Great Falls Artist Uses Tech to Paint

Susan Kinney is, first and foremost, an artist. She is also a person facing the challenges of a progressive neurological disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT).  Over time, Susan has lost her hearing, the use of her legs, and has minimal use of her hands.  But she has not lost her passion for art or her ability to create beautiful work.

Susan's Moon Over Montana Painting

Following a divorce, Susan had difficulty finding a job. With the assistance of vocational rehabilitation, she was able to purchase tools like CorelDRAW and learned how to use them via online classes. Then an online instructor suggested she get a Wacom (pen and touch tablet) to do her work, instead of using a mouse. “I borrowed a graphic tablet from MonTECH to see if I could use one,” she said.  “And I could! So then I bought one.”

Pursuing a career in art has required open-mindedness, a willingness to learn new tools, and a touch of troubleshooting.  “I used to draw with pencils, and now I do art with software programs,” Susan explained. “I don’t have good dexterity in my hands, so I wear a glove so my hand will slide on the board. I couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life, so I paint with scribbles and blending, very grunge style.”

Susan uses Corel Painter, Corel PaintShop Pro, CorelDRAW, and the Wacom Intuos 4. Regarding these tools, she observes, “The technology of the brushes now have way better texture and blending ability for better detail.”

Figuring ways to work around the challenges of CMT in order to continue to paint was vitally important to Susan. That artistic pursuit has been a focal point of her family life as well.  “As my kids were growing up, we did a lot of art projects together. And both kids grew up to be artistic too,” Susan said.  Her daughter, Gina, was an artist with degrees in graphics and multimedia.  Gina died a year ago from complications of CMT. Susan’s son, Levi, is a dive instructor and an underwater photographer living in Maui.

Susan’s work is immensely important for her well-being. “I’m happiest when I’m creating something,” she said.

Susan's Sunset Pier Painting


(Here you see two of Susan’s paintings:  “Moon over Montana” and “Sunset Pier.”  To see more, go to  or find her on Facebook: The Art and Times of Susan aka SMK Graphic Studio.