Susan Pacheco’s Menemsha Sketchbook Project

 

‘Everything is Connected,’ 8 x 12 in., watercolor, pencil and pen.


 

Susan Pacheco co-owns Creekville Antiques and Gallery in Menemsha, and owned a store on Main Street in Edgartown for 35 years. I fell in love with paintings of swimmers that hung in the window of the Main Street store — they were hers. About a year ago, Barbara Bluhm, Pacheco’s oldest sister, told her about the Sketchbook Project, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but begun in Atlanta, Ga., in 2006. They both decided to join one of the community-based challenges, where you pay a small fee and receive a sketchbook, that once completed is returned to the library, digitized (costs extra), and is available for the public, and may even tour the country.

Pacheco grew up in Needham. Both her parents were artists, as are her two older sisters. Pacheco enrolled in the Boston Museum School, but ended up running away from home to “join the hippies in San Francisco,” she says. “It was 1967. I made up for it: I went back to the Museum School for different courses and studied with different people. On the Island I studied with Nancy Furino, who mentored me for 10 years. I painted with her, always outside onsite. She was very, very generous. I owe her a lot, and she brought me up to speed even though I’d done tons of life drawing [throughout] my life. For years I went to the Tuesday morning drawing group at Featherstone, and before that at Tom Maley’s. Having that drawing background is the basis for everything. If you know how to draw, you can do a design on the canvas; you have to exercise that. Life drawing keeps you loose.”

After some false starts on the Sketchbook Project, Pacheco visited her sister in Florida in April, determined to work on it every day. “Every day we’re gonna do a page,” they vowed. “I did a lot while I was there,” she says. She painted the watercolors from photographs she takes. For the swimmers paintings, Pacheco takes photos mostly of her friends: She requires them to follow her instructions so she gets the images she wants to work from. “I took photographs of things that might be interesting to me,” she says, such as the wall of her paintings hanging at Creekville. “It was fun for me to do the interior of Creekville’s gallery space.” Pacheco goes to specific places to draw, but is not one of those artists who draws anywhere, like while “having a coffee at a café.” Pacheco ended up gluing in her watercolors, because the sketchbook paper was not watercolor-friendly. She finished up the project upon returning home to the Vineyard, and got it in for the deadline.

“The doing of [the sketchbook] was very gratifying because you do all that work and give it away. I tried to get the best images of each page, and decided to share them on Facebook. I’ve given away a lot of artwork in the past, and this is the same idea. I really enjoyed it.” It turns out both Pacheco and I are participating in a 4 x 4-inch canvas project based on a word each of us has received to “create a crowd-sourced visual encyclopedia” for the Sketchbook Project, due in August; Pacheco’s word is Pogo and mine is Tsantsa.

You can find Susan Pacheco’s (and her sister Barbara Bluhm’s) sketchbook by searching her name at the sketchbook project site [bit.ly/MVsketch]. If you’re interested in her paintings, head to Creekville Antiques and Gallery on Basin Road in Menemsha. Pacheco will also do swimming commissions, and can be contacted at babasuzie@aol.com.

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