“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I discovered Bethany’s work earlier this year and have been stalking her on social media ever since! I was utterly thrilled that she agreed to be featured for this week’s creative interview. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Bethany, and learning about her creative process. Through our conversations we discovered that we both grew up in neighboring cities and were married a few months apart at the same venue! She also lives in my dream city of San Francisco, so there’s that. By the end of this interview I promise you lovely readers will also have fallen under the enchantment of her whimsical paintings.
How did you become interested in watercolor?
I grew up in Texas, in a small town near Dallas. I went to the University of North Texas, where I fell in love with watercolor painting in 2007. My college was in Denton, Texas, which was a perfect place to start out and grow as an artist. Most of my friends were either musicians or artists, and the town is known for encouraging and supporting creative endeavors.
I took one watercolor class as an elective and quickly changed my major to Studio Art, with a concentration in Watercolor Painting. I switched my major from International Studies, because I have a huge love for Asian people and culture, but figured I could still learn about that on the side as I pursued art. I received a minor in Mandarin Chinese, which helped me a lot when I lived abroad in Beijing for three years, teaching English and hosting art shows.
What projects are you currently working on?
I have a habit of working on too many projects at once, so I’ll just tell you about a couple to not overwhelm you! I’ve been working on a children’s book for several years now, revising the text and the illustrations over and over. The story is about a girl named Eluvia who carries a huge rock on her back, and seems fine with carrying this burden until she makes friends who help her see it’s unhealthy and dangerous. The rock is a symbol for anything that weighs us down, such as pressure to be successful, guilt from things we’ve done, or burdens other people place on us. This story is very personal to me, as I’ve seen myself this way several times throughout my life. My goal in writing and illustrating this book is to point others and myself to someone who is offering to carry our burdens for us, beckoning for us to be free. I’m a Christian, and I believe God constantly wants to do this for us, because our efforts to carry it on our own fall short. Hopefully in the next year the final draft will be in the hands of publishers, being reviewed, not sitting at home in my studio!
I’m also currently working on a series of figurative paintings, in which I’m exploring how different types and combinations of paper and paint can convey light and dark. I’ve been experimenting with very heavy, dark, inky paints, and very lightweight, delicate, semi-transparent papers, to create the contrast and conflict of something very bright covering up something very dark. There are female figures in the midst of this conflict, cut out of paper, making these become three-dimensional pieces. The meaning behind this series comes from the Christian belief that God doesn’t just tell us to be good in order to be loved by him, but actually gives us his own goodness, like a piece of clothing to wear. The women in the paintings are draped with these bright, light-filled garments, and the backgrounds are filled with dark, aggressive, abstract strokes, symbolizing darkness and evil. The clothing acts as a shield to protect the figure from the darkness, and the figures are seen as peaceful and calm. I’ve only just started this series, so we’ll see how it evolves over time.
Who are your biggest influences?
I’m very influenced by music and film, more than anything else I’d say. The films of Terrence Malick, particularly Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life, create a world where there is depth and metaphor behind every moment. That way of seeing the world makes me want to create, and to fill the earth with beautiful, truth-filled images. There are some musicians who, through their music, seem to be longing for this other reality, full of permanence and beauty and goodness. I can fully relate to that, and that inspires me to paint as well. A few examples are Eluvium, Max Richter, and Yann Tiersen.
I love your unique floral paintings and illustrations of people. Can you elaborate on these?
Sometimes when I sit down to paint, I have a very clear goal and specific message I want to convey with my art. Other times, I want to allow myself to enjoy painting and see what comes from it. Both the floral and people illustrations come from the latter. For both of these, I just let myself explore different combinations of colors and forms, and try to be very free with it. This approach always produces a playful, bright painting, that doesn’t have a very deep meaning to it other than wanting to create something beautiful. I will usually create many paintings like these in one sitting, letting each one inspire the next. I enjoy these illustrations and find them very relaxing, because there’s less pressure and more freedom.
The colors you choose for your paintings are magical. What feeling are you trying to elicit in your audience?
To be honest, I try not to think too hard about the colors for each painting. Other than the series I mentioned where I’m trying to convey dark and light, I usually try to let choice that happen naturally, because it can turn out forced if I dictate too much. I have noticed that naturally my art has become much more vivid, bright, and positive feeling, whereas in college almost everything I created was black, grey, and dark brown. Not that those darker colors are bad, but I feel the change in my use of colors very much mirrors my emotional health over the years. During college, I was in a darker, more depressed place, and that came through in my paintings. There’s been a lot of healing since then, and it makes me really happy to see that shine out of my recent work. One of my favorite things about being an artist is hearing how people respond to my paintings, and the different interpretations they have for my use of colors and subjects. It’s still amazing to me how much power art has to convey a mood and speak to our soul.
How do you choose the subjects of your paintings?
I suppose I go about choosing subjects a similar way as choosing colors, not trying to think too much and just going on instinct. In the case of the children’s book, I wanted the characters to be children because I feel, as humans, we can be a lot like children. We have so much to learn, we get confused and scared, we’re amazed by new things, we’re helpless at times. I also have been using women as my subjects, influenced by recently learning of many difficulties that women and girls have to face, simply because of their gender. Creating paintings where women are surrounded by flowers and nature, symbolizing life and hope, is a way of responding to these difficulties.
What is your ideal Saturday?
My ideal Saturday would consist of making a huge breakfast with my husband, getting out of the house and exploring a new place, such as a park or somewhere in nature, and spending our afternoon doing nothing important other than reading, sketching, biking, talking, and letting our minds relax. I spend so much time inside my house working during the week, so I’m itching to get out on the weekends and do something new. The evening would be spent making dinner and finding a good film to watch, followed by getting ice cream in our neighborhood and taking a walk.
Please list all the ways to follow you /shop:
You can see more of my paintings and info on my website: //www.bethanyeden.com
My online shop, full of greeting cards, art prints, original paintings, and custom portraits is here: bethanyedenart.etsy.com
Social: I post new paintings and projects often on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest:
Email: [email protected]