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story.lead_photo.caption “I love clear, intense colors,” says Susan Idlet of her work. “I scrub my Prisma pencils down to their nubs to fully cover the white of the paper. I draw inspiration from photographs and phrases/words. Sometimes my pencils are drawn to the humorous side.” (Courtesy Image)

The Gallery on Garrison in Fort Smith opened a new exhibit at the beginning of the November. "In Terms of Color" showcases the artwork of Northwest Arkansas artists Amy Eichler and Susan Idlet, whose color palettes -- featuring vibrant, intense hues -- brighten up the dreary days at the end of a difficult year.

Susan Idlet

As a young girl, Susan Idlet had a dream: She would be an artist when she grew up.

"Specifically an abstract artist, living in a garret in Greenwich Village, dressed entirely in black, smoking cigarettes and drinking lots of coffee," reads her bio on the website for Fenix Fayetteville, where Idlet is a resident artist. "That was my 6-year-old vision. I actively pursued this goal until I was 15, when I stopped making art altogether. That was 1970, and maybe I was having too much fun being a young hippie to focus on my art."

Decades passed, but she finally circled back to pursue her childhood dream.

"I finally got the courage to start up again, and today I can truly say that I am an artist -- living in Northwest Arkansas, wearing lots of black, drinking plenty of coffee and happy to be an ex-smoker."

Idlet's paintings -- rife with color, bright and happy and full of good humor -- are a natural fit for the exhibit.

"I'm sure the gallery owner, Melody Smith, titled the exhibit 'In Terms of Color' because both [co-exhibitor Amy Eichler and my] work pretty much scream color," says Idlet. "I have always loved bold, bright, saturated colors -- in my art and in my home. The amazing glass artist, Dale Chihuly, once said that he never met a color he didn't like. This is not true for me; I never go to the pale pastels or earth tones."

Idlet says her return to art is new enough -- she's been back at it for around three years now -- that the novelty of having her work shown publicly is still a thrill.

"It's hugely satisfying to see a whole wall filled with my pictures," she says. "When I actually sell some of my pieces, it's just like icing on the cake. I'm especially excited to be in Fort Smith; I have never shown my work there before. The Gallery on Garrison is a really beautiful venue.

"We are living in the strangest of times," Idlet muses. "I am fortunate enough to be retired, so the crushing financial and logistical effects of this pandemic don't really impact me. No matter what the circumstances (personally or otherwise), I regularly celebrate and express gratitude for all the wonderful parts of my life."

Amy Eichler

Artist Amy Eichler works with oil and acrylic to create compelling portraits of both humans and animals. Like Idlet, she turned to art as a full-time profession later in life.

"She was fortunate to be raised in an artistic family with a mother who is also an artist, but didn't start focusing on art as a career until recently," reads the bio on her website, "Amy also grew up dancing, performing and traveling the world, and operated as the dance director at iNFiNiTi Athletics in Bentonville until 2017, when she took the leap into a full-time art career."

"My paintings have become more colorful over time as I've learned to limit my palette," explains Eichler. "Over the past few years I've focused on using just three colors (quinacridone magenta, phthalo blue, Indian yellow) and white in the majority of my paintings. It always surprises people to hear that, but you can make such vibrant combinations with just the primary colors."

Eichler says watching the reaction of people as they study her art in public settings is motivating to the creative process.

"I love having my work out in public and getting to talk to people about it," she says. "I create art mostly for others. The joy it brings people motivates me, though I also get to enjoy the process of creation. It's a win-win."

Artist Amy Eichler painted live during the exhibit’s opening reception at the beginning of November. “I paint with a lot more freedom and energy when others are watching,” she says. “If I’m painting alone, I have too much time to overthink. Painting live keeps my art intuitive and fresh.” (Courtesy Image)
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‘In Terms of Color’

WHEN — Now through Dec. 3

WHERE — Gallery on Garrison, 914 Garrison Ave., Fort Smith

COST — Free

INFO — 926-6014

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