Retired Bellingham teacher Beth Roberson smitten with watercolor

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 20, 2013 

Beth Roberson of Bellingham

Beth Roberson of Bellingham is one of the featured artists at Bay to Baker Trading Company, 911 Harris Ave., during the annual Fairhaven Summer Solstice Art Walk is 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 21, in the historic southside district.

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

The annual Fairhaven Summer Solstice Art Walk is 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 21, in the historic southside district.

Bay to Baker Trading Company, 911 Harris Ave., will display art by Alaskan Tlinget Israel Shotridge and Bellingam artists Beth Roberson and Jody Bergsma. For a complete list of participants in the free event, go to Fairhaven.com.

Here is Roberson's take on her life and art.

Q: What was your childhood like?

A: I was born in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, the daughter of an IBM engineer. I grew up playing in the streams, fields, farms, and woods of that rural town.

Q: What was your first professional job?

A: I moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where I attended the University of Kentucky. My first teaching job was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I began a 34-year love affair with helping young children grow and learn.

Q: What brought you to the West Coast?

A: Following a desire to travel and see all parts of the country, I grabbed a tent and camped my way out to see relatives in Seattle. When I saw the beauty of Puget Sound, I knew I was where I wanted to put down roots.

Q: Then what?

A: I taught in Tacoma and decided to move to Bellingham in order to get a master's degree in education at Western Washington University. In 1970 I began teaching elementary school in Bellingham and met my husband, Steve, while skiing at Mt. Baker. I taught at Larrabee, Columbia and Geneva schools, teaching first through fifth grades. I feel it was a privilege and joy to have been a part of so many children's lives.

Q: What about your interest in creating art?

A: I had a natural feeling for artwork and gravitated to many kinds of media and art classes throughout my early days, including pottery, sumi painting, oils, pen-and-ink and calligraphy. I was trained in Monart, a way of teaching children to see the basic elements of drawing and painting.

At age 56 I retired from teaching and began looking for a way to express myself in retirement. A friend introduced me to a watercolor class at the Fairhaven Library. I was immediately fascinated by the brilliant colors and effects transparent watercolors can produce, and wanted to learn more.

I spent 12 years studying with many prominent Northwest watercolor teachers and internationally known teachers, coupled with reading and much practice.

Q: How have you developed your own artistic style?

A: I continue to experiment with the unending fascinating techniques of watercolor in order to more fully develop my own style and voice. My goal is to create work that is fresh, filled with light and full of personality.

My favorite things to paint are animals and things from the world of nature. Chickens and cows often show up in my work as a result of my childhood experiences.

Q: How did you become involved in Whatcom Art Guild?

A: I discovered the guild through friends. I headed up many committees and served as president in 2011. I enjoy the friendly atmosphere and the many opportunities the guild presents for learning, and displaying and selling artwork.

Q: Where can people see and buy your art?

A: I have had work for sale at the Art Guild's annual shows, the Northwest Washington Fair, La Conner Fruit and Produce, the Fairhaven Art Market and the Artisans Northwest Gallery. I currently have work at the Bellwether Gate building and the Bay to Baker store in Fairhaven.

I recently joined four other artists in opening Studio Five, a working studio and art gallery on the upstairs floor of Bay Street Village.

Q: What else is fun for you?

A: I travel with groups of fellow watercolorists in order to share ideas and inspiration. I am in a group of Mount Vernon artists who are currently planning our third painting trip to Hawaii.

I also enjoy photography, growing dahlias and walking my dog in Whatcom Falls Park. I can usually be seen with my camera snapping a few new pictures to paint!

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Follow Bellingham Entertainment on Facebook or @bhamentertainme on Twitter.

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