Emerging Canberra-based artist Bethany Saab started painting still life only recently, during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Bethany holds no formal training in fine arts – yet she is quickly finding her place amongst Australia’s emerging artists to watch.
Saab’s paintings are lively and unassuming, depicting colourful and patterned scenes of domestic life. They speak to the slowing down and nesting in of recent days, the mindful joy of a beautiful space to live, and to the directness of objects and shadows.
We had a chat with Bethany about inspiration, aspiration and life as an artist.
Growing up, did you always know you were going to be an artist?
No not in the sense that I ever thought I’d show my work to anyone! I’ve always been creative and surrounded by art in our home growing up. My mum was an artist and art teacher so it wasn’t unthinkable to do it, but it was just something we did at home and never something I thought I could do as a job. I actually wanted to be a florist but my Mum encouraged me to go to uni first and take up floristry later on, which is what I did.
I didn’t paint seriously until very recently, but as a kid I used to draw and collage and make things out of wire and paper, small scale sculptures really. Nowadays I paint foremost for the enjoyment of it and if people like it enough to buy it and take it home, then that’s a bonus.
Your paintings have been described as ‘intimate glimpses into personal spaces’, how do you choose the subjects / objects for your painting?
You know over the last year I’ve dabbled a bit in other styles of painting and I always come back to still life. I just love to paint light and shadow, reflections, shiny things and to create a harmonious sense of colour.
Painting for me is about stopping and noticing incidental moments of the common and everyday that are actually really beautiful.
I paint just stuff in around my house, nothing special really, but I do focus on shapes and forms of the objects. I love painting your cone candles, they provide a wonderful geometric form.
In choosing the items I also try to create a mood that is contented and a composition that feels resolved. Just when you know you know. I think that’s the best way to put it!
If you could have dinner with another artist, who would it be and why?
Alice Neel because she was a boss and didn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. She painted incredible portraits that really speak to the humanness of her subjects which I love. She would have been amazing to meet and to watch her work.
Which part of being an artist do you love the most?
I love the flow state that painting allows me to experience. Time slips away and I’m completely absorbed in just putting the image to the canvas.
Have you ever or are you perhaps considering using other mediums to express yourself? Other materials?
I paint in acrylic paint mainly because of the quick drying time . I paint in my living room, I don’t have a studio space, so I don’t have a heap of space for paintings to sit around drying. I also like to make work quickly and then get it to the gallery so I can move on to other things.
Also being self taught, acrylic just seemed more accessible to me as it’s water washable and I didn’t have to learn how to use mediums etc. I do think about learning to oil paint, as apparently it’s much more versatile but I am pretty fond of my current acrylic paint collection. There is some pressure I think to use oil to be a ‘proper’ artist, but I say meh. It’s working for me.
See more of Bethany Saab's artwork here.