published Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Postcards from Prague: Suzanne Mortimer spent six weeks focused on art

Suzanne Mortimer painted river scenes while visiting Kampa Island in Prague. The Vltava River runs beneath the busy Manesuv Most Bridge.
Suzanne Mortimer painted river scenes while visiting Kampa Island in Prague. The Vltava River runs beneath the busy Manesuv Most Bridge.
  • photo
    Suzanne Mortimer painted river scenes while visiting Kampa Island in Prague. The Vltava River runs beneath the busy Manesuv Most Bridge. For this drawing Mortimer says she focused on a tower on the other side of the river.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Suzanne Mortimer painted river scenes while visiting Kampa Island in Prague.

IF YOU GO

* What: "Postcards from Prague, On Site Drawings" by Suzanne Mortimer.

* Where: Exum Gallery, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 305 W. Seventh St.

* When: 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; opening reception from 5-7 p.m. Thursday.

* Admission: Free.

* Information: 266-8195 or www.stpaulschatt.org.

When Suzanne Mortimer left Prague after a six-week visit last summer, she didn't go away empty-handed.

The Art Department chair at McCallie's middle school came back from the capital of Czech Republic with a collection of drawings and paintings that reflected her vision of the old city.

"In the summer of 2013, I was awarded a grant from the McCallie School to travel to Prague to study and draw," Mortimer says. "While there, I drew with a group of student artists instructed by my former college drawing professor, Dale Leys. Every afternoon for six weeks was spent rendering the unique architecture in and around Prague."

Mortimer calls the trip a quest.

"I was looking for that artist part of me that often gets neglected in a day of teaching," she says. "In Prague, I escaped into the beauty of the forms, the lines on the paper, the joy of mark making. My life was uncluttered, focused and purposeful. I drew. I ate. I slept. I learned. Each of these drawings is a day, a moment and a snapshot in time. These are my own postcards from Prague."

Mortimer's "Postcards from Prague," a collection of around 20 paintings and drawings, will be exhibited throughout May at the Exum Gallery at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

One piece of art in the exhibit -- a drawing of the Manesuv Most Bridge -- has special significance to her, she says.

"It had gotten very hot in Prague, and it became almost impossible to sit and draw in the sun for four hours, so I had looked for benches in the shade," she says. "This is a very busy bridge in the city and along the river there is a line of trees and benches. That day I found a bench in the shade near a homeless woman. As I drew, I watched her from the corner of my eye and observed how she spent her day.

"It was an important lesson for me," Mortimer explains. "Here I was so privileged to be in such a beautiful place drawing and yet, beside me was a woman in need. It made me thankful for the blessings I have been given, but also, placed on my heart how important it is to reach out to those who are not as fortunate."

Most of her work is drawings, she says, but there are a few watercolors thrown in.

"Many are pen and ink drawings and others are pen and ink with watercolor washes. There are a few drawings that are all watercolor, but the techniques to me are still more like drawing. I would consider those watercolors just drawing with paint."

All the artwork from Prague was done while sitting outside in the middle of the city, Mortimer says.

"That type of drawing is very different from drawing in a studio. You have to bring all of your materials with you to the site and focus your eye on what you are going to include in the drawing. There is just so much that you see when you look out at the scene, but you must find the part that interests you and then determine what will be included in the composition.

"Often the architecture I was drawing in these images was very far away and I had to draw the subject matter the way that I saw it and forget about what that form might actually be if I saw it up close."

The chance to focus only on making art was a meditative break from her daily job of teaching, which leaves little free time for her to draw.

"I have had trouble finding time to create, but I try schedule a time to work on my art. It is no different than anything else. You make time for those things you think are important. Art is very important to me."

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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