Solstice/Holiday note 2018

Holiday Postcard #2 - 2018
Holiday postcard #1 - 2018
Holiday postcard #1 – 2018

This was a year of research and recovering. After graduating last year, everything had to stop for a while. The Master’s in fine art is like being shot out of a cannon. I began learning Dutch. I had left NYC with a gold-standard resume for working with senior executives in finance, after 10 years with UBS & Morgan Stanley. I researched the job market here in all sectors and looked for administrative roles like I held in NYC, but got nowhere, especially not with beginner Dutch, my middle age, and a high-level university humanities degree instead of secretarial school. So over the summer I concluded that there was no falling back on office work after all, it seems I have to commit to this change of life I engineered again and again, despite financial risk and fear of it totally impoverishing me into old age. It never stops being completely daunting.

Since the late summer I have been exploring some new installations outdoors with wood, metal and yarn, and drawing more now that the weather has turned wintery. I began to research artist grants here. I’m also starting a side business as a communications coach for non-native English-speaking media professionals, called “Beyond English” (, after working with one client at Utrecht University all this autumn, which I really enjoyed. Sometimes I sell home-made (organic, gluten-free) foods made from what I can harvest from my small garden.

Holiday Postcard #2 - 2018
Holiday Postcard #2 – 2018

I somehow turned 50 this year, and celebrated by traveling back to the US. I was able to visit my Pennsylvania and NY friends and family and also enjoy an advanced Qi Gong (ancient Chinese health practice) retreat in upstate New York with my community. I miss the Shambhala buddhist and qi gong community in North America a lot; though there are long-established branches in Europe as well, there isn’t a diverse and supportive community in my little city, just a small group that is challenged to grow. It has been a contrast that I didn’t realise would be so stark, or have such a strong impact on me. Nonetheless – nice as it was to visit past places, I was glad to return to the Netherlands. I’m very lucky to live in such a place, where the overall society seems orders of magnitude better at taking care of its fellow beings. It’s been two years and a few months since landing here; 5 years since New York was “home”. The thing I mainly miss is the amazing, diverse landscapes of North America and seeing friends and family. Sometimes it feels disorienting to live in such a small country that nonetheless projects itself as large, with a lot of self-importance. You can cross it in 3 hours.

In the new year I plan to do more writing in addition to developing visual/environmental work, and creating more stability for all of that. I hope to hear from you if we haven’t been in touch for a while, And if you are coming to northern Europe, stop by for a visit!

Liefs, en warme groeten van Nederland,


  • Art:
  • Instagram: sujenlake
  • Biz:
  • Send me a postcard: Kanaalweg 89, 3533HG Utrecht | Netherlands
View from Kanaalweg, Utrecht. December 2018

Deep Dive

Week 4 workshop 1 minute drawing

Since last writing I’ve been on a deep dive into studying art-making, studying myself as a student again, and studying myself in NYC again…

Intense, wearying, joyful, painful, sad, insightful, fattening, irritating, depleting financially, and overall very worthwhile.

I found a living situation that is at once incredibly fortuitous and awkward, and have had plenty of opportunities to watch my irritation and resistance get triggered by someone else’s irritation and resistance.  It’s returned me to bodhicitta practice, which is the only way I feel able to short-circuit the churning mind that is reacting to situations instead of letting them go.

I also did further training as a dharma teacher (also helpful in the live situations), so I might be able to support the community of meditation practitioners wherever I land next year.

December 3: "Safe" Collage (In Progress)
December 3: “Safe” Collage (In Progress)

As far as the art-making goes…I love my mixed-media class, where I work on my own projects. Started slow, and have been working at a fury pace the last week or so to finish one large piece, and a few smaller ones. Meanwhile, I studied drawing full-time in October and part-time in November, which revealed a lot of limitations and pedagogical frustration. Perhaps after 3 years of drawing classes I might be producing things freshly, and as enjoyably as when I am making assemblages, painting, writing or singing, but it’s not feeling any more natural than before I came…in fact, less.

My first instructor had me focus on how I use line to describe the figure…so I gradually developed a bunch of beautifully-outlined figures, but no volumes, expressions, environments, etc.  Then I switched to part-time and that instructor disdained the outline altogether in favor of structure, vectors, responding to the movement of the pose, including the background of the studio and how one uses the page.  All useful things to think about, but now I had to completely rewire myself and produce very unsatisfying results, instead of building on what I’d spent a month developing.  Like learning to play music, or speak a foreign language, the process of becoming masterful at drawing is mystifying.

What I confirmed through this process is I am interested in drawing as a way to capture human expression, the face, the experience of lives intersecting with the world at a given moment, and the qualities that make a beautiful drawing in general, whether realism or abstract. I made some advances in exploring these aspects of drawing, but realized finally that I have to do more work on the street without the formality of instruction shadowing me.

You can see some of the other drawings I liked in my sketchbook.

Week 1
Week 1, pre-instruction: 20 minute drawing.


Halifax Common, June 2014

ASL live-drawing class October 2015: 1minute drawings

Week 4 workshop 1 minute drawing
Empathy drawing class

Sketches, Jan-March 2015:

Naga Trail Rocks, July 2014. Rain Sketches.

Naga Trail Rocks

Some things from the sketchbook, April 2014.