Editor HAYLEY MORRISON
Photography BETH MORGAN
ABOUT The ARTIST:
Beth Winterburn is a Memphis-based visual artist in United States. Beth’s work is characterized by bold, gestural brush strokes and minimalist detail. As a nod to her analytical roots in photography and architecture, she approaches each piece with a mathematical mindset – counting evens and odds, balancing lights and darks, visually “slicing” the composition into thirds and fifths. Every attempt is made to respect the materials, allowing each to behave accordingly, with subtle direction. She approaches her work as if it’s a problem to solve: combining and contrasting elements with and against one another to create a cohesive yet dynamic piece. Beth’s work is an exploration of control (or the lack thereof). Each canvas, piece of paper or panel is an invitation to engage – to feel, to react, to explore the tension and resolve of each and every element and property used to build it.
View in FANIQUE Magazine Issue 4 HERE
FANIQUE Magazine: What is your art background like?
Beth Winterburn: I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art in 2002 from the University of Tennessee. I entered as an architecture student, but I quickly realized that the other side of the building (fine arts) was where I belonged. My studio is in my home in Memphis, TN. During college, I sold a little bit of work to family and friends, and a bit afterward, but I didn’t begin my full-time art practice until the beginning of 2015.
FANIQUE Magazine: How does art affect your life? Has it always been a part of your life?
Beth Winterburn: Creating, understanding, exploring, experimenting, discovering, and learning about art is constantly at the forefront of my mind. I can’t listen to music without visualizing how the rhythm of the song, the variances in sounds, etc. would work as a painting. Just like exercising any muscle in the body, when the right brain is constantly being used, it’s difficult to turn off. I notice shape, light shifts, darks and lights, contrasting elements, everywhere I go. I’ve created since I was young. If there were ever an opportunity to take an art class (at a camp, school, etc.), art was always my first choice. I come from a long line of creatives as well. My grandfather was a photographer, my mother is a seamstress, my brother is a professional musician, and a handful of other family members are in creative fields as well – graphic designers, photographers, etc.
FANIQUE Magazine: Your work is characterized by bold, gestural brush strokes and minimalist detail. Since when did you realize that you had found your own signature style and decide to stick with it?
Beth Winterburn: The first time that I was asked to write about my work, I was honestly a little stumped. I knew that the marks and the gestures that I made were instinctual and repeated, but I didn’t really know “why”. I was contacted for a feature, and in the process of writing both an artist’s statement and a bio, it all began to come together. I have a very mathematical mindset. My roots are actually in photography and architecture. I had no idea what I wanted to study in college, but I had a high school teacher who noticed my love of math and art and suggested architecture. After only a year in architecture school, I realized that it wasn’t quite the right fit. Long story short, I finally ended up in the art department. In some ways, math and art seem like polar opposites, but they complement in so many ways as well – the structure giving way to freedom and vice versa, control or a lack thereof, nature vs. nurture.
FANIQUE Magazine: Normally, what is your creation process like?
Beth Winterburn: I typically start with color. Colors embody such meaning intrinsically: red is intense, blue is calming, and so on. I naturally gravitate towards blues and greens, but every now and then, I’ll branch out a bit and incorporate other colors to convey whatever energy I’m interested in exploring at the moment. I typically start with the darkest color/value/shade first, and then I work my way backward towards a lighter scheme. I like to play with the “push and pull” of elements – laying a background, then pulling it forward, then pushing it back again. My work takes time to dry between layers, so I’m always working on several pieces at a time – either adding details to washes that have dried or laying down new washes. There’s always a rotation of work, which creates a really nice rhythm to my practice. I’m never doing the same things consecutively, so it keeps the work fresh and new.
FANIQUE Magazine: Do you see and categorize yourself as a commercial artist or fine art artist, and why?
Beth Winterburn: I see myself as a fine artist who sells her work. Some may say that selling work automatically puts me in the commercial category, but I think so much about that distinction is changing. Thanks to the internet, social media, etc., artists are able to have incredible amounts of exposure of their work, personally, more than ever before. I didn’t necessarily intend to sell my work – I created because I simply couldn’t not. Balancing the commercial appeal with the pure desire to express what is within can leave me walking a fine line at times, but if I stay focused on communicating what naturally and intuitively comes from within me, I find that the authenticity of the work sells itself.
FANIQUE Magazine: You also run an online art shop on your website to sell your artworks. What’s your vision for selling art online in the contemporary art world?
Beth Winterburn: I simply want people to have access to the story – for those who follow along with my process to have a tangible memory, so to speak, to reference in their own space(s). I recently had a client contact me for a commission. He told me that my work felt very personal to him – that the lines and the gradients were representatives of an important phase of his life. That’s an incredible honor to me – when someone feels as though something I created has given expression to his or her own life experience. Art has a special way of helping people to relate – to themselves and to one another.
FANIQUE Magazine: Is your art career affording your living? What is the balance between being an artist and paying bills within your work?
Beth Winterburn: Thankfully, I’m married to a very supportive husband who has a very stable job. In the beginning, my materials came from the money that either he made, or money that I would have after consigning clothes, or selling one painting here and there. Now, the business sustains itself, but I’m not yet to the point of sustaining anyone else with the money that I make. There’s a constant balance of business wants versus business needs. For instance, there are certain items that are necessary – shipping supplies, basic materials, paints, etc. However, if I have my eye on a particularly pricey watercolor brush, I simply have to decide if it’s worth the money. I’d imagine it’s the same in any small business.
FANIQUE Magazine: Where and how do you normally get your inspirations?
Beth Winterburn: I’m inspired by a lot of things – music, mood, relationships, materials, light… Watching other artists can be inspiring. It’s motivating to see another artist committed to his or her work. I know that feeling, and when I see it in someone else, it drives me back there as well.
FANIQUE Magazine: Do you remember a specific artist or artwork that has impacted you the most?
Beth Winterburn: Historically, I really enjoy the work of Cy Twombly. His work is on such a grand scale, and his process is so visible in his work. His use of line, gesture, and color as a “code” is inspiring and intriguing to me. When I was in art school, one of my professors put us through a warm up exercise where we would scribble while he played various songs/sounds. I see a rhythm in Twombly’s work that takes me back to that exercise and reminds me of the freedom of simply marking. I love his words: “Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history.” Amen to that.
Another artist whose work has had an effect on me is Jared Small. I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon his work, but I was so mesmerized the first time I saw his piece “In a Row”. The way that he juxtaposes intricate details with running washes gives his work a certain gravitas, which I love. His work and mine are so incredibly different – he’s a meticulously detailed oil painter while I deal in acrylics and washy inks, but the contrast of control versus letting go really resonates with me. I’m in awe of his talent.
FANIQUE Magazine: What are some of the struggles you’ve been through in the process of pursuing your art career?
Beth Winterburn: Getting a grasp on the business side of things. Once I decided to sell my work, everything changed in a sense. I no longer “just painted”. Now, there are days that are spent entirely in front of the computer, or packaging orders. Adjusting to the needs of the business while balancing studio time is still a work in progress.
FANIQUE Magazine: What was the moment you realized you wanted to be an artist (asked by last The ARTIST Interviewee Andre Kan, www.andrekan.com)
Beth Winterburn: The moment I allowed myself to. For the longest time, I fought the idea of being an artist. It was all me – my parents were incredibly supportive..but for some reason, I didn’t feel like it was a valid enough choice. Even though I made the transition to art school during college, I took several art education courses because I thought that would provide a more tangible profession. My mom actually encouraged me to cut ties with what I thought were “stable” choices for my future and pursue what really made me feel alive – being an artist. The moment I finally came to grips with the idea myself, I was all in.
FANIQUE Magazine: How do you define FANIQUE?
Beth Winterburn: Fanique is a celebration of creativity and expression.