Chris Beck has been making art for as long as she can remember. She earned a bachelor's degree with honors in
the fine art program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then worked as a graphic designer for many years. Since she returned to painting, her watercolors have won numerous
awards in national shows. Her work is included in Best of America, Watermedia II, Kennedy Publishing (2010), and is
also featured on the cover. She is one of 22 artists invited
to participate in The Mouse Project by Steve Worthington
(2010). Chris is also published in Splash 7 - A Celebration
of Light: The Best in Watercolor, North Light Books (2002).
She was one of 13 artists featured in the article "32 Insider
Tips" in The Artist's Magazine (December 2010). In August
2009, Watercolor Artist magazine featured a full-length
article on her work entitled "Adventures in the Ordinary,"
and her painting "Old Plow" was featured in the "Competition Spotlight" in The Artist's Magazine (June 2009). In January 2008, she was Artist of the Month on The Artist's Magazine website.
Chris is a signature member of both the Transparent
Watercolor Society of America and Watercolor West, national societies dedicated to the exclusive use of transparent watercolor, and she recently earned her signature in the
Missouri Watercolor Society. She is also the creator and
curator of a watercolor showcase blog - Brush-Paper-Water - featuring a different watercolor artist every other week.
Her work is held in public and private collections in the U.S.
Website - Chris Beck Studio
Personal Blog - I'm Painting As Fast As I Can
Watercolor Showcase Blog - Brush-Paper-Water
1. When did you realize you wanted to make art a career and how did
you pursue that decision?
I cannot remember a time when I didn't make art. My
parents were very supportive when I was very young and we had a great art program in school when I was growing up. At
the age of 6 or 7, I started telling people that I wanted to
be an artist when I grew up. There were some detours
along the way: I also became very interested in biology and natural science as I went through school and struggled to
decide between science and art when I got to college. I
danced back and forth between majors a few times in the
first couple of years; art finally won out when I realized
that I was spending all of my free time doing art while I was officially studying zoology.
2. Which artists have influenced your work and how?
I've gone through a number of phases, starting out with
Andrew Wyeth when I was in high school. In college, I
became a big fan of Toulouse-Lautrec and I discovered the watercolors of Charles Demuth and Maurice Prendergast, as
well as the contemporary artist Keith Crown (who passed
away just a year ago). As I continued to pursue my art
interests after college, Georgia O'Keeffe became a favorite - particularly her floral works - and I also came across the marvelous watercolors of Joseph Raffael.
Since I returned to watercolor in 1995, I have been
influenced by Roland Roycraft, Jean Grastorf, Judy Morris,
Pat San Soucie, and many other artists too numerous to mention. While my work may not always reflect specific influences, the common threads running through them are
strong design, wonderful details, and love of color.
3. Vintage toys feature strongly in some of your work and you do use
other subject matter as well. What subject matter inspires you most and
The chance to use color is probably the greatest motivating factor in my subject choices, along with a focus on things I
find delightful -- which can be anything from a beautiful
flower to a rusty farm implement to a silly salt shaker or
tin toy. I like to work with fairly simple shapes with strong graphic qualities, and which also give me the opportunity to include a lot of detail.
4. Every artist has his or her favourite brands of pastels, papers or
paints. What are your every day favourites?
I use primarily Winsor and Newton paints, and a few colors
by Holbein and Daniel Smith. I use cold-pressed paper
almost exclusively -- either Winsor and Newton or Arches -
but have also enjoyed working with Arches 300 lb.
hot-pressed paper. In general, I prefer 140 lb. paper, which I stretch before painting.
5. You have received a number of awards and placements in Watercolor
Artist and The Artist magazines over the last few years. How important do
you believe entering juried competitions are for artists and what does the experience bring with it?
Entering juried competitions is a way to share your work
publicly and also to measure yourself against your contemporaries. It can bring a lot of satisfaction, but it also keeps you humble -- for most artists, the rejection slips
usually far outnumber the acceptance slips. Each of us has
to decide if the successes balance out the frustrations and disappointments along the way. One word of advice I can't stress strongly enough -- Do your own work! Don't try to
second guess the "taste" of the juror or the direction of the
next fad. And be realistic -- enter shows appropriate to your level of development -- but also be willing to take a risk to
move to the next level when you think your work is ready.
6. Art marketing and the business side of art are necessary to promote
art work. What do you consider important areas to concentrate on in the business of marketing and selling your art?
It goes without saying that you have to be in the
marketplace in order to sell -- whether a traditional gallery
space or a co-op, an online gallery, a blog, a website. But underpinning any of these outlets is the need to promote yourself --entering shows to establish your name, doing promotional events, marketing via email (and to a lesser
extent these days, direct-mail), hosting open studio events. Active presence on social networks increases your visibility immensely and is invaluable in making connections.
7. What other interests do you have besides creating art?
As a long-time knitter, I enjoy the process of knitting for its meditative qualities and also for the opportunity to play with color. I have done some pattern design and currently teach some minicourses on knitting techniques at a local yarn shop. I also play the harpsichord, purely for personal enjoyment, although in the last couple of years, I haven't had the time
to play as much as I would like.
8. When inspiration hits the wall, as it does for most artists at various
times, what motivates you to keep going?
Looking at other artists' works that I've enjoyed in the past, checking on upcoming competitions, looking through my
resource photos, playing with design and being open to inspiration. Sometimes, we also have to acknowledge that
we just need a short break, and I will turn my back on the
studio so I can come back with a fresh mind.
9. You are an exceptionally generous artist and feature many watercolor
artists on your blogs, virtually turning the blogs into a galleries of works
of others. When and why did you decide to do this?
When I discovered the "painting a day" movement several
years ago, I was struck by how much oils dominated the
field. As someone who originally chose watercolor because
of its beauty, but also uses it because of chemical
sensitivities now, I thought it would be great if watercolor
had a strong online presence too. I decided to focus on
people doing exceptional work, but who may not have had
the opportunities for widespread exposure, and to present
their work in a simple format.
The majority of my professional life was spent in various publications divisions at a university, doing both graphics
and editing, so starting a blog was a natural fit -- the
publishing medium is different, but the process remains
pretty much the same.
10. What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given that
has influenced your art career?
Two words: keep painting. This has been said to me at
various times over the past 15 years -- usually by people
who know and appreciate the challenges of watercolor. I've regarded it both as encouragement for work well done and
as a directive to stay the course. On a practical level, it's
also the most basic requirement for growth.
11. What piece of advice would you give to an artist just starting out in
Do what you love and pour your energy into it. But be
open to change and push yourself out of your comfort zone periodically.