Kimberley artist Suzy French credits her art with carrying her through life’s ups and downs and now she’s determined to give something back.

Story By Felicity Brown

“I was a troubled kid and art gave me another direction,” Kimberley artist Suzy French says. Suzy’s art journey started with pencil sketching and screen-printing and by her final year at Perth’s Kalamunda Senior High School, she had placed in the top 10 percent of the state of Western Australia for art.
At age 20, Suzy was heading north to Broome in an old Holden sedan that cost her $1500 when she broke down south of her destination. A truck towed her into Sandfire Roadhouse, which is where the car stayed. So Suzy arrived in Broome on the back of a ute with dogs and swags with three men in the front.
Although she was a trained nurse, Suzy found it hard to get work and instead found herself cleaning and ironing and working as a waitress at the Roebuck Bay Hotel. About 18 months later someone suggested if she really wanted to nurse she should try Fitzroy Crossing.
“Fitzroy Crossing was a wild place 20 years ago,” Suzy says. She was nursing at Fitzroy Crossing Hospital when she met John French at the infamous Crossing Inn Hotel. They married and, with their first son, Joshua, spent the next few years on Fossil Downs Station before returning to Perth where second son, Lachlan, was born.
Over the next four years Suzy ran a body-sculpturing business called Early Impressions, casting baby hands and feet and offering her services voluntarily at Princess Margaret Hospital to newly bereaved parents.
It wasn’t until after Suzy had her sons and had spent five years renovating their home at Bullsbrook that she started to paint with oils and it was Kimberley artist, Jean Elizovich, who taught Suzy how.
Suzy first met Jean when she bought a car from her in Perth’s Swan Valley. “Purchasing that car was life-altering,” Suzy says, explaining how she walked into Jean’s house and saw her magnificent paintings, commenting on how beautiful they were and telling Jean how she had always wanted to paint.
Jean’s response was, “Right, you start on Monday.” So, every Monday at 8am after dropping her sons at school, Suzy would go to Jean’s and paint. “I never paid for a session,” Suzy says. “Jean said if she’s teaching me to paint then she’s painting too; which is exactly what I do now.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #83

Outback Magazine: June/July 2012

This story excerpt is from Issue #85

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