I have always been inspired by the natural world, filling dozens of sketchbooks over the years to record wild places and the animals that live there, and then creating paintings and drawings for over twenty years.
I rely on my many years of experience in personal observation, along with sketching and painting in the field and also using photography and video to record what I’ve seen. For me there is no substitute for personally spending time watching my wildlife subjects go about their lives, preferably never knowing that I was there. My paintings begin with observing and recording my subjects during my travels (twelve trips in fourteen years to Mongolia, along with Kenya, northern Canada, England, Romania and a variety of national parks, wildlife refuges and natural places in the USA).
In the studio, I follow a traditional approach to oil painting, first working out the composition in thumbnail sketches, then doing a preliminary drawing and the value and color studies, all of which inform my finished paintings. My palette is a traditional mix of warm and cool versions of primary and secondary colors and earth colors, with the addition of some specific ones that work well for my particular subject matter. I paint mostly with round brushes, which allow me to make calligraphic marks that recall my past work as a lettering artist.
When deciding on a subject I look for strong design possibilities, good patterns of positive/negative shapes, the quality of light and shadow and, for my animal subjects, interesting gestures, poses and behavior that will help communicate the story I want to tell. All of my work begins with direct experience. I don’t paint any subject, animal or otherwise, that I have not seen myself.
I value not only anatomical accuracy, but also accuracy of behavior and habitat, which leads me to consult as needed with field biologists. Having had the privilege of exploring wild places the world over, I have profound respect for animals as fellow sentient beings, and I am always striving to communicate that knowledge and experience in my work.
Mongolia, its animals, land and people, has been a subject of particular interest over the years. Mongolia has influenced me deeply and it is natural that elements of that culture should become an integral part of my work. In recent years, instead of the traditional animal in its habitat, a given painting may combine a realistic, vignetted depiction of my subject with a contemporary, expressive background that can include the use of traditional and historic symbols and motifs from Mongolian culture sometimes combining those elements with Bichig, a vertical script, Mongolia’s first written language, which dates back to Chinggis Khan in the 13th century. My background as a graphic designer, calligrapher, and sign-painter all contribute to this incorporation of text and other decorative elements. Though these pieces are less conventionally realistic than much of my work, they are just as truthful in portraying the relationship between the Mongols, their domestic animals and their country’s wildlife, as well as exploring the symbolic and cultural importance of animal imagery.
My enthusiasm for painting and drawing during my forty years in the arts is stronger now than ever, inspired by my desire to record and help conserve the natural world.
“Scratch That Itch” oil 10×12″ $840
California Art Club, Associate Artist Member
Art Renewal Center (ARC)
Westhaven Center for the Arts
The Explorers Club, Fellow (FN’14)
Academy of Art University, BFA Illustration, 1989
Oxford University Christchurch, Summer Session, 1989
The Illustration Academy , 1990, 1991
John Seerey-Lester Master Class, 1997
Scott Christensen Ten Day Plein Air Intensive, 2004
Simon Combes’ Artist Safari, Kenya, 2004
Sequoia Park Zoo Conservation Lecture Series- “Art and Conservation in the Land of Blue Skies”, 2017
Explorers Club Public Lecture speaker- “Wildlife Art: Field to Studio” group exhibition, 2016
The Explorers Club- Awarded Flag 179 for the 2015 WildArt Mongolia Expedition
Artists for Conservation 9th Flag Expedition Grant, 2009- to study Mongolian argali mountain sheep and assist in the creation of a women’s felt crafts cooperative at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve
“Focus on Nature XV”- New York State Museum, 2019
“Magnificent Migrations: A Tour of California’s Central Coast- California Art Club and the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum, 2019
“International Exhibit of Nature in Art”, Artists for Conservation- currently on tour to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona and the Lanwan Art Museum, Qingdao City, China, 2018, 2019
“60th The Haggin Museum “National Juried Exhibition”, Stockton Art League. 2018
“3rd Annual Animal Kingdom”- Fusion Art, 2018, 3rd Place, Traditional Painting
“Black and White Show”- Salmagundi Art Club, 2017, 2018
“Members Exhibition”- Salmagundi Art Club, 2017
“Wildlife Treasures”- juried exhibition, Nature Art Gallery and Museum, Sandhurst, UK, 2017
“Thumbox Exhibition”- Salmagundi Art Club, 2015, 2017
“Wildlife Art: Field to Studio”- a group exhibition at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2016
The 2013 WildArt Mongolia Expedition group exhibition- Union of Mongolian Artists, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 2014
“My Mongolia: The Paintings of American Artist Susan Fox”- a solo exhibition at the National Museum of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, August 2013
“Art and the Animal”- Society of Animal Artists, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016
“Fall Exhibition of Equine Art”- American Academy of Equine Art, 2009, 2011, 2012,, 2014, 2015, 2017
“Art and the Animal Kingdom”- Bennington Center for the Arts, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2015
“Black and White Show”- Salmagundi Art Club, 2016, 2018
“Salon International”- Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art, 2011
“51st Annual Spring Juried Exhibition” – Redwood Art Association, 2009, Janie Walsh Memorial Painting Award
“Wild Things” – California Art Club, 2007, Juror’s Choice Award
“American Artists Abroad” – Bennington Center for the Arts, 2006, 2007
“Art for the Parks – Top 100” – National Parks Foundation, 2003
“The Art of Seeing: Nature Revealed Through Illustration” – Oakland Museum of California, Natural Sciences Department, 2003, 2006
“Just Outside My Door: Flora and Fauna of Kane Ridge” – Solo exhibition, Humboldt State University Natural History Museum, June-August 2002
“California Species” juried show – Oakland Museum of California, Natural Sciences Department, September 30, 2000 through May 13, 2001
“Our Excellent Adventure: Three Wildlife Artists on the Road”, three-artist exhibition – William F. Cody Gallery, August, 2000
Humboldt Arts Council Membership Shows – 1998, 1999, 2000
Artist’s Magazine Art Competition (Wildlife) – Finalist, 1991
Founder and President, Art Partnerships for Mongolian Conservation
The WildArt Mongolia Expeditions– a series of expeditions to different areas of Mongolia for the purpose of highlighting a variety of endangered species and habitats through art created on location and afterwards in the studio
Advisory Team Member, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve- art for fundraising; social media support
Argali Wildlife Research Center– research support by providing field photos
EARTHWATCH PROECTS: Kenya’s Wild Heritage, 1999 Roman Fort on Tyne, 2000 Climate Change at the Arctic’s Edge, 2002 Mongolian Argali, 2005
The Sierra Club
Humboldt State University Natural History Museum
Sequoia Park Zoo Foundation
Sunrise, Jargalant Hairhkan Uul from Khar Nuur,
Khar Us Nuur National Park
Founder and Admin– The Art of Animal Fieldwork, Facebook group, 2017
Visual Notes for Architects and Designers by Paul Laseau; Wiley, 2011– A selection of my iPad drawings of live animals were used in the book to illustrate how an artist could use the iPad as a sketchbook.
The Pet Connection, June 2010– “Cultural Baggage”; blog post commissioned by best-selling author and journalist Gina Spadafori (“Your Dog: The Owner’s Manual”, “Dogs for Dummies” “Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual”, etc.) to educate her readers about the assumptions travelers carry with them when traveling to other countries, the specific example being the attitudes Americans have about pet dogs vs. how dogs are used and treated in a country like Mongolia.
Wildlife Art Journal, April 2010– “A Letter From: Fieldwork in the Ancient Kingdom of Chinggis Khan”; Article about my 2009 Artists for Conservation Flag Expedition, illustrated with a slide show of 26 images of drawings from my Expedition journal, photographs from the Expedition and my paintings; Wildlife Art Journal is an online publication dedicated to wildlife art and the artists who create it and which supports conservation through its blog and editorials.
Horse Art Magazine, Spring 2007– “The Horses of Mongolia, Part 1: Khomiin Tal”
Account of my 2006 journey to remote Zavkhan Aimag in western Mongolia to visit the third, most recent takhi release site, located in a river valley called Khomiin Tal.
Horse Art Magazine, Summer 2007– “The Horses of Mongolia, Part 2: Hustai National Park” Account of my second visit to Hustai National Park, the second takhi release site, in 2006, which is located two hours west of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
Horse Art Magazine, Fall 2007– “The Horses of Mongolia, Part 3: The Horses that Conquered the World” Account of the domestic Mongol horses, many of which have takhi blood; discusses the horse culture of the Mongols; the use and social behavior of domestic Mongol horses and their place in Mongol culture.
Zorgul Hairkhan Uul
Susan Fox grew up on the north coast of California where she drew inspiration from the natural world for what would become her lifelong passions of drawing and painting. Her early childhood usually found her drawing animals and studying books on animal drawing techniques. Her love of art began to develop into a career when a chance encounter with a customer while working at a bakery during a break from her undergraduate studies at Humboldt State University led to an apprenticeship with a local sign painter in Eureka, CA. The skills and work ethic she learned in her five years there, plus her desire to draw and paint realistically, led Fox to seriously pursue her education by returning to school full-time in 1986 to study illustration at the Academy of Art (now University) in San Francisco. During the last of her three years at the Academy, where in 1989 she earned her BFA in Illustration, Susan started sketching on location and making frequent trips to the San Francisco Zoo to work from live animals. A subsequent opportunity to take a summer session at Christchurch College, Oxford University in England helped her hone her skills working en plein air, as she sketched and painted in watercolors the same trees and gardens that once sparked the imagination of Lewis Carroll.
After working for fifteen years as a sign painter, graphic designer and illustrator, Susan started to paint full time in oil in 1997, specializing in wildlife. She had already traveled the world extensively when she signed up for a 2005 Earthwatch Expedition in Kenya to assist with a study of the maneless lions of Tsavo National Park. But when the latest Expedition catalogue arrived and she saw a new project that featured a photograph of an argali wild sheep, Susan decided to change her plans and explore a place with which she was totally unfamiliar. The experience would change her life forever. Not only did she experience a land and people whose proud history goes back over a thousand years, but she fell in love with the land, the endless blue skies, and the wildlife. Mongolia became a second home and the major inspiration for her life’s work.
Today, Susan Fox is the only American artist who specializes in painting Mongolia’s unique wildlife, landscapes, and people. Fox has been to Mongolia twelve times (so far), carrying out an Artists for Conservation Flag Expedition in 2009, and then organizing an on-going series of WildArt Mongolia Expeditions designed to inspire artists to explore Mongolian subject matter and make real contributions to grass-roots conservation efforts for threatened and endangered species such as saiga antelope, Gobi bear, wild bactrian camels, and argali sheep. Susan’s immersion has drawn her deeply into the Mongolian culture, inspiring her to learn about the life, language, and customs of these legendary, but today quite modern, people, who once conquered the largest land empire in history. No longer an occasional tourist, Fox has involved herself in community activism as well, assisting in the formation of a women’s felt craft collective, Ikh Nart Is Our Future, to help economically empower women living in the area surrounding the Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. She is also a member of the Reserve administration’s Advisory Team.
Susan is a Fellow of the Explorer’s Club, a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation, an Associate Artist Member of the California Art Club, and the founder and President of Art Partnerships for Mongolian Conservation, a non-profit association. In the US, her work has been seen at the New York State Museum and the Salmagundi Art Club in New York, the Oakland Museum of California, the Haggin Museum, and Humboldt State University’s Natural History Museum in California, along with numerous museums and galleries across the country with the touring Society of Animal Artists exhibition, “Art & the Animal.” Abroad she has shown at the Nature in Art Museum in Gloucestershire, England, and the National Museum of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar, which honored her with a solo exhibition in 2013. Her work has also been included in the Artists for Conservation “International Exhibit of Nature in Art,” which toured to the Lanwan Art Museum in China and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. She conceived, and along with a colleague, organized a group exhibition, “Wildlife Art: Field to Studio” for the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, Connecticut in 2016, which included seven animal artists who draw and paint in the field, in addition to their studio work.
Susan continues to make her mark in the world of art and conservation, creating awareness about the plight of the endangered and threatened species of Mongolia and the increasingly fragile ecosystems upon which they rely. To hear Susan Fox speak about Mongolia is to palpably experience her passion: “I’ve seen the sun go down over the Flaming Cliffs,” says the artist. “visited remote monasteries, camped for up to three weeks in the deep countryside where you can set up a tent anywhere you’d like, ridden Mongol horses, drunk airag (the famous fermented mare’s milk), visited nomadic herder’s gers and spent many hours observing a variety of Mongolian wildlife, including takhi (Przewalski’s horse), argali, the world’s largest mountain sheep, Siberian ibex, Siberian marmots, jerbils, eurasian black vultures, three species of cranes, and raptors such as saker falcons, black kites, golden and steppe eagles.” Her experiences are detailed in the illustrated journals she keeps on each trip, her blog, her sketchbooks and watercolors, and are present in every brushstroke of her oil paintings.
She currently resides within the sound of the ocean in McKinleyville CA, where she and her husband share their home with two collies, two cats and the wild animals who live in or visit their rural acre.