When you jump out of an airplane with a parachute, you have a pretty good idea of where you’ll end up: on Earth. It’s the process of getting there that you can’t predict. Unnerving? Yes, but that’s also part of the adventure.
For artist Carol Betker, starting each painting is akin to jumping from the plane: she knows what she wants the finished painting to look like, but the process of getting there is flexible, dynamic, even mercurial, more so because she paints Alla Prima, a method by which the artist applies wet paint on wet paint.
“It’s a method that allows fresh brushwork,” the Kennewick oil painter says.
“I often feel in the beginning of all the creative messiness like I’m sky diving. I know I’ll land eventually, but I have to learn to enjoy the process and not get uptight.”
On Her Feet and Behind the Easel
Betker describes her style as loose, impressionistic, expressive, so she can’t be uptight when she’s behind the easel. Her background as a public school art teacher (she retired in 2010) means that she has worked in, and taught, many mediums: from pottery to printmaking, and in the painting realm — watercolor, acrylic, oil, charcoal, pencil, and more. For years she worked in acrylic, with which she describes having a love/hate relationship.
“Acrylics are easy to clean, odor free, and dry quickly.
“On the other hand, drying quickly can inhibit the blending of edges which I like in my work. So I’ve been leaning toward oils in the last five years. I am intrigued with how oils blend in the wet on wet technique.”
Working out of her dining room studio, where she paints pretty much every day, Betker explores subject matter from florals to landscapes, from pet portraits to the human face. If she doesn’t have another painting planned when she finishes her latest project, she doesn’t worry — or get uptight — but rather, relaxes into free fall.
“I think every successful person knows that, if you just show up, that’s half the battle.
“Showing up at the easel — not waiting to be inspired, but simply showing up every day — well, you will BE inspired as you begin.”
Remember the Camera
Exhibiting her work in multiple venues around the Tri-Cities and Prosser, Betker has garnered collectors in Washington and Oregon, as well as Missouri, Virginia, South Carolina, and Canada. She names Richard Schmid, Jessica Zemsky, and Dreama Tolle Perry as artists whose work and technique inspire her. She also credits her education at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA, where she received her B.A. in Art Education.
With a husband who loves photography, and with her own trusty Canon Rebel camera nearby when not in hand, Betker says that she reaps the benefit of having more images than she could possibly paint. Her main problem is remembering to bring the camera.
“I can’t tell you how many shots I’ve missed by leaving it behind.
“Judging from sales, though, even using a shot taken at 60 miles per hour through a windshield is usable as inspiration. I love a challenge!”
The image she photographed from the moving car, she explained, was “a spectacular Dogwood tree in full bloom with a little picket white fence, and parts of a white house peeking through. My husband was driving, and for some reason he doesn’t like to stop every time I see a great shot. But it did turn out, as the painting I created from the photo sold very quickly.”
Relaxed, Not Uptight
Betker looks for a feeling in her reference image: the turn of a head, glance of the eyes, a ray of light dancing across the surface of the landscape. When she isn’t in a moving car, she finds inspiration closer by, at a more leisurely pace:
“I enjoy the endearing expressions of my tortie calico cat, Missy, as I maneuver around, camera in her face.”
Seize the moment. Land on your feet. Make sure the parachute is packed. Let go of being uptight. Don’t forget the camera. And show up every day.
Along with art, Betker taught these life lessons to her students at Finley and Burbank schools during her teaching career, and the reason she could do so is because she lives by them herself. Painting art and living life both take imagination, creativity, a willingness to work, and an appreciation of joy. The result is well worth the act of jumping out of the plane.
“I’m in a good spot in my art where more times than not I am finding satisfaction in my work,” Betker says.
“I’m not going for perfection but rather for being authentic — capturing the Creator’s little treasures that come into my view.”
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.