powers for good.
Epilogue: She did learn from the moose incident that ignoring big things is not always prudent. It was one of those reach-toward-the-sky-and-miss-jewels-at-your-feet things. Or in this case, the hormone-maddened moose that is about to flatten you.
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