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Partner Painting

Keith and Susan vonBorstel share how they co-paint.

Submitted by: Keith and Susan vonBorstel, September 2006.

This entry relates to the past, present.

Categories: Art, Unforgettable Experiences.


Have you ever considered the strengths of combining the skill of two competent artists equally into one painting? Currier and Ives painted together but it’s quite rare. Having your favorite passage summarily covered up by your partner could scare away the meek or some might say, “smart” artist.


Under the name, Keith/Susan, and Susan and Keith vonBorstel explore the benefits of this “two heads are better than one” approach. Painting together is, for them, a silent collaboration.


As one artist paints the other watches but may not respond. Verbal input will affect the person painting. When the second artist’s turn comes she feels free to do whatever creativity demands. The paintings seem to move through predictable patterns of excitement, hopelessness, feelings of, “What has he/she/I done?,” “My mind is a blank,” “I know exactly what it needs,” and “It’s finished.”


Most paintings start with a pre-selected palette. The artists may describe certain loose rules before starting like, “Go for action,” “Keep values similar,” or “Play with transparency.”


Once started a painting’s composition evolves as each layer guides the following layer, each artist guides the following artist. A typical painting involves 10 to 20 layers, each layer alternately painted by the two artists. 


The captivating compositions of Keith/Susan are often non-figurative. Some paintings stress the beauty of color or form, others, movement; some even suggest a landscape. The result of their collaboration is a rare vision evoking a mirage of images and personal meaning at times serious, beautiful, or humorous.


Keith and Susan have a life long love of art. Keith has a BA in Art from UC Berkely where he studied under Elmer Bishoff and Mark Di Suvero. He has been a designer and artist. His early works were abstract expressionist and most recently plein air landscapes.


Susan, an award winning artist, has been selling since 1972 and has been shown in Carmel for the last four years. She shows at the Pepper Tree Art Show in Santa Ynez, Ca. 


Married 37 years, Keith and Susan now have a home and studio in Davis, California.



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