Words by Sarah Odum, Images by Brian Flaherty and Bethany Eden
It’s no secret that with two universities and a highly supportive local community, Denton is a breeding ground for talented artists and makers alike. Bethany Eden is one such artist who has come out of this equation. Currently living and working in San Francisco, Eden still finds herself influenced by the Denton community, returning often to contribute to the conversation and share her skills. Read on to hear about Eden’s work and to sign up for the Beginner’s Watercolor Workshop she’s hosting this weekend!
How did you get into the arts and “making”?
I’ve been creating things since I was very young. My dad is an artist and musician, so my family has always been very supportive of pursuing creative careers. My brothers are designers and developers for their own video game company, and my sister is a musician. Growing up, I’ve always loved my art classes the most, and excelled in that area. When I started college at UNT, I signed up to be an Interior Design Major, because at the time I didn’t think it was realistic to be an artist and make a living. I took a watercolor class as an elective, and just fell deeply in love with it. I changed my major immediately to a BFA in Studio Arts with a concentration in Watercolor Painting. I’ve been painting consistently ever since, and in the past year and a half I’ve had the privilege to be working full time as an artist. It’s been difficult, but I really love it.
What draws you to watercolor?
There are so many things I love about watercolor! I love how it’s very delicate and transparent. I love how you can create so many textures and effects by using different combinations of papers, brushes, and other substances, like salt or alcohol. I also love that the paint and water seem to have a mind of their own. I can come back to a painting after it’s dried and find so many new things that weren’t there before.
You wear a lot of hats in your line of work. What are some challenges that come with being an illustrator, designer, maker & fine artist all at once?
This is actually something I’ve been struggling with lately, so I’m glad you asked! There are so many things I want to do with watercolor, and finding a balance can be difficult. In the past year and a half as a full-time artist, I’ve opened an online store selling art and paper products, been a part of gallery exhibits, started a line of wedding stationery, done a lot of custom work/commissions, attended craft fairs selling my handmade products, and continued illustrating and editing a children’s book. I think I was so excited to have so much time to focus on art, I tried to do every single thing that I wanted to. I’m realizing that isn’t possible, at least not all at once. I’m learning there are some things that bring me a lot more joy than others, so I can say no sometimes. I’ve slowly been scaling back the amount of custom work I say yes to, and have been creating more paintings and illustrations that have more meaning to me personally. I’m currently in the throes of figuring out how to divide my time, so we’ll see what the next year looks like in terms of focus.
You mentioned your children’s book. The illustrations are intriguing! Can you tell us a little more about it?
Yes! I’ve written a children’s book and have been working on the illustrations, slowly getting it ready for publishing. I started the book about four years ago, and have been working on it on and off since then. The story is about a young girl named Eluvia who carries a huge rock on her back wherever she goes. The rock is a symbol for burdens, pressure, guilt, or shame that we often find ourselves carrying. The story is about her learning to let go of it and allow someone to carry it for her. It’s a project that’s very precious to me, as I wrote it during a time when I realized I had been carrying my own burden for a long time. I’m hoping the story can be a source of hope for people with their own boulders.
What are your creative influences?
I’m very inspired by other visual artists who seem to have spent so much time perfecting their craft that their own unique style shines through, and it’s so different from anyone else’s style. Really anyone in any field who has dedicated huge amounts of time and effort to their practice, where they’re able to contribute something beautiful to the world, is very inspiring to me. A few examples are the filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki and the band Sleeping At Last.
Is there a general theme that permeates your designs? Or is that something that’s always changing?
I would say there is a general theme of joy and hope in my paintings and designs. When I create a series of paintings with no other purpose other than personal expression, the theme often is one of light breaking through darkness, or good defeating evil. I love to see this happening in reality, and it comes through in my paintings often.
In addition to attending UNT, how else would you describe your relationship to Denton?
I lived in Denton for five years while I was at UNT. My siblings and many of my friends live in Denton, so I’m often back visiting. I live in San Francisco with my husband now, but a huge part of me still sees Denton as home, or one of many “homes” I’ve had in my life. I made so many deep, life-changing friendships and spiritual discoveries in Denton, so I feel a deep bond to the town. I also feel so welcome in Denton because there has always been support for people pursuing creative endeavors, and it seems to have grown every time I come back.
You’re teaching a watercolor workshop for beginners in Denton this Saturday! Can you tell us a little about what to expect? How can we sign up?
I am so excited about this workshop! The goal is to have people learn basic watercolor skills so that they’ll be able to continue painting on their own. We’ll learn about mixing paint, using different brush types, creating textures, making dark and light values, and we’ll finish with creating a painting. I think watercolor is such a fun and beautiful medium, and I’m excited to share that passion.
There is an option to bring your own supplies, or to purchase a set of fine watercolor painting supplies that I’ve handpicked as the best for getting quality results. The class is Saturday, February 13th, 2 – 4 pm at the Green Space Arts Collective in Denton. To reserve your seat for the class, click here.