Beth Gallup

Every story begins with colour. The soft rose of dawn. Stirrings in the deep purple-blue twilight. The bleak beige-grey of a late winter day…

On one of those bleak beige-grey days, my plans to go to art school turned black. A Grade 11 teacher decided, using all the pass/fail power vested in him, that I’d hired someone to complete my major assignment. The painting’s subject — my friend Bill skiing off Teepee Town Rock — was one I knew well. I spent a lot of out-of-class time capturing the colours of the snow, trees and cliff face. The skier, on the other hand, is a short, squat dwarf. Clearly the work of a beginner. 

My parents were strangely disinterested in the false accusation, the life-changing D that would keep me out of Art 30. I started missing even more school, got a second part-time job, left for Banff halfway through Grade 12. 

Happily there I could support myself turning negatives into positives. I worked in the dark, mixing cyan, magenta and yellow with light and chemistry to produce a kaleidoscope of colours for customers. If the original photo was a little bland, I would hand-colour a blush to the cheeks, dark orange into a setting sun. This old-school, analog process eventually financed my Bachelor’s degree, let me see more of the world through Reuters Newspictures, and got me partway through my Master’s (in Business). 

Skipping ahead a few chapters, I was still interested in colour — how to pair it with ideas, words and images to engage and persuade. Brainstorm was the company I founded to make that happen. Still, like the darkroom, I was one step removed from the creative process. I recruited experienced professionals, graphic artists who HAD been to art school. 

I kept a spark of creativity burning through my passion for colour, pausing to admire the vibrant green of an avocado, the violet, almost-violent shadow of a spruce. Debating colours to use to communicate clients’ brands. Debating with myself, every morning, on the best complement of socks and underwear.

Brainstorm was successful. I could have easily continued, advocating for the ideas of others, a confident director. Instead, I brought new partners into the company to give me time to take an entry-level drawing class. Then, promptly got too busy to take that class. 

It is easy to tell yourself, “I could have been an artist.” It is much riskier to actually try. Risk failure. Risk uncovering your true story.

What is the true story?

Painting is technical. It takes skill and study. It requires practice and patience, the ability to capture proportion and perspective. You often want to throw things. Or give up and wonder why you thought it was a worthy pursuit.

Thankfully, Tara Higgins decided to offer a weekly painting class, right around the time I left Brainstorm to live in Fernie full time. At another transition point, the Visual Arts Guild welcomed me into their Tuesday gatherings and Fall workshops. I travelled to the Gage Academy, an atelier in Seattle, to learn from Terry Furchgott. An artist and instructor for over forty years, she is remarkably good and remarkably broke. I marvel at how hard she works – and still must work, despite being a master of her craft.

Which leads me to “why.” Why takes risks to create? There are no answers here, in this story. You need to find your own raspberry-chartreuse-canary-hazelnut-sapphire solution to the Spirit that calls you.

Beth’s first collection of paintings is at The Art Station until October 28, 2019. Laughter was part of preparing for the show, as Beth and her collaborator, Roni Jurgensen, played with ideas. While they never figured out how to stuff a twig chicken inside a bun canvas, they are some happy accidents, like “Mustard Dancing in Ketchup.”