Sunday, November 29, 2009

cultural depictions

As someone who travels a bit and someone who tries not to be a self centered bigot, I love and appreciate other cultures. It is truly amazing how we are all the same species, but are so different in life. Cultural festivities, practices, taboos, clothing,'s all so interesting. What are the customs now? Where did they start? Who do you value in society? How do you make your rules? It's fantastic.

For example, I took a trip to Italy and Switzerland about 4 years ago now and was able to visit a middle school class of Swiss kids. It was fun because we each presented and taught each other a little about our own cultures. They showed us this video of people dressed up in silly costumes and marched together in the street to a slow pounding drum. It was very somber, but they were dressed in this ridiculous outfits. Weird! I still don't really know what they were doing. But guess what? We do something equally as weird by dressing up and going from door to door demanding candy....or else we will do something mean to you.

The tricky part with our society and cultures is we feel weird when outsiders speak of them or portray them. Are they judging us? Is the perception wrong? If we have no control of the information given, it could be incorrect. Or we could be made fun of with blind understanding.

I've recently thought of this issue with some of my paintings. I am interested in pursuing culturally based pieces, but do not want to cross any lines. I have done two paintings based on African people (including the one above). I love them...and other people do to (one of them actually sold). So that got me to thinking about other cultures. Chinese, Russian, Aztec, Japanese. But I'm pretty sure most of them would end up being some sort of stereotype. Africans hold spears all the time. Russians wear fur hats. Japanese are constantly surrounded by cherry blossoms.

I have not taken the time to fully inform myself of their cultures, but I am still inspired by them. Is it rude or is it art?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

written artwork

Even though I am currently in the act of writing at this very moment, I would never consider myself a writer. It was something I was always able to do well enough at in school, but never really excelled at. Sentence structure, grammar, thesis....I could do all that. But it was that tiny little spark that was missing. Something....artistic.

I truly find the written word to be an amazing arena for art. My new obsession is reading novels for pleasure. Novels astound me. They are so clever. How someone can think of the beginning, middle and end just baffles me. Especially when it is a surprising plot! How do you come up with those ideas and then tie them all together seamlessly? So creative.

Pretty much anything that is a story is of interest to me. Fact or fiction, modern or classic. I enjoy them all. However, I have had a singular focus for several months now. Throughout my college and post collegiate days, I have been somewhat frustrated with my lack of classic literature knowledge. I find myself a little behind in some conversations and never fully understood why. So I started asking people when they read these books. Many were in high school, and a surprising amount were from early childhood. This just wasn't going to work. I needed to be in the club.

Hello internet. 100 classic books to read before you die. I went through several lists and copied down the ones I had heard of, but never read. There were 44. So I typed them up, printed them out, and stuck them in my wallet. Oh, and I might have laminated it too. So cool.

I now get two books at a time from the library. They are slowly read on my trips to and from work. If they are really good, I read them at night before bed too. It's amazing! I love them. There's a reason people say you should read these, you know. I just got two more at the library a couple days ago. Robinson Crusoe and All Quiet on the Western Front. So excited for the latter because I vividly remember my 9th grade social studies teacher reading an excerpt during class and being completely engrossed. I can still picture the scene in my head.

One of my favorite forms of art. Pocket size. Good for home or travel.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

a new friend i want you to meet

I am very excited to introduce you to a new friend of mine! We just met through the website I sell my artwork, I first saw her shop about 3 weeks ago and was instantly impressed with her artistic flare and creativity. Ever since then, I wanted to share her shop with you, but didn't get around to it until now. After conversing a bit, I realized that not only do I love her shop....I love her too!

Evita's shop is called ET AL., ETC. and it is filled with handmade clothing and wonderful found objects. Each piece is photographed beautifully. It's scary because it makes me want to buy them all. Here is my favorite clothing piece

And I can't get over this clock

Here's a little bit about Evita in her own words.

How long have you been on etsy?
I have been on Etsy since mid-August of 2008.

Is this a full time gig o
r part time.
Etsy is part(icular)-time.

If part time, what else do you do for work.
I've done all my work for the year, so I am currently in play time mode away from home, visiting all the people who'll likely stay in my life forever. I worked for RISD Arch. Dept. in Florence, for two architects on the East Coast, and one in Magicland/New Mexico. The work that is left are ET AL., ETC. dealings: making the plainclothes for the Etsy store, making bags and objects for a collaborator, making bri-collaged graphics that appear in some publications here and there, finding places to travel come the last day of the year, looking for someone to water the plants when I leave the country. I suppose I'll work when I've exhausted play time.

What did you pick the products you sell - why do you love them?
I make the product
s I sell partially out of necessity; I've never liked seeing accumulations of things, so I try to make clothes (perhaps a collection) from the remnants that I've about. I like the clothing I make and sell because a) the clothing is simple and I think most people can find a place for them in their daily wardrobe, b) I make every effort to make them affordable for people who want to support handmade, and c) they're pattern and colorblock. I like the objects I sell because I have good memories (of finding and/or of having housed them once) attached to them.

Has artistic creativity always been apart of your life? What are some of your earliest memories?

Yes to the first question, but nothing fluffy or romantic with which to expand my answer. Blame the parents that were a perfect combination of creative, skilled, detail-oriented, supportive.
My earliest memories -- I've far too many of those. Alphabetically: being hidden behind the couch by my cousins when kissing scenes overtook the movies they watched, waiting for my sister at the beach after she walked back from having walked and walked the shorline (the tide had drawn her further and further away), walking the beach in San Francisco and becoming dist
racted by the evergreens that stretch the hill when facing away from the water and getting my feet cut on the rocks, chasing a yellow Tupperware ladel into the ocean while making a sand hole and (I could go on about ocean memories) ... and, planting a dwarf juniper with my father in Southern California. Those memories are a pretty fair explanation of why I turned out how I am.
There are more, but those are secret.

Anything else you want to tell people about yourself or your shop.
think I've shared
too many secrets.
would love to design your studio, renovation or small home.
would love to put you in our handmade.

Find out more about Evita and her shop

Monday, November 23, 2009


Questions have been coming my way lately about how I think of what I am going to paint. It has been difficult to answer it simply because there are so many venues for inspiration. Sometimes, I see an object or nature view and know that is exactly what I want to paint. Then again, simply seeing a single color will bring an entire painting into view. On the other side, I often use my own (or my husband's) photography as inspiration. We end up traveling frequently through New England where we live, the Pacific Northwest where we are from, and abroad for special adventures. I love to mix our travel adventures into my artwork. For example, I took this picture at the beach on Cape Cod:

And used it to paint this

Another example is from my post about 'when paintings fight back' that I used photos from our trip to the North Shore of Boston to paint Waves on Rock. I have a new project I would like to implement using a series of photos I took on a trip to Italy several years ago. The photos were taken and it was always the intention to have them printed and hung in a grouping in my home. That has yet to happen, although my mom did happen to get a few of them framed for her office. Because I love the series so much, I was thinking it would be wonderful to recreate some of them in my paintings. The tricky part is picking the best one to start with Which brings me to my new interactive art project! Here are my top 5 photos from the series. I would love to hear which one you would like me to start with. Leave a comment with your choice....I will get started once I get good feedback!






Sunday, November 22, 2009

oddity required

The culture of art has been ever evolving since society began. From scratching figures on walls to grandly gilded sculptures, it has radically changed. I find it interesting to see the artwork that is currently labeled "contemporary." It is usually, well, pretty weird. But weird in a cool, interesting, thought-inspiring and eye catching way. Contemporary art is technically defined by time period (supposedly artwork that is from the 20th or 21st century, or some say post WWII), but I feel it is much more a style that comes to mind than an era when the phrase is brought up.

When I last visited the Institute of Contemporary Art here in Boston, what was the first thing I saw? A gigantic stomach stitched together out of scraps of leather. It wasn't a painting of a was a gigantic stomach. This new culture of artwork have raised interesting questions to me. Does contemporary art have to be odd? Does it have to be unexpected? Can it simply be something completely predictable, but masterfully beautiful?

I don't know if you've noticed, but most of my subject matters are fairly simple, and usually predictable. I love trees, birds, clouds, simple objects, pleasing colors. My boss has a common phrase that things are "happy." That color is happy. These cookies are happy. Have a happy day. I believe her phrase works well with my artwork. They make me happy.

When surveying my artwork, I do not believe most people would place it in the contemporary category even though they are obviously being created in the 21st century. My goal is not to be unexpected. There are almost never any oddities to my subject matter. And you will not find any gigantic stomachs. I do, however, think they will make other people feel good. So I guess that's my goal. Happy, predictable artwork.

Photo Courtesy -

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

i am not a man

From infancy, our culture gives us strict rules about what a boy should like and what a girl should like. Boys like blue. Girls like pink. Boys like trucks. Girls like dolls. Boys get dirty. Girls stay clean.

As we grow older, the rules change, but are just as strict. Men like hunting. Women like talking on the phone. Men like football. Women like shopping. Guys like fancy cars. Women like fancy jewelry.

There exists a world where separation is mandatory, as well as one where cohesion is acceptable. What are we both allowed to enjoy? Travel, reading, television, food, education, nature, movies. But there is also this section of life that is between the two. An area of grey that our society has not deemed necessary to separate, but has not specifically said to take pleasure in together.

I came across this area with my paintings. In an effort to broaden my customer base, the goal was to make sure my paintings were not just geared towards the female perspective. So I thought to myself….what is artwork for men? And does the artwork have to be different from that for women? Take this painting for example:

Pink Sky

This painting is pink. Pink is for girls. We already learned that lesson. But what was the inspiration behind this painting? Well, a sunset of course. One of our world’s most awe inspiring natural phenomenons is the sunset. All shades of yellow, orange, red and pink fill the sky in the most beautiful way. And nature has been loved and adored by both men and women for centuries. So, would a man buy a pink sky painting? I really don’t know. So I painting this:

Black Bird

Dark. That’s what men like. Black, grey, red, brown. It is not frilly. It is not pretty. This is what men like, right? Most people these days would say, “Bethany, you are being very close minded about gender issues here.” But guess what I have to say to them? I just sold this painting….to a girl….as a gift for her boyfriend. She did not buy Pink Sky, she bought Black Bird.

I would love to hear the male perspective on this issue. What would you look for in artwork? Do you have specific rules? If you think you don’t have rules, are you lying to yourself? Would you buy Pink Sky?

The issue is so interesting, that it will most likely pop up again with different ideas….and different paintings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

interactive art - finished product

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people who gave me some color ideas for the project in my previous post Interactive Art. The original idea was to use white and brown/tan, but that was quickly changed with new ideas. A suggestion was given to use a deep blue and snatched it up! Thanks to Stedwards on that one. The deep blue was beautiful as I was mixing it...but after being painted, my husband was 98% sure it was black. Well, it's blue. So there.

Isn't he precious....

This experiment will be tried again in the future. Keep your creative minds churning and your typing fingers ready with input!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

when paintings fight back

It was last week. My weekend painting session was becoming a bust. Because of the fact my formal training is close to zero, there are many tricks to the trade I am learning on my own...or just not learning. One of the big struggles thus far has been landscapes. Can't really seem to get them to look right. Understanding the basics of shape, dimension, depth, and perception isn't usually an issue, but landscapes just seem to trip me up. But I keep trying. And try I did las week when I laid out yet another attempt to paint a lovely path flanked with trees.

Ugh...the outcome was awful. I hated it so much that the palette knife eventually was scraped over the entire canvas with the hopes that at least a cool color would be mixed.

Ugh...the color was awful. I can find the redeeming qualities of most colors in the world. Even if they seem ugly at first, I can find a setting that they would shine in.

I hate this color.

What a disappointment. Luckily for you, no photo exists of the "lovely path flanked with trees." Seriously, it was that bad. The only redeeming part of the process thus far, is the texture given when scraping the paint. It's hard to tell, but there are diagonal lines running in two directions. The canvas was eventually left to dry and be forgotten for a week.

On Thursday, the canvas was ominously sitting in my studio. I'm pretty sure it was mocking me for how it was able to triumph over me. I started with a few other paintings during the morning, and then decided to fight back. Fortunately, I had some amazing inspiration up my sleeve.

I have always been in awe of a few pictures my husband took on a visit to the north shore of Massachusetts last year. The waves of the ocean were crashing against the rocks in the most beautiful way. The small child in me was squealing with delight with each burst of water into the air. Truly breathtaking. Here are some of his gorgeous photos.

Amazing, right? Great inspiration for a painting, if you ask me. With the texture available on this canvas, there had to be opportunities for a fantastic painting. My goal was to use the texture, and find a way for that terrible purple to be a great base color to a new painting. With some great color mixture, and a fantastic inspiration base, this is what transpired.

Pretty cool, but even better when you can see the texture!

And do you see the purple peeking through? Fantastic.

This has actually become one of my favorite paintings to date. And it is made all the more satisfying knowing that this painting fought back...but it couldn't conquer me.

A corny moral as the ending of my story? Maybe, but not the intention. A fantastic process to a favorite painting? One for the books.

This painting is available for sale here.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Usually when in conversation with others, it is polite to show interest in the acquaintance's life. Interest is commonly shown in what we "do." Students have majors or areas of study, adults have jobs and careers, parents have the work dedicated to children. For almost nine years now, I have received reactions and interest from others about my artistic leanings. It's still a mystery, but most people react with more interested when they know you are in an artistic field. Looking back, I see that they have been similar, but ever evolving with each new step in my life.

Senior year of high school was when my interior design career path was decided. While living at school, it is always fun to come home for a visit. For me, this always included a visit to church on Sunday morning when I would be able to catch up with the many families that watched me grow from a toddler. During these times I would share what I had been studying. The response was always something similar to, "Oh, interior design, how fun! Do you watch HGTV? I love that channel!" It was so sweet for all of those people to show interest in what I was doing, but often comical to be constantly told I should have a television show.

Once living in Boston, I became a working professional in the interior design field. This is a city in which we are surrounded by students who often do not have a job and even more often live in slightly less decorated apartments than my own. Odd reactions are prevalent when guests visit. I will never forget when one friend said out of the blue, "why did you buy all of this furniture?" I was caught off guard, to say the least. "Well....I like it" was all I could muster. She was responding to the fact that I actually spent (small amounts) of money on my furnishings; something that most students wouldn't dare waste their precious dollars on.

Now that my professional artist job is starting to take off, I am getting new reactions. Most people are very excited because art and artists are very valued in our society. I have been fortunate enough to sell a few paintings thus far. Once they sell, I have to package them safely and take a trip to our local USPS. While accomplishing this task last week, the postal worker noticed I was shipping artwork and wondered if I was the artist (the address labels I use picture one of my pieces). When he found that yes, indeed I was the artist, he asked if I do commissionings. "Of course," I said, excited to be finding opportunities in strange places. "Oh great," he said, "can you paint The Hulk?" ....oh brother.

Thank you kind USPS worker for noticing my artwork, and thank you for the new reaction.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

a professional critique

Today I was featured on a blog titled "The Unofficial Etsy Business Blog." This blog is for sellers on to better their business. I volunteered my new shop for a critique by the blog's author. I know it is a weird thing to share someone's critique of your work, but I thought it was really fun! If you are interested, here's the video:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interactive Art

A few days ago I posed a small quiz to see who could predict the product of mixing a couple colors. If you missed it, you can read it here. The colors were gray and yellow. The reason I originally mixed those colors was to come up with an "off" color yellow. If you have seen my new painting Ten After, you can see the effect I was going for with the mix of lighter and darker yellows. While I was not successful with my original effort, I was lucky enough to find an unexpected way to make chartreuse! Here what resulted:

Isn't it fantastic? I already used it in the painting Green Sky, but am planning on using it again. The canvas is covered and ready to go. It's been sitting in my studio for a few days. The idea now is to add some sort of bird configuration. Either a pair of birds, a single bird, maybe a tree with birds....not sure yet.

Here's where the interactive part comes in. I also have not decided what color to use for my birds to go along with this glorious green. As you can tell with most of my paintings I usually don't use more than two or three colors in one painting. I enjoy the simplicity. What color (or two) do you picture going with this canvas? I usually paint on Thursday and Fridays, so be assured you will see the result soon. Collaboration would give this painting a special twist. Give up your ideas!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

lost in another world

I used to work at The Home Depot. The plan was originally to work there because I was promised a position in their kitchen design center. Kitchen design is great for an interior design student, don't you think? Well, once I showed up, information was given the position was actually going to be in the "decor" department. It's a comical name, mostly because the only thing sold in this department is window blinds. Oh how I became the window covering expert. Vertical, mini, wood, roller, cellular, and the ever popular "faux wood." Good times. When spending eight hours in a Home Depot, you find you are transported to another world. Yes it's a world of unknown home improvement information, but most importantly it's a world where you enter in the morning when the sun is up and exit once it has dipped....all while never experiencing the precious transition. You see, The Home Depot is a warehouse. There are no windows. It's a truly unique emotion felt as you walk out and seem to have been in a lost world, completely separate from the normal land in which you reside.

This long forgotten feeling was brought back to the surface on Friday when I was leaving my studio. You see, my studio is a mechanic's workshop. There are no windows. Only this time, I work alone. I do not contact co-workers. I do not contact managers. I do not contact the customer desperately searching for those little felt pieces to put on the bottom of your chair legs. I do not contact....anyone. It was almost as though I crept into that giant wardrobe and created my own land. Only instead of time standing still when I leave, it has flown by. It has proven to be an odd feeling, but almost special. In a non cliché way, it is a place that only I may go. Any person can sit in my studio all day as the sun passes by, but only the act of my painting turns it from a dungeon to an eden. We've always been told art is powerful. Now I'm starting to believe mine is too.

Photo courtesy -

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Are you smarter than your local artist

There is a certain science we are all aware of when it comes to mixing colors. Red and blue = purple. Yellow and red = orange. Blue and yellow = Green. Mix 'em all together and what do you get....some sort of bodily discharge (thank you kindergarten finger painting for that precious lesson). That's why I was quite surprised the other day when mixing two colors together. The outcome was not at all expected.

One of the most important parts of my painting has been color mixture. Very rarely do you simply use the color that comes out of the tube. Oh no, you must mix each one with at least one, two or three other colors. It tends to add this unknown factor to each painting. You never can be sure what color you are going to get. It also means that very rarely can you create exactly the same color twice (tends to be more annoying than fun when touch up work is needed).

So, let's see if you can do any better than I did at predicting color outcomes. The two colors above are what was mixed. A completely normal gray, with a very yellow yellow. I would like to see what you think resulted. Now, no one wants to hear your generic colors....think of that Crayola 64 pack. Give us descriptive names. Burnt sienna. Macaroni and cheese. Periwinkle. Soon we will see who is smarter than their local artist.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Apartments do not equal studios

My husband and I moved to a new apartment this year. Many people saw a video tour of it through my facebook. It's fantastic. Open. Newly renovated. Mice free. Affordable (well, for Boston anyway). However, there is one thing that our apartment is not....a studio.

When I started painting professionally a few weeks ago, we quickly realized there was a problem. Sure, I can find a place to set up my easel to paint, but what happens when you need to put that wet canvas somewhere? And what happens when you have to put five more wet canvases somewhere for that matter? What you do is find a studio and in my case a studio is an old mechanics shop.

Closed off. Never renovated. Cheap as dirt. Most likely filled with mice. My studio. There is a sign above the door that reads - Allston Auto Electric: Starter & Alternator Sales & Repairs. There aren't any windows, but there's a busted screen door. There isn't any heat, but I brought along a space heater. There are florescent lights that buzz, but I brought my clock radio. There is a toilet....but my behind will never accept it as one.

It is the transition from unexpected beginnings to simple starts. Not to be confused with starters....or alternators.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Unexpected Beginnings

I am a planner. There has never been a question about the fact that I plan. I organize. I strategize. I worry. Unreliable? No. Free spirited? Not really. Spontaneous? Just ask my husband. Recently I have jumped into a new world without any idea it was around the bend. I am thrilled about the new world and it's possibilities, don't get me wrong, but it is all so sudden that sometimes I worry if it will last, or be real at all.

I am a design consultant by trade. I work for a furniture company. It is the job I went to college and studied for. It is the job I have put my passion into for longer than any commitment to date. It is the job I planned, organized, strategized, and worried about getting. It is the job I am still to this day blessed beyond belief to have. But...then I started painting again. And, then I wanted to paint more. Then I thought I could make some money doing it. Then I bought materials, took pictures, made prices, started a website, told friends, lost sleep, and actually sold paintings. It all took about 4 weeks. Woof.

This is my unexpected beginning. I will start a new job, while continuing in my precious real job, while writing about it here, to share, with you.