June 2019 Issue
by: Caroline Logan Cherry
In the town of Lake City, SC, Baker’s Sweets cafe and bakery sits on Main Street, and during this small, rejuvenated town’s 9-day long art festival, Artfields, it’s hard to get a seat. This bustling spot is one of the many store fronts that displays the more than 400 works of juried art, which plays host to thousands of visitors who come from far and wide to take in the festival. This month’s cover piece was one of this year’s entries in the prestigious Artfield’s event and not only caught our Publisher Elizabeth Millen’s eye, but also her heart.
“I was at Baker’s Sweets trying not to eat cake when I saw this painting. I leaped from my chair and ran over to gawk. In an instant, I was fully immersed in memories of my days riding my bike at the beach. I was so touched by this painting and instantly connected with its subject. And, the painting itself is masterful, stunning. I loved everything about it!” said Elizabeth.
The soft dreamy blues and nostalgic subject matter capture a moment between a young girl, her bike and the beach. Betsy Barrett-Hails, the artist of this month’s cover, has a gift for paintings of this sort—the type that magnifies beauty in everyday moments. Her art is colorful, picturesque and at times, humorous; understandable since the artist herself is kind, personable and laughs easily.
The Alabama native attended Auburn University for art, but her passion began long before. “There are pictures of me in kindergarten, painting,” Betsy laughed. “It was just something I did naturally.” Betsy’s love of art really came to life when her family lived abroad in Dreux, France. “…We went all over Europe, as many places as we could go,” she explained. “I saw all this fabulous art when I was 7 years old, and it really had an influence on me.”
Her father’s career in the United States Air Force took them everywhere from France to Ohio. Places she fondly captures on canvas using her favorite medium, oil paint. The self-proclaimed “contemporary realist” is known for her soft edges and use of color. “It doesn’t matter what I do, I always end up going back to those bright colors,” she chuckled.
While Betsy loves painting still lifes, she has an affinity for depicting unique people in her art. “I think they kind of just find me,” she laughed, talking of the inspirations behind her work, “It’s the certain look of someone if they’re unusual, the light around them and an interplay of what they’re doing, space and light and what they’re wearing.” She takes a moment to think, “It doesn’t have to be someone beautiful, it’s the right time and place.”
It was the right time and place that brought her inspiration for “Coasting,” Pink’s cover art this month. “I was visiting my sister at Sunset Beach, NC, and there was this little girl that was so cute, just struggling with her bicycle,” Betsy explained. She began to photograph the struggle when finally, the girl conquered. “I watched her do this for about 30 minutes then finally she stood up on those pedals and coasted right past me.”
“I took the perfect picture of her at the perfect time…” Betsy takes a moment to sigh, “sometimes you just know it.” The photo sat in her “to paint someday” folder until she happened upon it 20 years later. While the entire painting took about two months to complete, she was able to paint the girl in one day, “I thought, I’ve got her, and I was so excited about it because that doesn’t happen that often.”