Thursday, January 21, 2016

DPW Spotlight Interview: Bethany Fields

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

To enter to win Bethany's painting, "Prairie Snow" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Bethany's DPW Gallery Page:

Bethany is an award-winning emerging artist working primarily in soft pastels. She studied color and lighting design theory while attending University and after graduating, worked as a designer and on-air talent in Burbank, CA for Plastic Cow Productions, focusing on layout, photography, and design work for their internet DIY network, CraftTVWeekly. Bethany's photography and designs have been published in numerous national magazines including Country Living Magazine. Her creations have also been seen in the book Stitched Jewels (Lark Books). (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

Art has always spoken to me and been a part of my life, albeit in many different forms. Both my grandmothers were artists and when I slept over as a child, paints and markers, crayons and pencils were always in abundance. My sister and cousin and I would sit and paint little rocks and play with stickers. We would carve on wood with nails, shape wire, play with yarn, and trace Peanuts characters with my Grandma’s projector. We grew up playing with art and we probably wasted tons of paint. Nevertheless, art supplies kept appearing and we kept creating. My parents were equally encouraging. I always had a camera in my hand, snapping pics of squirrels and clouds. They encouraged many different artistic attempts. I had ballet, tap, twirling, piano, guitar, oboe, and voice lessons. I was involved in school musicals and plays and my mother spent many a night sewing me costumes.

As I grew, my artistic tendencies crept solidly towards singing, dancing, and acting and in college I earned my BFA in Acting & Directing from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. I had huge aspirations to be a broadway star and felt called to the stage and the spotlight. I still loved to create but felt it was more of a hobby and my acting studies dominated my time and effort. I was comfortably “crafty,” visiting local arts and crafts stores all the time... I have a penchant for learning and am very visual. If I could watch someone do something, I could usually do it. I loved to decoupage bottles and boxes, make ornaments for my family and friends, doodle in sketch books, and glue millions of dried flowers all over everything. It’s funny now to think of the little things I made, but my hands were always busy. I was still very dedicated to my acting, involved in theatre at the local, regional, and professional level, and didn’t realize all of it was training me for a future in fine art. As an actor, you must learn stage lighting and color. As a theatre student, you take classes in set and prop design, costuming, and lighting. You learn much about the color wheel and how light affects shape and mood. I wouldn’t use this information as a dedicated painter for about eight years, but I carried the knowledge with me.

Prairie Snow
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Bethany's interview.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Meeting my husband and having three children changed and molded my artistic dreams. Broadway couldn’t have me anymore! My life evolved into caring for my children and as a young mother, I found a void of artistry in my life. Diapers, play dates, juice cups, and Bob the Builder dominated my everyday. I had begun a photography business after working professionally as the on-air talent, host, and designer for Plastic Cow Productions, in Burbank, CA, working in the scrapbooking and jewelry industry on a craft DIY web show. I loved scrapbooking and taking photos of my children and expanded my business to take photos for other families. I had also designed a line of children’s jewelry and began selling it on Through Etsy, I purchased my very first original pastel from an artist in Jerusalem. I was captivated by it. The rich texture and color were exquisite and I thought, maybe I should try that... remember? I can learn anything! I’m crafty.

In 2007, I bought a set of Nupastels and my first works were on a brown paper bag. I sketched apples and bananas and tried to remember how to model with value via my lighting design teachings from University. I bought Bill Creevy’s book “The Pastel Book” and also found the web forum at and joined the pastel forum and read and painted and read some more. I loved it but my children were one, three, and seven. It was so hard to devote time when I was pulled and caring for young little ones. I decided to put my pastels away and wouldn’t pick them up again until 2014.

That summer, we had some personal issues in our family that left me feeling drained and depressed. I am a busybee and I found myself distinctly un-busy. This affected my mood and happiness and therefore, our family and my children. I remembered my little box of pastels in the closet and lo and behold, there they were, still bright and happy and just waiting for me to pick them up again. I resolved to be a “daily painter” - working on small little 5x5s as much as possible and posting them on Instagram (@bfields). It was a daily escape from having to feel any emotions other than the joy of working with my hands, thinking of color and value, light and pattern. My children were older (thirteen, ten and seven) and I could do these small paintings while they were at school. I sought out and joined my local pastel society (Lone Star Pastel Society) and quickly met several artistic souls that encouraged and inspired me. Our society had a show at the end of 2014 and I was approached to be in two more shows at the time in other galleries. I was so encouraged and haven’t stopped since.

The Glory
(click to view)

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I’ve been painting seriously for about a year and a half, so I am all about experimenting. I haven’t taken any strict art classes or workshops but do love to study art in books and magazines such as the Pastel Journal. I have played with acrylic abstracts and have also painted with water miscible oils. I’m hoping in 2016 to work in traditional oils. I still have a photography business and work mainly with families and children. I consider myself lucky in that photography has taught me much about composition and framing... something that helps with my paintings.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

Pastel is my favorite medium. It’s so immediate. Time-wise, I don’t have to wait for it to dry. The tactile qualities of the pastel sticks and paper are very soothing. I want to get my hands involved. I am still a professional photographer; I’ve photographed babies, weddings, airplanes, cars, children, families, etc. I’m moving away from it being my main source of income... I’m spending much more time in my “studio” (ahem, guest bedroom) and less time out on location. I am not pursuing theatre professionally though I am very involved in our local community theatre (Amarillo Little Theatre). It is one of the oldest community theatres in the United States and the productions are amazingly top-notched, well produced, and bursting with talent.

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I would love to paint more with oils. I love their rich quality. I am impatient and don’t like unfinished projects looming over me so it will be challenging to my personality. It will take a lot of diligence and dedication but I am excited to learn!

Miss Havisham's Roses
(click to view)

Who or what inspires you most?

The most cliche answer is always “nature.” This doesn’t make it untrue. I live in the Texas Panhandle, probably one of the more flat, treeless places you could live. I am sometimes vividly jealous of artists who live in areas with beautiful hills, trees, valleys, and streams. What they don’t have are my expansive and amazing Texas skies and endless land stretching as far as the eye can see. We have unrivaled sunrises, clouds, storms, and sunsets. Watching a thunderhead roll across the 360 degree landscape is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I am always exclaiming and gasping for my children to, “Look at the color of the sky! Look out the window! Look, look how beautiful!” They probably roll their eyes, but I hope they do notice. We are so blessed with abundant beauty if we only look to see.

What does procrastination look like for you?

I deplore procrastination. I wake up, take my children to school, drink a couple of cups of coffee in the quiet of the morning, I’ll look at my email or check Facebook. I really dislike how much social media takes away from the day. I’m trying to be very intentional about not getting lost on the internet. I love to read, research, and study so can get quickly sucked into surfing the internet. It’s all good intentions - checking out a new artist I’ve discovered, reading articles, or researching new materials. However, sometimes all of this research is an avoidance of what needs to be done, which is paint.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I don’t have a studio so I either go to my dining room to paint or my guest bedroom. Whatever works! I still love to paint small... the largest I’ve done to date is around a 16x20. Most of my paintings are 9x12 or smaller. I paint daily as much as possible. I’ll make sure that my paper is prepared the day before so I don’t have to wait around in the morning for underpaintings to dry, etc. I purchase all my supplies online as the closest art store that carries pastel supplies is in Santa Fe, NM and try to make sure that my inventory of colors and papers isn’t running low.

Texas Sky
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Most of my work is from reference photos. I want to explore more plein air but it is very difficult to be a stay at home mom with young kids and do this. I don’t like going and standing in a field by myself and our landscape can be fairly brutal. We have high winds and very exposed locations... it’s usually either hot and very windy or cold and very windy... we recently had wind gusts up to 80mph... hard to paint in that! I drive around a lot and am not afraid to go down an unexplored road to see if there is a shot I like. I have hundreds of thousands of photos being a professional photographer. However, I am not naive to the limitations of a photograph. I am constantly observing nature when I am shuttling my kids to ballet, or swimming, or football practice. I have a pretty good memory but nothing beats being at a location painting in the moment. Another goal for 2016! I’ve just joined a local plein air group and am hoping to go out with them... having comrades along is encouraging.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

Since I’ve never been taught how to paint, I’m all about trying new techniques. No one ever told me the “rules”of pastel so I didn’t learn any! I’ll think of an idea, wonder how it will work, and try it. It’s intimidating to think every work must be an improvement from the last or a complete success. When you realize and truly grasp that it’s just paper, it’s very freeing. Lately, I have been experimenting with various underpainting techniques. I am also working on less fussing with small details. I tend to love more impressionistic, slightly abstracted landscapes. I also gravitate towards saturated color and values. I want my paintings to be happy because they make me so happy while I’m painting them. I don’t believe that the only true art is gritty and dark. I don’t want my paintings to speak sadness, despair, or any of the en vogue emo-like trends. I don’t think it’s popular right now to paint in beauty. It’s either perceived as cheesy or naive to the world’s suffering. Personally, I believe beauty is an overcoming of the darkness. It’s the ultimate victory over despair and pain, loneliness and suffering. I want my art to say the same thing I tell my children... “Look! Look how beautiful!”

In the Light
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

That I have so much more to learn. Who was it that said, “The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know?” This would probably discourage some, but I am a dedicated learner. I am excited every day to wake up and create something beautiful that day. Yes, sometimes I’m frustrated. I have a vision and when that vision doesn’t translate on my support... UGH! These instances are strengthening though... pushing me to solve the problem, figure out what went wrong (what went right?)... how can I fix it? I am also learning to be more confident. Don’t stop in the “ugly phase” - keep going and you may surprise yourself.

What makes you happiest about your art?

That I have the blessings to be able to do it. Living in a privileged country and being a stay-at-home mother who has the time and freedom to devote to something the World wants to say is frivolous. I get to play with art during the day and people actually want it! It’s still new and exciting to me. I have many goals and I hope many adventures and experiences to come. I always said I was crafty and it was a big deal emotionally to finally call myself an artist. I was afraid and ashamed I didn’t live up to the word.

I’ve had many creative and artistic endeavors. Some say you must choose *one* and if you jump to another interest? You’re just flaky and noncommittal. “You don’t have what it takes.” I don’t believe this. I love the arts... all of them! I am so thankful to have had art in my life from a very young age. It was pivotal in my growth and development. It was always the path to take and every turn led me to this moment. Whether I was singing or dancing, acting, playing an instrument, photographing my children, memory-keeping, designing jewelry, writing or painting, my art path was always a woven tapestry. Teaching my children and the next generation is important to me. We paint on rocks, sing and dance, play with stickers and pretty paper. We string beads and paint on canvas, take photos, and tell stories... just like I did when I was little. We look around at the world... at the shadows, and the colors, and the beauty. Whatever path they choose and whatever turns they take, I hope they will take the time for art and to always... “Look how beautiful!”

Thanks, Bethany!

© 2016 Sophie Marine


  1. Thank you so much for asking me to be the Spotlight Artist! :)

  2. What a nice interview! Your paintings are very good--they have lovely colors, good design, and look beautiful without becoming too "sweet". Enjoy your art and your family:)