A&E » Arts

From physiotherapist to artist

Susie Cipolla marks her first solo show at the Adele Campbell Gallery on March 17



If you're looking for inspiration to launch a second career, take a look at Susie Cipolla's resume.

The long-time local first moved to Whistler in 1980 and started Whistler Physiotherapy, which she and her business partner grew from one location in a trailer to four clinics in Whistler and Squamish.

"Eight years ago, Marilyn (my partner) and I sold all the clinics to Lifemark and walked away," Cipolla says. "We worked for the new owners for two years and over those two years I kept saying, 'What am I going to do when I'm done? I can't play tennis and go out for lunch. I'll drive everyone crazy. I have to do something.'"

She explored a few new professions, but nothing felt like a good fit. That's when her friend, Whistler artist Bea Gonzalez, convinced her to take one of Arts Whistler's Art on the Lake painting workshops that she had helped organize.

"I think I was lucky I took that workshop first because Brian Atyeo (the artist leading it) is just so good. I took the workshops and said, 'Oh, maybe I could do this,'" she says. "I took many more workshops, classes, anything I could get my hands on — probably at least 30 or 40. It evolved from there."

Eight years later, Cipolla is represented by four galleries in Whistler, Banff, Victoria and La Malbaie, Que. And on Saturday, March 17, she'll mark another milestone when she has her first solo exhibit at the Adele Campbell Gallery in Whistler, the first gallery to sell her paintings.

"I think I just wore them down — I know I did," she says, with a laugh. "Once I was in there, because they're a reputable gallery, other galleries were willing to look at me."

The show will feature an array of her paintings — from mountain landscapes to animals and ocean-inspired images. "I've tried to give them a variety of things without it looking like a show by six different artists," she says. "I'm hoping it looks cohesive. They will have bears, some boats, landscapes — primarily West Coast, B.C.-type landscapes. I also did a series of nests with eggs in them. I was playing around and experimenting, but that's how I paint."

It might sound like a simple transition from physiotherapist and business owner to painter, but, in order to get there, Cipolla subscribed to the Malcolm Gladwell theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.

"I've been successful in a short period — artists would consider it a short period of time — because I'm fairly driven and also I paint 40 hours a week, every week," she says. "You can probably get good at almost anything if you put in your 10,000 hours."

The opening party for the exhibit takes place on March 17 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Adele Campbell Gallery. For more on Cipolla's work, visit susiecipollaart.com.