Susan Gainen

After beginning  the watercolor geometric abstractions that became nanoscapes in 2006, small creatures began to show up in my studio. I was not surprised to see cats, as I provide food-on-demand for two of them, but by 2007 there were moose and roosters. On a trip to France in 2008, I met “Benny the Bunny from Cluny,” and “Bernard from Bayeux.” That both had escaped from famous tapestries centuries ago and were on the lam from Art Historians, should have been a clue that there might be more creatures with intriguing stories in my life.

Since then, a vast menagerie of small friends has come my way: birds, dragons, fish, a Jelly Bear Rug, Robert the Tap Dancing Rooster, the Competitive Frog Teams (synchronized swim, sky diving and square dancing), Mary-Anna Musk-Ox, and many more. The Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul are creatures that I have imagined and excavated from a cave near the Mississippi River. Because we have caves which were famously used by Prohibition-era Bootleggers, it seemed to me that there ought to be an unexplored cave with creatures. They are here now.

The small friends are related to nanoscapes which reflect a lifelong love of intense color and design and an unreserved enthusiasm for dense and complex patterns. They are directly linked to tiny paintings I made on Plaster of Paris eggs in the 1970s, two decades of tiny gardens where my garden philosophy was “start with wretched excess and scale up!” and five miniature needlepointed Oriental rugs which won Blue Ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair. 

Seeing the magic of detail was a gift. When I couldn’t see the blackboard in 6th grade, it was obvious that I needed glasses. Between diagnoses and delivery, my Girl Scout troop had a bird watching trip in Rock Creek Park, and I saw nothing – not a bluebird or a red bird. “Delusional” wasn't in my vocabulary, but I remember that it was an odd excursion. I got the glasses, and could see every leaf on every tree and every blade of grass. It was magic.

About Susan Gainen:   I celebrate Chronological Enrichment, and have worked in the wholesale food business, sold cars and auto finance & insurance, practiced law, attended library school, worked as a headhunter for lawyers, and served as a law school career advisor at the University of Minnesota Law School. In addition to painting nanoscapes, I am the proud proprietor of a national career strategies consulting practice ( and a modest food blog and creatively re-imagined cooking school (susan-cooks!)