Interview with Renee Phillips from Manhattan Arts International
William R. Beebe (www.williamrbeebe.com) has stated, "I see myself as kind of an old soul and a romantic at heart. The subjects I choose to paint usually have some sort of nostalgic calling that compel me to paint them." His paintings are in major private and corporate collections in the U.S. and abroad. They have been exhibited in many gallery and museum shows including The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, ME and The Coos Art Museum in Coos Bay, OR, where his painting won a Merit award.
It is an honor and pleasure to feature Beebe's art work in our members' gallery and I am delighted to share this recent interview he agreed to have with me.
RP: William, you've said, "I love the challenge of capturing the beauty that first caught my attention." When did you first become interested in capturing beauty through art?
WRB: As far back as I can remember I always loved to draw, mostly in pencil. The few art projects I had throughout my formative years, provided such positive responses that over time they had a cumulative effect on me. Combined with my mother’s early influence, recognizing my interest in art, taking me to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, along with the Corcoran Art Gallery and the Phillips Museum, I developed an appreciation for what others have accomplished with their talents.
It wasn’t until my junior year in college that I took my first painting class. It was a portrait painting class, painting with oil paints at Catawba College. My teacher, Dr. Hood, was so encouraging that before I knew it I had changed schools, changed my major and changed the direction of my life.
Sometimes, as in my case, it is an evolutionary process. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but once I realized my love of painting and how it fulfills me, there was no turning back!
RP: You continue to surprise us as your creativity evolves. What has surprised you recently about your art career?
WRB: When we developed our new website, I was encouraged to start blogging on a weekly basis, in order to create more interest in our website and my art. I had no idea if I would enjoy the process or whether I would have much to say. I have enjoyed the process tremendously, having written over one hundred journal entries, all discussing art-related topics. It allows me a wonderful outlet to discuss with people who are interested in my painting, what I’m presently working on, what my thought process is, what influences me, what other artists are creating or have created, and more.
I try to mix in a little humor and/or take someone along for the ride with me on some of my journeys. Blogging has also made me self-analyze, reflect on past work, dig a little deeper into what I want my work to say and where I want to go with it down the road. A picture paints a thousand words, but I’m finding that a short narrative accompanying my work is appreciated by followers.
RP: I love reading your journal! Your entries would make a wonderful coffee table book! William, you are such an accomplished painter. Are there any artists or teachers who influenced your artistic direction?
WRB: I’ve always considered myself mostly self-taught. Studying art at the University of Maryland in the 1970’s was a frustrating time for artists trying to become realists. I was faced with conflicting opinions of my work. A teacher or two pushed me to become more avant-garde and a few were rewarding me with A’s for my realistic work.
Fortunately, I have remained true to myself, painting what inspires me in the style that comes naturally to me. I love to study what others have done and certainly the work of many artists has influenced my work.
In the end though, I feel it is important for an artist to maintain his or her own recognizable style.
RP: Great advice! What is your current art work or art project?
WRB: The art market has been significantly affected by the downturn in the economy, starting in the fall of 2008. I was having a big opening at the time of the crash in the real estate market, had just sold a maritime painting for a significant amount of money, and I was totally focused on my maritime paintings. With the crash in the economy came an inventory problem in just about every gallery, in every niche, whether it was maritime paintings or any other chosen genre.
I have chosen to look at the worst art market since the Great Depression as an opportunity to branch out, produce work that I might not otherwise have had the time to create. I’ve enjoyed a sojourn into painting European landscapes and most recently have developed a passion for painting waterfowl and birdlife. I am presently all consumed with researching, photographing and painting shorebirds, birds of prey and waterfowl. Every day, I can’t wait to get to the easel.
RP: That is wonderful! It requires a lot of discipline and focus to paint every day and also maintain a professional career. Who has been your greatest motivator and/or cheerleader for your career?
WRB: Without a doubt, it has been and continues to be my wife Jennifer. We have been married for almost 34 years. We met in high school and dated for six years before we were married. She was the one that encouraged me to pursue my art degree at the University of Maryland.
When I wasn’t enjoying my first few jobs in accounting as a newlywed, she was the one that was willing to give up everything and move to Maine for me to pursue my art career full-time. At the time, I had completed only a few paintings that I would consider salable. She believed in me and has been at my side ever since; promoting my work, contacting galleries, arranging shows, working with printers on our notecard, lithograph and giclee print business, managing our website, billing and much more.
RP: Well, thanks to Jennifer's loving support and astute marketing skills, your art has made its way into numerous collections. I’m sure you’ve received many positive comments about your art work. What's the best comment that has been made about your paintings?
WRB: One of the nicest compliments that a collector mentioned about my work was that it is “museum quality”. The ultimate compliment though was from America’s most famous artist, Andrew Wyeth. Mr. Wyeth singled out my "Victory Chimes" schooner painting from a large collection of paintings that one of my collectors was displaying. He chose it as his favorite!
RP: That's extraordinary, coming from such a master painter as Andrew Wyeth. I can see your art being included among artists like him in museum collections. What is the most memorable exhibition you have ever seen in a museum?
WRB: Two come to mind. At an impressionable age, I was fortunate enough to see a major exhibit at the National Gallery of Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Cole. The enormous, realistic, and luminous paintings were all inspiring. I’ve always been a fan of Norman Rockwell, but seeing his museum in Stockbridge, MA was far beyond my expectations. The painterly quality of Rockwell’s work, the capturing of the American spirit and his prolific nature, was overwhelming and awe inspiring.
RP: William, having awarded your artwork as one of the jurors in "Art That Lift's The Spirit" in 2012, I appreciate that your art is so positive. How do you view your art as providing a positive impact on others?
WRB: Besides the benefit of raising money for charitable organizations through the donations of prints, I hope that my paintings will help inspire and uplift others, as others have inspired and uplifted me.
RP: Are there any artists' quotations that have inspired you?
WRB: A few quotes that I have either found amusing and/or thought provoking are:
Edgar Degas: “No art is less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the great masters.” Another by Degas is “If painting weren’t so difficult, it wouldn’t be fun”. I find these quotes by Degas revealing and telling about the artist. I feel I gain a little window into how his mind worked. Even though a painting may appear to be the result of spontaneity, a significant amount of thought and work went into producing the art. Behind every brushstroke is years of study, research, practice and experimentation.
Pablo Picasso: “There are painters who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.”
James McNeill Whistler: "An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision.”
RP: Thank you for sharing them. I now understand more about how your mind works! William, why do you believe it is important to live with original art?
WRB: Even though I am an artist and we have a collection of my own work, we love to surround ourselves with the art of other artists that we admire. The art can both inspire and uplift my spirits. It can also bring back treasured memories and transport me to another place and time.
RP: Your art achieves that for sure. For those of us who want to see your art and possible acquire it what upcoming exhibition do you have scheduled for 2013?
WRB: Kingsmill Resort, in Williamsburg, VA is having one of the largest exhibits of my work this coming fall. The opening artist reception will be on 9/27/13 from 5 - 7 and the exhibit will run the month of October which is Arts Month in Williamsburg VA.
RP: William, although your subjects vary your compositions always reflect a sense of balance, harmony gentle rhythm. I'm wondering, do you have any favorite music to listen to while you create?
WRB: I have always listened to a wide variety of music in my studio, everything from country and rock, to Italian Opera. One of the most memorable and enjoyable music periods was listening to Bocelli and Dean Martin while painting Venice.
RP: And, I'm curious, what is your favorite snack or beverage while you’re in the studio?
WRB: Definitely a hot cup of coffee. A little shot of caffeine here and there makes me more productive. Between that and a scoop of peanut butter for a snack (or a few nuts), to go along with sniffing paint fumes all day and I’m good to go!