By Talbert Toole
Artwork is traditionally displayed on walls in homes, museums and businesses. However, for Ole Miss alum Suzie Shannon Newbill, she has put a twist in the way she creates her masterpieces.
Newbill graduated from Ole Miss in 1997 with a bachelor of arts in art with an emphasis in design and journalism. During her tenure at the university, Newbill worked for The Daily Mississippian designing ads and received Samir Husni’s Magazine Service Journalism award for magazine design.
“While at Ole Miss, I spent countless hours in the art and journalism buildings,” she said.
After graduation, Newbill moved to the greater Memphis area where she worked for The Racquet Club of Memphis as a designer—specifically with their Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tennis Tournament. Although she enjoyed the job, she spent most of her time in front of a computer.
“I missed people, and I definitely missed creating,” she said.
Newbill decided to return to school. She attended the University of Memphis and Rhodes College in order to become a certified teacher. She has been teaching art in public schools for the past 17 years and will begin her 18th year as a teacher at Vestavia Hills High School in Birmingham where she and her children moved to in 2016.
Newbell always finds herself drawn back to her favorite medium—pen and ink. She said she loves the simplicity of line.
Her artistry is inspired by her love of travel. From foreign countries to eclectic small towns, Newbell has traveled to some of the most beautiful places in the world, which is reflected in her work. “These places find their way into my work,” she said.
Newbell’s newest love is for landmarks, which has allowed her to combine two of her favorite things—art and travel—into prints and pillows. The combination first began when she drew Birmingham, Alabama, which she described as fun and funky.
“My drawing ended up on a pillow for myself,” she said. “Then there was a huge demand for me to sell [the pillows].”
She said she was simply drawing for fun and then it turned into a business. When she drew the city of Oxford she said it was the best, but also the hardest. She tries to encapsulate all historic landmarks of cities into her pillows, but due to the smaller canvas surface area she could only select a handful of the city’s landmarks.
Newbell said she relies on her friends and family as her team of advisors when it comes to her prints and pillows.
Lovers of Oxford can purchase the Oxford pillow from Newbell’s store, EmmaReeseStudio, on Etsy.com. Ten percent of the proceeds from each Oxford pillow will be donated to The Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The pillow is $50.
“My goal is to find ways to give back to the places that have given me so much,” she said. “Ole Miss and Oxford shaped who I am today…as an artist, a teacher, mother and always a Rebel.”