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VOL. 130 | NO. 198 | Monday, October 12, 2015


Sue Layman Designs Brings Color to Life


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Sue Layman Lightman enjoyed her career in the public relations industry.

Sue Layman has operated a gallery – Sue Layman Designs – in the South Main Historic Arts District for 10 years.

(Donny Granger)

Her time before that operating a Hallmark store and teaching school were enjoyable, as well. But one day she woke up and things seemed different.

“I loved getting up and going to work. It was fun. But then one day I didn’t like it anymore,” Lightman  said. “It just wasn’t working. I had this yearning that something should’ve been different.”

A spiritual person, Lightman decided to take off a year to pray and think about what she wanted to do. It wasn’t long before she found herself buying oil paints and a canvas and sitting down to paint.

Lightman studied education in college and was a Memphis City Schools elementary teacher for five years. She often used art in her teaching, so in some ways painting made sense.

And it probably wasn’t a stretch that one morning she woke up, got out a ladder and began painting a wall in her living room. Today, that now-cutout wall has a home in Lightman's South Main gallery, Sue Layman Designs, 125 G.E. Patterson Ave.

Lightman has been painting for 20 years. The past 10 have been spent in the South Main Historic Arts District, where she bought a live/work space in what was at the time a new development on G.E. Patterson Avenue just east of South Main Street. A couple of years after making that move, she took the leap to turn her first-floor gallery space into one that’s open to the public. Sue Layman Designs as a business was born.

Today, Lightman has moved back to East Memphis, allowing her to convert what was a two-story residence on top of a ground-floor commercial space into a three-story art gallery.

Lightman sells paintings of all sizes – some of her work is on large canvases of six feet and more. She said her typical customer is someone who loves color.

“It’s people who have great imaginations and like something that’s different,” she said. “They enjoy brightness and the emotions the colors make them feel.”

Sue Layman Designs is open at various times throughout the week, and is available by appointment.

Sue Layman Designs, 125 G.E. Patterson Ave.

(Donny Granger)


Lightman has a studio in her East Memphis home, but she still often returns to work in the Downtown space.

“I open the door and let the air flow,” she said. “When I first moved down there, it was great because I could get up in the middle of the night and go to the first floor and paint. I paint at crazy hours. I paint as I get in the mood to do so.”

Lightman's paintings hang in her three-story South Main gallery, but her work can be seen around the city, from Malco movie theaters to restaurants and business offices. She often has work hanging in eighty3 restaurant at the Madison Hotel, and has a fundraiser there Nov. 19 where a portion of all sales will go toward Ballet Memphis.

Her customers are a mix of people who want a piece to hang in their home or businesses that use art to brighten their spaces.

One of her favorite stories is an eye doctor who bought four paintings to hang in the waiting room.

“She has these kids who come in and as they’re waiting to go back they’re trying to find things in the paintings,” Lightman said. “That really blessed me. They’re waiting for eye surgery or a procedure and they’re studying the painting before they go back.”

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