Gears interlocking in precision … perfectly threaded ignitors … gleaming oil caps: it’s the stuff of engines, but also the focus of artwork created by Susan Eddy.
Susan, who lives in Numa, Iowa, with her husband, James, and infant daughter, has a long involvement with old gas engines and tractors.
“I grew up around it,” she said. “First with my dad. We were always running around, looking for old engines or tractors — well, we still do. And then with my husband … It’s just been a part of my life.”
Although she’s restored her share of engines (an Emerson-Brantingham awaits finishing touches in the garage), in recent years her passion for vintage equipment has bloomed through her pencil drawings. A natural artist, she’s had little formal training.
“I’ve always been interested in art,” she said. “In my senior year in high school, my art teacher really encouraged me.”
She works in watercolor, oils and acrylic, “but pencil drawings are what I call my first love,” she said.
She’s produced a series of drawings entitled “Timing,” which focus on engine timing gears. Those drawings have been reproduced on notecards. Another drawing (featured on the cover of this issue) is simply called “Ignitors.” It looks as if a bag full of ignitors was spilled out on a table, and the artist went to work. In reality, it was a bit more complicated than that.
“I like to take photographs, too,” Susan said. “When I was at the Mt. Pleasant show one year, I saw a guy set up a table that was covered with engine parts. He had a bunch of ignitors on the table, and it just looked interesting to me.”
The intricate detail of the project required a major investment of time.
“I wanted to make sure each ignitor looked the way it was supposed to,” she said.
Pregnant with her first child, Susan began to fret about completion of the drawing, anticipating that after the baby was born, she’d have little time to draw.
“When I get started with something, I like to keep at it, try to get it done. It’s hard to get back into something once you’ve stopped,” she said. “It was getting awfully close to my due date, but I finally made it.”
Actually, she met two deadlines: baby Charli was born this summer, just in time to hit the show circuit.
“I was hoping she’d get here in time, so we could go to a show,” Susan said. “By the time she was three weeks old, she’d been to two shows, a junkyard and gas pump show.”
It should come as no surprise that she’s already hauled her baby to engine shows. An engine show, in fact, is where Susan met her husband.
“We had both grown up going to shows,” she recalled. “One day, we were at a show. I looked up, and there he was. When I fell in love with someone who shares my hobby, I felt pretty lucky.”
Engines even played a part in their wedding celebration.
“We had a little model New Holland engine on our wedding cake,” she said.
Her background and interest in engines and equipment have made a definite impact on her work, she said.
“It seems like exposure to engines and tractors has influenced my work in a different way,” she said. “It’s not the kind of stuff you see every day.”
It doesn’t hurt that she knows her way around machinery.
“When you’re drawing parts, it helps to know what it is,” she said. Her personal favorites?
“Well, I like Emerson-Brantinghams,” she said. “And I like the older Internationals. When we started out, we liked the Grays, but we got away from that.”
She also likes old gas pumps, and includes those in her work.
And there’s more. “I collect oilers, sparkplugs, all that related stuff,” she said.
Susan works on commission, everything from Christmas cards featuring a collector’s Foos engine, to portraits of collectors surrounded by their favorite engines. She’s also done pin-striping on engines, and hand-painted logos when decals aren’t available.
In the future, Susan hopes to be an exhibitor at engine shows, showing her art and visiting with other collectors. For her, that would be mixing business with pleasure. FC
For more information: Susan Eddy, Rt. 5 Box 34A, Numa, Iowa 52544; (515) 437-4105