While Rebecca Beal was raising her children, she spent most of her working career in corporate sales. Then one day everything changed. . . after the loss of her father she experienced several health issues that resulted in over ten major surgeries, a heart attack, and moving in with her mom.
Sixteen years later she revels at how her life has changed—how those life altering events allowed her the time to explore her creative side, taught her to love what she does for a living, and gave her the chance to create an art career that has placed her art in the hands of collectors all around the world.
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Alyice: Why did you choose oil paints as your medium?
Rebecca: Shortly after high school I began painting with a local portrait artist—this was my first introduction and experience with oil paints. I fell in love with the medium right away. I have tried others, but have always come back to oils.
Several of my contemporaries have moved to acrylics because of the toxicity of oil paint, mediums, and cleaners but I will probably never make that move. I love the richness of the colors.
Alyice: What do you wish you knew about oils before you got started?
Rebecca: I suppose I wish I had known more about the different mediums available to mix with oil paint.
I started with linseed oil but found it took such a long time to dry. I finally ordered several different kinds of mediums, and have settled on Gamblins Neo Megilp. It has a great consistency and dries in a within a couple of days.
Alyice: What is the best part about working with oils?
Rebecca: I love the way the paint flows, the variations I can capture, the ability to blend colors, and layer the paint. I have tried many mediums and some of the techniques I have learned. . . I bring back to my oil paintings.
Alyice: How do you choose the subject of your painting?
Rebecca: A lot of my subjects are from my travels.
I am an avid photographer. I love the ambiance of Europe, the old buildings, and flowers are everywhere. Water has always been one of my favorite things so it is a natural in my paintings.
I love to express light. That’s probably the one thing I have practiced the most. Whether it is a sunny day or evening with lights shining, I try to notice everything. It is definitely the light that I want to stand out.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Rebecca: I practiced certain techniques until they became automatic. Now, I do not practice a technique everyday per say, but I do start 4, 5, or 6 canvases around a similar theme.
I generally formulate an idea in my mind, often inspired by the elements I see. . . a pot overflowing with flowers, a stunning sunset, or a European café. Then I work the painting around it.
I go to my easel and start drawing with a wash of acrylics. Because they dry so quickly, I can easily change as my idea transfers to canvas. Quite often I finish with something very different than what I started with.
Alyice: How has your style changed over the years?
Rebecca: I have worked diligently (and still do) on becoming looser with my brush strokes. I used to spend so much time trying to get it exactly right. Now, I try to capture the essence.
When I started painting portraits, it was important to be exact; however my love is Mediterranean and European landscapes and seascapes. Born in Europe, I have a natural love for the ambiance of the old world.
I study anything and everything I can find, I have successfully adapted some styles into my style and some I still struggle with today, like the palette knife. It is a wonderful way to add texture and I think people really love heavy paint; however, it is looser than I prefer and has not allowed me to create the depth I like.
I have been known to start and complete a painting upside down.
I start with my wash drawing, then apply color in loose fast strokes. For this step, I use a large flat brush. My first colors are generally deeper colors or complementary colors than the ones that follow. Then, I take my time applying a lighter or brighter color.
I use a light hand here, so the textures of the paint and brush strokes are easily seen—not overworked. I create layers in my paintings, and sometimes I will put an unusual color in places you wouldn’t expect so it shows through the next color adding interest and depth. It’s a lot about the play and use of the colors.
Alyice: Do you ever experience creative blocks?
Rebecca: I am sure we all go through creative blocks—mostly I get tired I think. I paint 5 days a week; generally 8 to 10 hrs a day. . . always seeking a better understanding of my media and subjects. So when a block happens I just let it be. I take a rest and wait for the next inspiration.
I have a lot of fun. I listen to music or a lecture, (I am fascinated with physics) and strive to keep a child’s heart alive to experiment and never stop studying.
There are an abundance of artists, on the web, that gladly share from their experiences. As the saying goes practice, practice, practice. I think I have found my voice in technique, but I still love to try different colors or experiment with different techniques.
Once I found a YouTube video of an artist doing a time lapse palette knife painting, so I laid out my paints and started the video. I wish I had taped it; it would have been really funny to see myself all over the studio, arms swinging, paint flying everywhere. In 20 minutes I had a huge painting completed. It was fun; a great learning experience and a little sweaty.
Alyice: What do you believe is the key element in creating a good oil painting?
Rebecca: Key elements, for me, are a central focus point or the first place the eye is drawn into the painting. . . then to help the eye move through the painting.
Success is creating an energetic, but peaceful setting that I would enjoy seeing (visiting) every day—and completing this process by having someone connect with the work.
Alyice: What is the worst thing you’ve seen someone do to an oil painting, and what do you wish you could’ve told that artist?
Rebecca: Overworking the paint. If the color doesn’t work like you intended, use your turpentine to remove it (that’s painting too) or wait until it dries. Keep the colors clean, not muddy.