Meet Bethany Mabee, Bethany Mabee Art

Tell us about your business. 

I am an abstract artist that works out of her studio in an old millwork warehouse in Peoria IL. I lived in Chicago for 15 years before relocating to Peoria for family and work. My first love is painting, but working in the interior design industry for 15 years, deepened my love for design which drove me to develop a line of textiles created from small sections of my original paintings. I prefer to paint large scale which is not something everyone is in the market to buy. By creating extensions of my paintings with limited edition prints and textiles, it allows the life of the painting to continue after it is sold, while expanding the products that I can offer in various price ranges.

What do you love about your business and industry?

I love the supportive nature of the art and interior design community and I love that they both draw inspiration from the other. I feel so lucky to be able to be an artist, especially today when social media offers so much exposure and connection. It's easier now to be an artist and a business person and there is so much inspiration out there of woman doing this very well. I am grateful to put my creativity to use and to have the tools available out there to market myself, Covet Market being one of those tools.

Tell us what inspires you. 

On a surface level my biggest inspiration comes from interior design. I love designs ability to convey a mood with color and placement and I've always viewed interior designers as artists themselves. I prefer to draw inspiration from their work. I tear apart design magazines to draw inspiration on color palette and moods. On a much more personal level, my artwork is a reflection of my own internal world and I'm really inspired by the layers that form us. I find similarities in the experience of my process to that of the human experience. Primary themes that show up in my work are layers, contrasts and circular patterns. I am very interested in the layers that form us, both situationally and emotionally, and how they inform a conditioned and cyclical lens that we see ourselves and the world thru. Much like my process, these layers evolve unintentionally, but form intentional reactions in what we decide to reveal or conceal, sometimes creating a strong contrast between our inner and outer worlds. These interests play a strong role in my personal reflections of my work. I hope that each viewer can have his or her own unique reactions.

What advice do you have for other creatives and entrepreneurs?

I would say the best advice is to just do it - don't over think it or plan it. It wasn't until I stopped comparing and planning on what kind of artist I wanted to be that I actually formed any sort of language for myself as an artist. When I just devoted myself to spending time in the studio, authentic work came out of it, which created confidence in putting my work out there, which then created more opportunities to show my work. Things can have a great domino affect if you just start!

What is something surprising about you (secret talent, unexpected fact, fear, etc)? 

In addition to my work as an artist, I do furniture procurement management for high end interior designers. I do this remotely from Peoria for designers mostly in Chicago and San Fran. It was my career for 10 years while living in Chicago and it has allowed me to continue the work as a consultant with flexibility to focus on my art. I love the balance of being used in an organizational capacity around a creative project. It's very logistical behind the scenes kind of work, but I love it. I need an outlet for my creativity and my left brain to co-exist which this allows!

What is the most common question you get about you and your business?

The most common question I get is how I created my paintings...which is honestly the most difficult question to answer. They really are moments of happy accidents and moving meditation that I can't recall or recreate. Most people are curious about the circles and how I make them or why they show up. I explain that I love their relate-ability. There's something about a familiar object amidst an abstract composition that offers some grounding....and circles themselves have endless references depending on the viewer.

Tell us about your process for making and creating. 

My paintings are guided by improvisation and begin without much conscious thought beyond a potential pallet. They usually start as cheerful studies of color and end more authentically with dark places to snuggle into. Each layer unintentionally evolves upon the next and grows into a layered composition that becomes a record of my current situation or state of mind, informed by my observational nature. Once enough layers are formed, a more intentional process begins and I decide which layers to reveal or conceal, until I have eliminated any unrest in the piece. Each painting has survived layers upon layers of messing up or starting over and have ended as proud best versions of themselves. I switch modes to a much more intentional process with my textiles. My paintings are never created with the intention to become a fabric pattern or pillow. Instead when I piece is done, I pick small sections that I am drawn to and play around with their digital repeats to create a pattern. It's such a fun way to pull something else out of a piece and to switch gears.

What is the best advice you've ever been given and how has it shaped your business?

The best advice I've ever been given probably comes from various articles and quotes that all share the same sentiment which is that our creativity doesn't expire or wear out. It can get overwhelming and scary to monetize creativity. There's a pressure to create even when the mood doesn't strike and a pressure to make it big quickly like those we see on social media. The artists that inspire me the most are the ones that it took well into their 40-50's to really come into their own as an artist. Conversations with them have reminded me that there is no rush and that this is about the process and that it's a lifelong process of growing and evolving. I try and remind myself that regularly.

Discover more about Bethany Mabee on her website

Jessica Cohen