Doug Sudduth: Parallel Creative Pursuits

Alice Faron
Doug & Billie Ruth Sudduth
I had a 38 year career in community mental health – actually 41, since my three-year military service was in the U.S. Army mental health services at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Camp Casey, South Korea.

Throughout my career, in addition to being married to my wife Billie Ruth and raising two sons with her (she says I rebooted when I got married at age 32), I’ve pursued a variety of other activities. Nothing unusual about that, except that it gave me a number of interests that seem to balance my life.

I began small boat sailing/racing before I was married, even proposing to Billie Ruth on a small catamaran. This resulted in our wedding bands having engraved inside, for her, port, and for mine, starboard.

Confronting my own priorities

About 20 years into my career I attended a workshop on burnout at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The group leader asked us if anyone spent at least one hour a week doing something solely for their own interest – and cutting the grass didn't count. Not even half of us could answer in the affirmative, including me.

That experience confronted me with my own priorities and led to my first rebooting. I decided I wanted to pursue a lifelong passion, singing. My wife commented that I came back from the Menninger workshop and leaped headlong back into singing, like the pendulum swinging to the other extreme.

I resumed choral singing, first in a church choir (though not even a member of the church), then, joining a small chorale, performing in concerts. Later I took on specific roles as a soloist, a new, challenging and sometimes frightening experience, but exciting. During that time I also had a second religious reboot, having been raised a Southern Baptist, then a few years' respite as a Unitarian and, finally, the church choir and my family bringing me into the Episcopalian fold.

By adding some acting and choreography to my singing, I discovered a new dimension. This also led me back to barbershop quartet singing, something I had done in high school.

Creative outlet, exciting (and scary) challenges

Upon relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada, I joined a barbershop chorus and a choral group at UNLV. With two other moves, I either joined a local barbershop chorus or became a member of a new barbershop quartet.

Choral and quartet singing afforded a creative outlet and sometimes, new, exciting, even scary challenges. It was a major stress reliever from the demands of my work. I am currently the song leader for our weekly Rotary Club meetings and we have a small Rotary Choir.

Parallel to all of the above, for most of my life, has been an ongoing interest in photography. I’ve always had a camera, however simple or cheap. I even had a darkroom, both when I was bachelor and later after getting married, although with two growing children it was hard to maintain.

For the first time, a real teacher

Photography could be called my second and more gradual rebooting. My skill with photography improved when I took a week's course at Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My wife, Billie Ruth, taught basketry there.

For the first time, I had a real teacher, Ralph Burns. I had no idea that, less than a year later, I would be living and working just 10 minutes from Penland School. Our home in Bakersville, North Carolina, is like living in a postcard, a smorgasbord of outdoor scenery across four distinct seasons.

Within a year of moving here, I nervously submitted my first photographic work for a competition at the local community college, and for the past 13 years have exhibited in area galleries, entered other competitions, have a gallery in our home, participate in the biannual arts council studio tours, have my own web site ( , have used my photography for fund raising for Relay for Life, provide much of the photography for our church web site, for our local Rotary Club and the county Democratic Party web site.

The magic of lenticular clouds

Alice Faron
One of Doug’s lenticular cloud photographs
Click image for larger view
One of my mountainscape photos was published as a full page in the distinguished Our State magazine, a North Carolina focused publication, in which the photography is always exceptional (my opinion before mine was published).

I sell my work as prints on 5X7 notecards with a related narrative on the back, or matted 5X7 or larger prints and, finally larger matted, framed prints. I have received several commissions. My niche seems to be lenticular clouds, which form on the lee (wind-sheltered) side of mountain ridges.

It doesn't hurt that my home is 12 miles due north of the Black Mountain Range, which includes Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River. So, I live by a lenticular cloud freeway! It’s hard to miss them, though I only see 6-8 a year and primarily in cold weather months.

I view my photography re-booting as a way to keep my imagination and excitement alive and well. My photographs have provided so many fascinating conversations with those who view them, truly confirming that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

I have been able to share what I see, but, then I often get to hear about what someone else sees in that same image. When you tap someone else's imagination by expressing your own, you are truly blessed and your own perspective expands.

(You can view more of Doug’s photography at


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