Van Campen’s Bursts of Color Travel South for the Winter

thumbnail_susanVanCampen-EarlyJune-LargeSusan Van Campen’s “Early June”

A colorful and expressive garden is on display at Haynes Galleries’ Nashville location. The gallery, which operates during the summer months in Thomaston, opened the exhibition “A Symphony of Color,” a showcase of the stunning floral still lifes of watercolorist & Mainer Susan Headley Van Campen.

The show continues through March 26. A reception celebrating the opening took place in Nashville, Tennessee the evening of February 12, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.

A master watercolorist Van Campen presents vibrant, sophisticated arrangements that speak to the artful beauty of flowers. Lush blossoms are assembled in glass vases and set against simple white backgrounds. A naturalist in addition to artist, Van Campen finds her inspiration in the flowers she tends to at her home in rural Maine. Their shapes, shades and endless variety have kept her brushes busy for the last forty years.

Upon first glance, her paintings might appear like straightforward, colorful still lifes. But in reality Van Campen’s still lifes craft a balance between the calculated and the spontaneous, the objective and the expressive, and the traditional and modern.

Van Campen begins her process early in the morning. “I go out to my gardens and cut what captures my eye,” she says of her process. She then carefully arranges her fresh flowers to maximize their visual language, highlighting the elegant bend of a stem, a bud on the verge of opening, or the silhouette of a petal.

Then working quickly yet confidently, she paints her fresh subject. “I paint kind of fast and wet in specific areas,” she reveals. Acutely aware that her subject is fleeting—here one moment and gone the next— each brushstroke must convey grace, have purpose, and accurately represent each flower.

With years of experience and a master’s eye, she also knows when to stop so as to not overwork her delicate composition, something notoriously easy to do in watercolor, adding “I have learned to watch and wait and let the water do a lot of the work.”

The finished watercolors follow in the grand tradition of floral still lifes but have a remarkably modern sensibility. Their empty backgrounds create ambiguous spatial relationships and an exquisite balance between positive and negative space while also allowing for Van Campen’s color spectrum to be fully appreciated. It’s an effect cultivated over a long career Van Campen recently admitted, adding “my composition and color sense have become more pronounced and intense through the years probably because of my confidence with my process.”

The exhibition of Van Campen’s florals will bring a visual feast to Haynes Galleries and brings one of Maine’s most talented artists to the South.

Haynes Galleries is located at 1600 Division Street, Suite 140, Nashville, Tennessee. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday or by appointment. Each summer Haynes Galleries also opens their gallery in Thomaston, Maine for a full schedule of original exhibitions. For more information, visit or email