Insight into the creative process

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Bill Bentley at Lost Acres Vineyard exhibiting his Tuscany Landscape from a Laura Eden class. Photos by Bill Bentley

Bill Bentley

Media: watercolors

Member: Exhibiting member since 2020

I joined the Granby Artist Association a few years ago as a supporting member and was invited to be an exhibiting member in 2020. My art journey has not been direct, but the evolution of an avocation rather than vocation.

Like many youngsters, I received art training in school, had a few private art lessons and was encouraged to “do” art by my mother. I tried many art forms—watercolor, oils, pottery, sketching and so on—and I took part in the rich local art communities of three midwestern university towns. I continued to sketch from time to time after I left the academic world for a private-sector career path. However, my time and energy were largely directed toward career and parenting.

Asian Vine on Stucco Wall, painting by Bill Bentley from photo by Michael Bentley

In 2003, Ann, our two boys and I bought Wilhelm Farm from her parents and moved from Syracuse, N.Y. Except for some consulting, I was retired and shifting to volunteer work. Ann suggested I develop a serious hobby that could absorb my energy and interests. She furthered this idea with a gift of watercolor classes with Laura Eden. I began in spring 2013. My early results were horrible, but right away I was totally absorbed while painting—not thinking or worrying about anything else. Laura is a marvelous cheerleader and firm coach. I now do a lot of work on my own ideas and sources, but I continue lessons with Laura to learn better techniques and innovative ways to tackle a new project.

Much of my work focuses on landscapes and capturing the color tones. In the photo, I am looking at a Tuscany landscape that I painted in a Laura class from a photo she took in Italy. What I recognized immediately were the tones of a Mediterranean landscape. I grew up in California with its hills, mountains, and valleys dominated by the climate—rain in the winter months and long, dry summers. This is in great contrast to the vibrant summer greens, fall golds and reds, or stark greys and whites of New England landscapes. My love of our bright fall colors was a running joke in Laura’s watercolor classes.

I am concentrating more on flowers, individual arrangements and abstract interpretations of nature. My Asian vine is from a photo my eldest son took in Alameda, Calif. It reminded me of a Chinese watercolor class I took in about seventh grade and several Japanese prints that Fred Wilhelm gave to his children. Abstracts of sunflowers, thistles and other colorful exhibits of summer are fun to paint, and the results give me joy.

Interestingly, painting the abstracts has helped me use a looser style on landscapes where the tone is more important than the details. An example is an early morning scene on a lake in New Hampshire where the loose reflections of foliage on the lightly ruffled water is more central than the background foliage. I cannot wait for fall colors to emerge, and I try more abstract interpretations of my favorite reds, golds, and yellows!

Laura J. Eden 

Summer at the landing painting. Photo by Laura Eden

Medium: Watercolor and egg tempera paintings


Member of Granby Artists since: 2001 (charter member)

What inspired you to become an artist?

I think art is in my genes! Since I was five years old, or younger, I have created. My maternal grandmother was an artist and my mom majored in art in college, though she didn’t pursue it as a career. It was still in her blood. For me it was never really a choice, it was a given. I don’t think I ever considered any other life path.

What inspires your art?

I am completely inspired by the natural world and its intricate beauty. Granby offers an abundance of amazing woodland inspiration with the many wonderful Land Trust properties. I have also always been drawn to the sea. Most of my galleries over the years are close to the coast, which affords me the opportunity to paint many ocean-inspired landscapes. I just completed a large commission inspired from the Cape that I am very happy with. I will have a new print of it ready for Open Studio coming up Oct. 16-17 from 10-4. Please come to my studio and see!

Laura works on Summer at the landing. Photo by Meg Pascucci Photography

What made you choose your primary medium?

Watercolor has always suited me. I am too impatient to work in oils. I love its sensitive luminescence, how quickly it dries, and how there is no waste or cumbersome cleanup. My style is extremely detailed for this medium so I moved into egg tempera in 2002, which is also water based, but more permanent and allows for much more detail. It was a natural evolution. My knowledge of both mediums has recently merged in a new way. I have employed many egg tempera properties in my watercolors, and watercolor techniques in my egg temperas. This keeps my work fresh and keeps my brain growing.

Do you teach your craft?

Teaching keeps my creative brain alive and flexible. I love to share my excitement for painting and the knowledge I have gained from 40 years of creating and teaching art. Covid has changed my teaching quite a bit, forcing me to learn Zoom to teach. Surprisingly there are many benefits to online teaching. I can teach students from far away and I record my lessons so my students can review the techniques and watch the class at their convenience. I missed the live interaction and have just returned to in-person classes, but I am still zooming simultaneously for those not able to return live.

What is your most exciting aspect of being an artist?

I love interacting with my clients and students and seeing how my art helps make their world richer.

Tell us about a satisfying art accomplishment you have had.

In the 1980s I couldn’t paint fast enough. The economy was amazing and I was young and energetic. I am humbled to say that I sold enough paintings to be able to purchase my first home. That was a very proud moment.