Thursday, April 5, 2007

“Nature has a rhythm,” William Betts.

Artist William Betts (whose line painting Myth of Insight was just purchased by the Salt Lake Art Center) spoke as part of the Salt Lake Art Center’s Art Talks series on April 4, 2007. The presentation offered insight into the process used to develop the line paintings currently on display as part of Fab Ab (see previous post).

Mr. Betts captured the essence of modern and contemporary art by suggesting that painting now requires more than just skill. “The ability to make a great painting is not the same as the ability to paint. Making Paintings has always been about making objects.” This philosophy supports the artist’s work, which is largely created by a machine.

But make no mistake—the use of machinery does not simplify the creation of the line paintings. In fact, it may only make the process more difficult, requiring hundreds of hand-mixed colors that are applied individually using a large, computer-controlled plotter. Mr. Betts writes his own code to control the plotter. The machine has to be cleaned and reloaded for each color.

Particularly interesting is how the artist arrives at the abstract images that are translated in acrylic. Final paintings are absolute abstractions of photographs taken by the artist. A one-pixel slice is extracted and then “stretched” to create a unique series of lines. Paints are mixed to match the colors in the image. Then each color is applied individually to the board. Seeing the original photos and the final products makes one realize how much the paintings reflect the subject matter.

Mr. Betts also discussed his current work which uses plotter-applied acrylic dots in works of random paterns as well as re-imaginings of surveillance and traffic photos. These paintings seem to follow in the traditions of artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Georges Seurat, and even Damien Hirst. To see more of Mr. Betts’ work, visit

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