Beth was born in Grahamstown and growing up on a farm inspired a great love for the outdoors. Her granny was one of her biggest supporters from an early age and encouraged her to paint and draw. She was also the one who made her fall in love with oils as she gave Beth her first paint set at age 9 or 10.
Beth studied Fine Arts at Stellenbosch, taught art at Timour Hall Primary and then moved on to teach at the Art, Ballet, Drama and Music School in Johannesburg after getting married and moving there. Motherhood gave her the opportunity to teach art from home for many years.
While living in Knysna for 8 years she was involved in the local art scene and exhibited at the Strydom Gallery in George. When moving to Kommetjie she took a break from painting for about 10 years, and put brush to canvas again when she joined SASA in 2007.
In 2011/2012 Beth took an en Plein Air workshop with Judy Carducci and she realised that this was to be her focus area in art. Beth's first solo exhibition was in 2012 after choosing to pursue plein air painting as her main creative outlet.
Beth's presentation was full of grace, humour interspersed with the incredible wisdom of Dr Seuss. She emphasised the challenges of plein air painting, and how to work around them and discover parts of your art persona that only en Plein Air can bring out.
With her portable studio, sun hat, linen shirt and apron, Beth cuts a familiar figure all over the Western Cape landscapes.
Her toolkit includes a simple view-finder and red Perspex, the former to make focusing on your subjects easier and the latter to help define values more carefully. She emphasised how quickly the light changes en plein air (roughly every 20 minutes!) and how vital it is to block out the shadows early on and to draw the light source's direction lines to help remind you of the original painting you wanted to do.
Beth emphasised the importance of drawing, saying that it is the ability to make a 3D world into a 2D one and that there is a loop in which the better you see, the better you draw, the better you paint, the better you see etc. To practise her drawing skills she keeps a sketchbook and pencils close by at all times.
She sees art as a way of capturing memories, preferring this to just taking vacation photos.
Beth loves challenging herself as an artist and inspired the crowd to play outside their comfort zones.
Paint with limited palettes; paint on differently shaped canvasses; make mistakes as this is how we learn, and do not get caught up in flattening brush stroked and scrumbling as we know the viewer loves some mystery and doesn't need all the details after all.
She also encouraged artists into the unpredictable nature of Plein Air and gave tips on how to even paint in the rain.
Beth's natural teaching ability came through and we walked away with some fantastic gems to not only use in our art, but also in our daily lives.
She showed us that our individual style is something to value as it is, in her words, as unique as our handwriting. It relates to how you choose what to paint and how to paint it. Appreciate it, grow it, learn from other artists, but do not yearn to be like them.
As a wise man once said: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
Words by Lizzie Kruger