By Patrick Dennis
I am an artist and I’ve been working…
Most artists are shy. This generalization may not always be true, but there is a whole lot of truth to it for many reasons. Besides the self-doubt and over-thinking most artists indulge in, often artists shy away from any application that could be considered commercialization. While this may open up an entirely new field of work, it’s sometimes thought to be “selling out” or production oriented, when in fact that is simply not true and may limit an artist’s path to success.
Consider the success of illustrator/printmaker-turned-artist Betty Wick. Betty is shy by nature, but with a quiet confidence, knowing her audience and where her work resonates. This makes for smart choices.
Betty uses alluring characters, fantasy landscapes and her vast imagination to create works that reach out to the viewer.
In the past, Betty had illustrations published in national newspapers and worked with her husband on producing large-quantity collectable products for corporations such as Ford Motor Company and Johnny Cat out of their “home factory.”
She also taught art to children using crayon wax resist on watercolor paper. While teaching printmaking, she would encourage students to “find a place on the floor,” then take a photo. This observational technique was the basis for transformation into “readable art.”
Betty found inspiration from teaching to illustrate children’s books with her writer husband Michael Stang. Her most recent collaboration produced a book titled “Monster Weeds,” a child’s adventure that takes place in the created universe of a much larger work titled “Harmony Beach.” Knowing the value of art as an evocative communication tool, it was a simple step (not a leap) for her to design labels for her son’s contemporary winery “Dilecta” in Paso Robles.
When I spoke with Betty in her studio space at Paso Robles’ Studios on the Park, she proudly showed me the paintings and drawings that translate well into commercial application rather than shying from them. There is great joy in seeing her works condensed onto smaller surfaces such as cards and bottles. Betty begins her process by drawing characters and background components, then places them on a large surface to “move” her characters around, like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle or paper dolls until a unified theme is complete and the story is told. Her materials are mostly ink, pencil and acrylic on paper but also on canvas at times.
The influence of her graphic design ability is evident, but not in a traditionally commercial way. In fact, her artwork skews toward a younger crowd. Betty’s surrealism influences include Leonora Carrington (an associate of Max Ernst), David Hockney and Picasso. She became excited by the Mexican “Day of the Dead” theme after a group of artists had a dinner at the Hope family winery, and it continues to infuse her current works.
Using an intentionally limited color palette, Betty sees color as something “added” rather than a beginning, which separates her approach from other artists. It’s easy to see how Betty’s constructs translate into commercial application, but rather than shy from that as a negative element, she embraces it. I asked Betty if she seeks out other wineries to work with. She replied that they will sometimes simply walk into the studio and be struck by the images that evoke an image they may wish to convey.
As a lesson to artists who will try almost anything to get noticed, consider Betty Wick.
Betty’s skills and perspective are uniquely hers, but her vision is broad enough to encompass unexpected applications and in fact embrace them as another aspect of her artistic path. Shyness has almost no place here. Her work can be found at Studios on the Park, 1130 Pine St., Paso Robles, or online at bettywick.com.
Patrick Dennis’ column appears the second Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian.