Meet visual artist and creator of ‘Blue’ and ‘The Kids in the Pink House’, Bettsvando

By Lisa K Salerno

So, tell me a little bit about yourself and your background as an artist.

My evolution to the role of artist came about gradually beginning 17 years ago in a home constructed studio. I always loved creating although I had no formal art training. I am “self-taught” and often think it enabled me to very quickly find my voice and unique style. Even so there is a learning curve for every artist. I had to learn about each medium that I work in and various techniques. I’m always learning.

When I look at your paintings I pick up on so many things. The paintings are colorful and happy in a way, and yet your subjects seem to embody a sense of emptiness and longing for something more than what their suburban or urban environments have to offer. I might even pick up on a little dark humor in some of your paintings. What would you say inspires your work the most?

First of all, I am so delighted that you picked up on the sense of emptiness and longing for something more. That means I was successful in capturing the emotions. My personal scripts and the people closest to me inspire me the most. I grew up in a large family in the suburbs, attended parochial school and currently reside in the suburbs. It’s an almost endless source of material. Even if we seek and find a joyful place, life is complicated. I love to tell a story about all of this. I find the emotions and then paint it. If the tone if right, I will often try to bring humor to the work and to make it as colorful as possible. If I have fun making it, then all the better.

You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d like to venture to say that there seems to be a psychological component to your work. I feel as though some of the subjects depicted can be described as delightfully depressing (and I mean this in the best possible way). Would you say this is an accurate description? How would you describe the mental states of some of your subjects?

Very correct! I seriously put time into examining situations then paint what I think is there. In a way, I work as an undercover detective of emotional angst. It is necessary to have empathy. The process is to analyze situations and dissect the emotions. The challenge is how to relay that feeling or emotion into art without going completely dark. My subjects are painted with hopefully enough expression to reveal these emotions. I believe some of my subjects are actually joyless at times, or depressed or borderline maniac. You will find for instance my smiling grandmother in so many paintings with cakes. Her life was less than perfect with many difficult times, and then there was always that cake, a prop for happiness. I believe some of my subjects have no idea how miserable they are. A lot of people never want to think about those emotions. It is too difficult. I want to examine that. It is great therapy and works better for me than a 1000-piece puzzle.

How do you choose your subject for each new piece? Do you work from photographs?

Yes! Lots and lots of photos. Older film photos are the very best. Film often captured the unintended grimace or glance and not so perfect anything. Nowadays a less than perfect digital photo ends up deleted. Sometimes though the perfect digital photo has clues that lead to the next piece of art. I love to examine the clutter in photos. The clutter holds clues.

Now for a little bit about your technique…Describe your medium and process.

I work in oil, watercolor and mixed media on paper. My oil paintings are usually a very chunky style of painting because I love to use a cold wax medium to blend (Gamblin). The watercolor pieces are created on flat panel, not paper. The panel is more forgiving than paper, if I need to change anything. After the paint dries, I use a small blade to etch into the panel. You will probably notice that I love to use heavy outlines in my work both in oil and watercolor. The watercolor panels are etched after the paint dries.

As for the regular sketches that I enjoy, I use a good quality art paper (Strathmore), and pencils (Faber Castell) or pastels. Most of my work to this date is probably in watercolor on panel, but my favorite pieces may be in oil.

As you know, I’ve enjoyed following you on social media. You have a nice body of work, and it’s been fun watching it evolve and grow. How do you keep yourself motivated as an artist?

Good question because if I find myself becoming bored, then my art is boring and then the process stops. Sometimes life will keep you too busy to find time to be in a studio but that is why I carry a small book with me everywhere for ideas. If I ever find myself in a complete slump, I will reorganize my studio. There will often be an abandoned piece that recharges the process.

Participating in exhibits also brings renewed energy. It’s fun to talk with the other artists about their process as well.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, I am trying to complete a book with illustrations about the Kids that Lived in the Pink house. So much of my work is about this family. The book with be partially confabulated but for the most part true. The project is dear to my heart and the material endless. I am an original Kid from that Pink House and that part is true.

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