Bethany Pardoe – Interview + Artist Talk

Please describe your artistic process as it spans a day and/or week and/or month.

A painting usually begins with a concept that I wish to explore by translating into a visual format. I go off of an emotion or a particular struggle I’m having and from there I begin brainstorming imagery that goes along with the particular mood. I can spend days or weeks just thinking about a concept and playing around with palettes and subjects in my mind until I feel ready to begin the thumbnailing process.

Sometimes an idea comes to me so fully developed I already have a vision for the final piece. However long it takes to reach this point, once I am there I will go to my sketchbook and begin writing notes and doing rough thumbnails for the composition. My notes are written chaotically about the page and consist of colour combos circled by question marks and bullet points of possible themes. During the preliminary stages the writing is just as important as the actual sketches. Finally I translate the concept to canvas.

I explore different techniques of building up the layers of paint. In the past I have gone right in with thick layers of acrylic but recently I have enjoyed using techniques comparable to oil techniques in which I apply an underpainting in a light watered down green or brown acrylic. I find this is useful in creating a unified colour palette in the final piece. My method is constantly evolving as I learn and grow as an artist but right now this is my artistic practice.

Please describe your artworks included in the exhibition.

House Lady – This painting represents the feelings of being lost, displacement and uncertainty for the future. I chose the pastel colours of pinks and purples because they are colours reminiscent of innocence and new things. At the time I made this I was looking to the future and experiencing the uncertainty that comes with transitioning to a new phase of life.

Pattern Lady – This painting was inspired by and references a previous artwork I did about hidden inner struggles. In that piece a snake was portrayed eating a figure with a crown from the inside. While creating both this piece and the previous piece, I was thinking about how even those who can seem to have it all battle with their own internal snakes. In this piece the snake is referenced in the pattern of the woman’s dress. The dress and background are flat and static to contrast the more expressive style of the face. The flatness is also inspired by tapestries from the middle ages in which there is little perspective and subjects are laid out separately.

Bear Lady – This painting is also connected to a previous artwork I did although the inspiration for this one is an experimental project in which I sewed three partially dismembered teddy bears and arranged them in a scene. It was titled Nostalgia and an alternative name for this piece is Nostalgic Lady. Both pieces deal with the process of transitioning to new stages of life. As one ages they obtain hindsight about their past and views or significance of a certain memory may shift. I chose a teddy bear to represent these childhood memories as it is a universally recognized children’s toy. 

What is your favourite artwork right now?

Probably my most recent piece Bear Lady, just because I spent quite a bit of time thinking about and plotting out the colours.

What artists/artworks inform your practice?

Ever since I first took her portrait painting class in grade eight I have been inspired by Kristy Gordan or as she’s known on Instagram @kristygordonart. I’ve also been following a number of artists on Instagram who regularly inspire me. Some of my current favourites are @septemberwildflowers, @nephrosoupp, and @octoplum.

What artists/artworks inform the work included in the exhibition?

I’ve recently been inspired by old works such as The Creation of Adam.

What other outside sources inform your thinking (e.g. books, music, nature, etc.)?

I am often inspired by literature and storytelling. My work is almost illustrative and incorporates narratives either linked to something I’ve read or something I’ve written.

What inspires you to make creative work?

Using my sketchbook or looking at other peoples sketchbooks. I feel like in a sketchbook I have complete freedom to do whatever I want and I don’t have to worry about making it ugly or basic because it’s meant for experimentation. I believe the only thing that would be considered a mistake in a sketchbook would be leaving too many blank spaces.

What do you think are necessary agents for change in society? In your community?

A willingness to participate as a group member. With the current situation it is more important than ever that we all play our part and maintain social distancing. If society ever intends to change in order to fix problems such as climate change or poverty it is important that all be united in performing their part just as right now it is important that no person deviates from their duty.

Do you include social justice and/or activism in your work? If so, how does it manifest?

In my paintings I challenge women’s beauty standards of today especially in relation to my generation who have grown up with limitless access to the world of Facetune, miracle promising beauty products, and flawless celebrity standards. My paintings touch on femininity, the body positivity movement and the reality of being a young person in today’s society.

In your utopian/creative imaginary for the future what do you see as being a radical change from our present moment? What do you hope to see changed?

I think a radical change would be if society as a whole placed less value on the outward appearance of an individual and instead focused on their internal worth. 

What is the last book/thing/article/poem you read?

I’ve been enjoying reading a little as soon as I wake up in the morning. Currently I’m reading The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro and the most recent book I finished was The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

What online browser tab(s) do you have open right now?

Google Docs. Ordinarily I might have Youtube open too with an art video playing.

What is the last song you listened to?

When creating I prefer podcasts or Youtube as background noise as I work but some music I’ve been loving recently is the soundtrack to the movie Swiss Army Man with Daniel Radcliffe.

What is the last film/tv show you watched?

I have been watching a lot of movies and TV shows due to the current situation. Most recently I watched Support the Girls on Netflix and I just finished season two of the TV series Fargo.

Who would you invite (dead or alive) to your kitchen dance party?

A pet rat. I really enjoy rats although I’ve never had one.

What song would be the first on your kitchen dance party playlist?

Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Soundsystem is pretty fun.

How are you dealing with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I’ve been doing a lot of art and experimenting in my sketchbook.

What are your future aspirations?

I plan to go to Emily Carr University of Art and Design and pursue visual art as a career. I’m not sure in which direction specifically as of yet but at this point anything involving creativity sounds wonderful.

What are your next steps?

Applying to scholarships and planning for the upcoming year.