By Taylor Edgar

A Dutch artist who had the Royal Family of the Netherlands sit for their portraits has opened a ‘wee’ gallery in Harris.

The small Northton Gallery which is her studio at the same time came about almost by accident when guests staying at the family’s holiday lets (Beachview Cottages) began expressing an interest in Suzan Offereins’ art and wishing to purchase her work.

From that point it was back to the future.  Before moving with her family to Harris seven years ago, Suzan had owned an art gallery for 20 years in a large converted post office in the Netherlands.  By comparison the Northton Gallery at 13 Northton is a much humbler affair, which came about more by accident than design in a ‘but and ben’ cottage.

Primarily, Suzan along with husband, Jan; daughter Sytske (15); and son, Bart, who (together with his partner Alici runs Harris Outdoor Adventure in Leverburgh) moved to Harris because of the beauty of the landscape, the light and the ever-changing skies and colours of the sea.

Though a portrait painter by profession, Suzan quickly found inspiration in the dramatic land and seascapes of Harris and decided to apply her portraiture skills to what she could see around in her South Harris.  For a painter, the nature in Harris is “overwhelming”.

Where Suzan differs is in her using the discipline and precision demanded by portrait painting and bringing it to bear on landscapes to capture the ever-changing moods and light.

Currently on display in the gallery is an eclectic mix of seascapes that seek to capture the rolling of the waves, birds including puffins and auks, and “lots of sheep”.

Working in oils on paper and canvas, her subjects are all part of the rich natural history tapestry of South Harris, Suzan’s adopted homeland.

As well as painter, she is also an art teacher and would like to give the opportunity to people wishing to learn the art of painting.  A firm believer that everyone can be taught to paint, Suzan’s lessons show budding artists how to set up a landscape, capture the light and inject their painting with atmosphere.

Most of her pupils at the moment, though, are school age.  Suzan is now well known around Harris as an itinerant art teacher but it in the past taught adults students in the Netherlands.

For someone so soaked in art, one suspects that Harris will never cease to throw up surprises because of its dynamic weather and quality of light that kicks up such vivid colours.

Confirms Suzan:  “Absolutely, it was the colours that made me compelled to paint landscapes.  It was a dream to move here to Harris.  There’s four seasons in a day, I don’t think I have been anywhere where everything can change so rapidly.  Sometimes the landscape is very impressionistic with soft pastel skies, changing into very expressionistic lively turquoise seas, the wind blowing a frail of lace over the waves, or dramatic dark moody clouds coming in, throwing dark purple shadows on the white sandy beaches.”

Though she is once again a gallery owner, Suzan is determined not to lose sight of why she moved to South Harris in the first place.  She still goes for long walks.  She still goes out in the family boat to fish in the Sound of Harris.  The gallery is open… when the sign is out or by appointment.