Susan Ragland’s Vibrant Urban Folk Art

Susan Ragland’s Vibrant Urban Folk Art

The Re-Mix by Susan Ragland

“Express your joy in your art.”

Susan Ragland has an eye for the glowing and dynamic. It shows in her artwork. She’s a self-taught artist with origins in Washington, DC. Her art style falls under the category of urban folk art, a name she coined to describe her art. “Urban folk art describes work that’s hip, cool and contemporary. I’m a non-classically trained artist who paints outside the traditional art-making conventions,” she explains. “I highlight the beauty of black and brown people in my gouache and acrylic paintings. My intention is to imbue each work with soulful, kinetic, dynamic and kind energy expressed often through the hair or the hands.”

Her work is influenced by William H. Johnson and Jacob Lawrence. “When I went to the Smithsonian and saw William H. Johnson’s exhibit, I marveled at how he painted realistic depictions of leaders from the legs up while making the feet and shoes look funky,” she says. Susan found appeal in his imperfections and irreverence of his artwork.

Photo by Brianna Williamson

When speaking on Jacob Lawrence’s influence, she respects his form, style, and meaning. “I can feel the passion in his art. I resonated with the infusion of history within his pieces,” she explains. “I deeply admire his sense of movement and use of color. He showed precision in his placement of figures and background structures.”

While she doesn’t “consciously try to emulate” these artists, she respects their “interpretation of the human form.” “Perhaps I’m overly influenced by the fact they gave me the permission and courage to try out different pairings with shapes and angles,” she says. “They both expressed folks’ beauty in a simplified, non-realistic way.”

Best Friends by Susan Ragland

Susan is plenty busy with various creative projects this fall. “I’m in the process of providing the cover art and illustrations for two books,” she says. “One is an academic text and the other is a children’s book. I’m also working on some large pieces for an upcoming display at the Philadelphia Kimmel Center under the auspices of the Keystone Cluster Links.”

Susan hopes her paintings will resonate emotionally with its observers. “I hope viewers feel the characters dance through their everyday activities,” she says. “My paintings are vibrant, positive, and transmit a zest for life.”

Face 27 by Susan Ragland

To learn more about Susan Ragland and her artwork, visit her website and follow her on Instagram @susanurbanfolkart.