Interview with Mary Ann Beckwith

Joe Miller (JM): I'm Joe with Cheap Joe's Art Stuff and I'm very honored to have with me this morning Mary Ann Beckwith - who's our workshop instructor this week and this is her 2nd or 3rd time to be here.

MB: Thanks so much, it's so much fun to be here!

JM: Now where are you from again?

MB: I'm from upper Michigan, about 550 miles north of Detroit, just take the highway and keep going.

JM: I love your work and what you do. I've always admired you and your work and signature status in several of the big socieities. We're proud of that for you. What brought you to art?

MB: Well my parents traveled all over the country. I went to 8 grade schools, and 4 high schools and the thing that was always constant in my life was either a coloring book, sketchbook, crayons, or pencils and that was my best friend. I found that I really liked my best friend and started really getting serious about it. About my 3rd year of high school, I ran into an art teacher who said I could come take art classes with the old ladies. And I did and was hooked. There's nothing better!

JM: Having sat in on your class this week you're an extraordinary teacher. You give so much and everybody there just soaks it up and has a good time. You evidently really enjoy teaching.

MB: I've taught a long time and after a while you kinda get the hang of it! I've learned so much from other teachers and they taught me how to teach because I've always loved this workshop thing. I hope it just lives on forever and ever because teachers share with one another their information, we share with the students, and the students bring us things that they know. So it's a wonderful cycle of learning and new things being introduced all the way around.

JM: What a great way to look at it. Of course your name and your art will live on and at the end of this we're going to show you some of Mary Ann's art which is just absolutely beautiful.

What inspires you about a particular painting - I know you keep several going at one time and then something spurs you to go to a certain direction with it.

MB: I actually start six or seven paintings in the morning and then I wait until one speaks to me, and I develop the idea behind that. Part of it is a belief in my life. I believe that anything I want to have communicated to be positive and to be something that inspires or elevates people or makes their day better. That's what I want my art to be. I think there's enough darkness in the world and always has been so let's keep it light and make it something tht really is soul-provoking for people.

So we start several paintings in the morning and I may be working on one painting now and in 20 minutes it may be drying and another painting is in the works, then 30 minutes later another painting is getting a special treatment of some sort.That's the way I like to work - not one at a time, but many at a time.

JM: Your work is inspiring when I see it, and I begin to try and look at how you did it. Then I see your process and it's so much fun, it's a fun way to paint. One time a friend told me that you create an environment of happiness in the workshop and it inspires them so that they want to go do what you're doing. But this friend told me that when you create a happy environment, you become part of it.

MB: It's true. You can get way too serious about art, too, but art should be about playing and letting out that inner spirit within each person. If they're in an inhibited environment they won't do that. But if they're in an envionment where they're comfortable and happy - and you help do that, too.
I've never been anywhere where every morning there's a present on the table, and every morning there's someone checking to see that we're fed well and coffee is there. We're given time to work as long as we need, too, and lots of things go into making a good workshop - not just the teacher.

JM: They do and I take great pride in our place here. The gang that we have here is incredible and we, too want to create an environment of happiness and creativity and I get to be a part of it! I have one more big question, where do you get most of your art materials?

MB: I get most of it at Cheap Joe's and I did most of it this week as a matter of fact! I think I came down with 2 boxes and I think I'm taking home 4!

JM: Well we can ship it for you, don't worry.

MB: Thank you, that would be great!

JM: It's great having you here and we appreciate all of you, too!

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