SUE Graham’s love for live leapt off the canvas in the joyful colours of her oils and acrylics.
It was equally evident in the enthusiasm with which she welcomed visitors into her studio during Bucks Art Weeks events and only too obvious in the excitement with which she embraced her family’s ambitious rewilding project on the Scottish island of Gigha.
Typically, it also shone through in the upbeat optimism with which she faced up to her cancer treatment, playing down the pain, nausea and fear associated with the relentless hospital visits.
“This cancer thing and the shadow it inevitably casts makes me live quite intensely,” she said last August.
But a few short months later, her family wrote on her Facebook page: “It is with utmost sadness that we share the news that Sue Graham passed away on 16th January 2022. We know she was loved by so many of you and that this news may come as a shock.”
The shock was only too clear in the tributes which followed, to “a magical human and utterly beautiful person” whose art brought so much joy to so many.
Many of her paintings are inspired by the local landscape and a series of her oils which she started back in 2008 reflected her love of the dawn chorus and paved the way for the Gigha rewilding project, as we wrote in April 2020.
Sue was quick to spot the declining volume of local birdsong, long before the loss started to hit the national headlines.
The missing songbirds were not only to feature in a vivid series of paintings, but reflected broader environmental worries increasingly affecting the lives of the artist and her research scientist husband Gabriel Waksman – a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.
Vibrant, positive and inspirational, it was typical that Sue felt driven to do something more for the planet – and thousands of young saplings on a remote Scottish island bear testimony to her determination and fortitude.
“You think, ‘How much time have I got left?’ and of course it was always a project we should have started 20 years ago,” Sue admitted.
But she also insisted: “Planting trees is the best thing we can do for the future. I know it’s a drop in the ocean in terms of carbon capture, but I needed to sleep better at night.”