We had the good fortune of connecting with Bethany Fortner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bethany, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
I don’t know if this came from a quote I heard elsewhere and internalized or from my own compilation of experiences, but I like to remind myself to ‘make art however I can make it.’ My philosophy for the past few years has been to metaphorically follow around my inner child as she wanders from idea to idea, enjoying her own creativity and exploring whatever sparks her curiosity. That means that sometimes I’m making art out of toilet paper and sometimes I’m watercolor painting. I’ve learned not to tell that inner child, “No we don’t know how to do that well enough” because she has her own kind of wisdom and her own level of stubbornness. What I learn by following her lead despite whatever experience I lack has been incredibly therapeutic. I find what I’m working on often parallels what I’m learning in therapy or what I’m experiencing in my relationships and, in fact, the art process deepens my understanding of it. So when I land on an idea I like and my concerns about perfection, or correctness start to creep in, I pick up my pen or my tablet or my paintbrush and I make it however I can anyway. Often that first wobbly attempt is the most meaningful piece to me out of a given collection in the end. When I create that way, I feel connected to and proud of my work in a way that is less affected by what others think. It’s still a work in progress. Sometimes I don’t get along with that little inner me, and that’s okay. We’ll just do the best we can.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Currently, I am working in watercolor and ink doing abstract paintings/drawings, although I have done self-portraiture, trash art, metalwork, acrylic and oil paintings to name a few. I think what sets my work a part is how much art I make and how many types of art I explore. I move from one series to the next working in completely different media sometimes, but exploring similar themes. I was fortunate enough to be encouraged in my pursuit of art by my family and friends growing up, so I did not have much in the way of external blocks to creating and owning an art business. I did however have some mental health issues that hindered my ability to accept myself enough to make the art I needed to make. I’m still unraveling that, and the process is visible, I think, in the evolution of my work. I am learning to trust myself, to make mistakes, to sit with discomfort, to risk putting myself out there enough to make a friend or share a story, and to love myself no matter what. It’s important to me to allow myself to be creative and I want others to feel like they can do that too in whatever way makes sense for them. Art is such an incredible way to practice things you learn from existing in the world as a human, and to practice accepting yourself where you’re at right now.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I tend to be a homebody and with Covid, I haven’t been out and about much, but there are a few places I venture out to visit when I’m ready to explore. As far as shops go, I enjoy perusing the shelves of zines at Wasted Ink Zine Distro. Practical Art in central Phoenix has so much funky art to explore that I can’t resist wandering in there for a while. On a nice day, I enjoy easy hiking at Lake Pleasant with a picnic lunch in my backpack. Every once in a while I take a trip to Wildlife World Zoo in the west valley and enjoy the sights and sounds of all the animals. Sometimes I bring a sketchbook and doodle all the amazing things I see there. As for food, I enjoy Olive & Ivy in Oldtown Scottsdale, Valle Luna Mexican Food, Chennai Chettinaad Palace for delicious Indian Food, Malees–also in Oldtown Scottsdale–serves amazing Tom Kha Gai, and El Guero Canelo for the yummiest Sonoran hot dogs.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I owe a lot of my ability to pursue my creative endeavors to my family. Both of my parents encouraged me to pursue and enjoy art growing up. My husband has always been interested in and supportive of the things I make. He also has made nearly every technological aspect of my art business possible, as technology is sort of confounding to me. I am incredibly grateful to all of my art teachers over the years (even the ones I didn’t get along with) for sharing their knowledge and giving me space to create. I also have found friendship and encouragement in the online communities of artists I have been a part of. Thank you all!