By Melissa Arnold

Susan Trawick of Setauket devoted more than 20 years to helping Sachem East High School students develop their art skills. All the while, she continued to create her own artwork, primarily in watercolors and oil.

Following her retirement from teaching in 2008, Trawick sought to keep her art skills sharp and maybe even make some new friends. She joined several local art classes, including one taught by her neighbor Mary Jane van Zeijts, owner of Studio 268 on Main Street in Setauket.

‘West Meadow Gates’

Van Zeijts taught Trawick how to use a set of pastels she received from friends as a gift, and she immediately fell in love. “Pastels are definitely my new favorite medium to work with,” Trawick said in a recent interview. “The colors are so vibrant and intense.”

Van Zeijts was so impressed with Trawick’s skills that she invited her to create an art exhibit for the studio. That show, aptly titled Land and Sea Pastel Images, will open on March 24.

Trawick’s passion for art is hereditary, she said — her father loved to draw, and she picked up the hobby in early childhood. She married young and was a stay-at-home mother before attending Dowling College for a bachelor’s degree in fine art and Stony Brook University for a master’s in education. Without hesitation, she cites impressionists as her favorite artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Andrew Wyeth and Joseph Reboli.

While Trawick’s work has appeared throughout the area in various exhibits, this show is the first she’s done solo. It will be almost entirely comprised of pastel art, with one watercolor and one oil painting to give a taste of her other skills.

“Setauket is the best place for an artist to live — the landscapes are so beautiful,” Trawick said. “I love the water, the wetlands, the trees, even the little hills here on the North Shore that the South Shore doesn’t have.”

‘Hidden Stream’

Trawick explained that inspiration for a new piece will strike as she’s out driving or enjoying time outside, especially in the light of early morning or at sunset. When she sees something she wants to paint, she’ll take photos to preserve the memory for later. She also enjoys occasional plein air painting. 

Trawick will display more than 30 pieces of varied sizes at the show. Most pieces feature recognizable Long Island scenes, while others show off the beauty of Central Park, Yellowstone National Park and Higgins Beach in Maine, all with brilliant color.

“Susan is an incredibly strong, skilled and prolific artist,” van Zeijts said. “She has used and taught other mediums, but she is so expressive with pastels. It speaks of who she is. We can all relate to her work because a lot of it is local. You can see a picture of Maine and acknowledge it as beautiful, but her Long Island work will be recognizable and enjoyable for people from this area.”

Every piece at Trawick’s show is for sale, with paintings ranging from $50 to $850 and prints for less than $10. Twenty percent of the proceeds from the show will benefit Kent Animal Shelter, a no-kill nonprofit haven for dogs and cats in Calverton, where Trawick has served as a board member for 32 years. Her two dogs and “too many” cats at home are all rescues.

The shelter also offers low-cost and sometimes free spay/neuter services for more than 3,500 animals each year. This critical work helps address excessive breeding, overpopulation and animals left homeless.

“I’ve seen so much suffering of animals in my time doing work with the shelter, so I want to do anything I can to alleviate that suffering,” said Trawick.

Reached by phone, Pam Green, executive director of the shelter, said that Trawick is the quintessential animal lover. “Susan is so devoted and has done a lot of work with helping support our spay/neuter efforts in the area. She also provides a lot of advice for people that come across homeless or sick animals,” Green said.

Studio 268, located at 268 Main St., Setauket will present Land and Sea Pastel Images from March 24 to April 14. The studio is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Join the artist for an opening reception on March 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. Refreshments will be served. For more information, call 631-220-4529.

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