From Clam Diggers to Flamenco Dancers: Susan LaMadrid Photographs and Paints Subjects From the North Beach and Her Travels

Watercolor artist and photographer Susan LaMadrid did not study her craft before her husband retired. The couple moved from Seattle to Ocean Shores where Susan began to take watercolor classes. Her creativity burst into bloom. Within a very short time, she had developed her very own bold style and began to exhibit and win awards with her images of flowers, landscapes, and figures of the North Beach and beyond. Her repertoire ranges from Ocean Shores clam diggers to Spanish flamenco dancers.

Susan LaMadrid grew up on a farm in Sumner. During her school years, she focused on music and athletics rather than art. “I hated art lessons because I was told what to do,” she remarks.

Ocean Shores watercolor artist Susan LaMadrid is holding one of her clam digger paintings in her studio. Photo credit: Christine Vincent

However, her artistic ability surfaced in the posters she created for the high school band. She didn’t think much of it. “I figured anybody could do it,” she says.

While raising her three children, her creativity manifested itself in painting murals in the home, sewing all her children’s clothing and dancing costumes, as well as creating embroideries.

Susan LaMadrid Discovers Watercolor Painting

“When Fred and I retired to Ocean Shores, I needed something to do,” Susan remembers. “I saw a flyer advertising watercolor classes for seniors.” She gathered the recommended supplies and began her first six-week class. Many more were to follow. “I loved watercolor. I never missed a class. I wanted to learn as much as possible.” The hard work paid off. After only one year, the Fusions ART Gallery in Ocean Shores began to exhibit her work.

a painting of a a group of sunflowers on a yellow and purple background
These sunflowers represent Susan La Madrid’s dramatic floral art. Photo credit: Susan LaMadrid

Artist Paintings Depict Grays Harbor’s North Beach

The artist keeps a ring binder with gorgeous large photographs, among them flowers from her garden, some of which she transforms into bold, colorful paintings. “My photography has improved since I have been using my photos as subjects for paintings,” she explains. She enjoys painting landscapes and close-ups of North Beach nature, including flowers, fish and steamer clams.

An extraordinary photograph of a raven with its feathers blowing in the wind, however, will always remain a photograph. “I don’t paint birds,” she proclaims with determination.

Susan’s many paintings of clam diggers truly stand out. She is interested in body movements rather than faces, along with the beautiful contrast of brightly colored rain gear against the muted shades of an overcast day on the beach.

painting of a child in a yellow jacket and an adult in a red rain suit, both with clam guns, walking on a gray background, soft waves in the distance
This is one of Susan LaMadrid’s signature clam digger paintings. Photo credit: Susan LaMadrid

Susan LaMadrid’s Travels Lends to Paintings of Europe

The LaMadrids like to travel. On trips to France, Spain, and other European countries, Susan takes beautiful photographs of people, architecture and landscapes. Some of these images inspire watercolor paintings. She likes to photograph and paint people engaged in iconic activities.

Japanese Fish Printing in Grays Harbor

Japanese fish printing has become popular in Grays Harbor. After bringing home some whole salmon from a trip to the Quinault National Fish Hatchery, Susan had to give it a try. However, she could not help putting her own twist on the technique. Instead of painting a fish and printing it on white paper, she began with a colored wash on the paper. Then she printed her fish not once but multiple times creating formations. She uses any kind of fish she can obtain with its head on. One print is titled “Trout Quartet,” another “Trout School.”

four trout painted on light cream background
‘Trout Quartet’ is one of Susan La Madrid’s innovative fish prints. Photo credit: Susan LaMadrid

Grays Harbor Artist Wins Awards

Susan LaMadrid won the 2008 Associated Arts of Ocean Shores (AAOS) Poster Contest as well as eight ribbons in the AAOS juried Fine Arts and Photography shows. In 2022, she won two second places and a third place in two Coastal Interpretive Center art shows, Coastal Forest and Winter on the Coast. In 2019, she received an honorable mention in the City of Ocean Shores Paint the Hydrant event for her Bookworm fire hydrant in front of the Ocean Shores Library. Susan’s work was shown in the Grays Harbor College Fall Art Gala for 10 years. She has shown her art at the Grays Harbor County Fair and at the Puyallup Washington State Fair Fine Arts Show several times. Her work has been exhibited at Fusions ART Gallery and at Mermaid Cove Gallery in Ocean Shores.

Susan has much of her matting and framing done professionally at Mermaid Cove Gallery in Ocean Shores. She is particular about the color and texture of the frame and, especially, the mat. She considers it an extension of the work. Over the years, she has formed a close relationship with Mermaid Cove who also exhibit her work. “We help each other out,” she says.

Learn more by visiting the Susan LaMadrid website.

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