Susan Gallacher

Capturing Utah’s Landscapes ‘En Plein Air’

Emily Seare | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Sep 12, 2019

The Athenian philosopher Plato once said, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”

As a young single mom, Susan Gallacher was the sole provider for her children. Saying “no” to a job offer to manage a local art supply store — and a secure source of income for her family — wasn’t easy.

Yet, Gallacher leaned on what she knew and loved — creating and teaching art — which made all the difference. Now Gallacher is a prominent Utah artist and owner of a private art academy who can look back on that decision with confidence.

Discovering Her Talent

Gallacher was born into a musical family and remembers listening to music daily. Piano lessons began for each child at age 5, and while Gallacher’s siblings excelled, she was discouraged at her lack of progress.

“My mother came up to me one day and asked if I’d rather take art lessons,” Gallacher says. “I was relieved and excited to begin practicing art as it came natural to me, where playing the piano was a struggle.” This decision shaped Gallacher’s future and solidified her love of painting. 

Practice Makes Better

“In seventh grade my art teacher asked if I would be interested in expanding my painting abilities through private lessons,” Gallacher says. With her parents’ blessing and support, Gallacher began painting every Saturday morning at various outdoor locations around Utah with her teacher.

“My Saturday morning painting lessons gave me confidence in my abilities, got me in the habit of painting regularly and helped me get comfortable with painting outside in the elements,” Gallacher says. “Painting outside is very different than painting from a photo. The photograph doesn’t capture the way the light moves, the mood of the landscape or all the color combinations that nature provides.” 

In Her Element

Gallacher grew to love painting “en plein air,” which is the French expression for “in the open air.” “I am a fifth generation Utahn and my great-great-grandfather was one of the first pioneers into the Salt Lake valley in 1847,” Gallacher says. “I grew up listening to the stories about my ancestors and visiting their pioneer homesteads, which planted a deep appreciation for the seemingly endless and varying landscapes. Painting these powerfully magical scenes in nature is my passion and gives me great joy.”

Sharing Her Passion

Gallacher’s art is well-known throughout Utah. Her paintings have been recognized in several major books, published in calendars, purchased by multiple museums, universities, city halls, companies (including Zions Bank and the Salt Lake International Airport) and art collectors.

In 1982, Gallacher established the Kings Cottage Art Academy in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake City as a way to sell artwork and teach private lessons. The academy has expanded to include a second location in the small historic town of Spring City, Utah, where her ancestors originally settled. She splits her time between the two cities. Both places regularly hold painting workshops where aspiring artists can learn and practice with other Utah artists. Her Spring City academy in a restored historic home also offers bed and breakfast options for class members. Visit for class schedules and workshops. 

Share This Article With Your Community