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Beth Berst always has a tune playing in her head. Sometimes as she emails people at her tangerine iMac or mixes up a new bread recipe in her tangerine Kitchenaid stand mixer, she often starts humming a random made-up tune out loud without even realizing it. When Beth picks up a pencil or a radiograph, her creativity pours out almost as automatically as does her soundtrack.

Beth does not work with just one medium, but a variety; it changes about every month. Recently, she became very excited when she found a burnt sepia fine tip pen that she has been looking for; she always does favor an earth tone palette. No matter what tool she picks up, her illustrations always
have a nice inviting innocence to them. When most people look at her artwork (just read the viewer comments on her blog), they feel inspired, charmed, nostalgic, or happy. It will usually provoke a smile or a tear, or both.

- Chad Gregory

Visit Beth's online creative home at

When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
Shortly after learning to tie my shoes, I'd crawl the ladder to the loft space of my Grandparent's barn and arrange bales of hay into makeshift sofas and tables, sketching onto scraps of paper. Using scotch tape, I'd hang all of my fine drawings of dogs, birds, girls & trees onto the dusty barn walls and pretend that it was my gallery. The cats and the barn swallows would all come to look at my art and purr and nod their approval. This made me happy, and I knew that I wanted to stay that happy for the rest of my life.

Who or what inspires you?
Inspiration comes to me from a multitude of people & places. I really appreciate nature, and can easily pick up creative vibes while on travels, hikes & adventures. It is that feeling of being free, which allows me tap into myself that is inspiring. I also like the urban environment- the textures of stone buildings, the narrow feeling of alleyways, store windows, the faces of strangers. A good balance of both the untouched country and the worn out city. I'm also drawn to textiles- curtains, pillows & wallpaper. Flavors and textures of new foods inspire me a great deal, too. Or maybe I just use that as an excuse to eat.

One particular artist who has been a huge inspiration to me is Margaret Kilgallen. She appreciated the same core things that I believe in. Making things with the hand, knowing that the hand is not perfect, that it creates lines that waver (as she would say). And that is beautiful. In this modern world, where many things are done on the computer or are mass-produced, it is refreshing to see something done by hand. Something that the artists put themselves into, taking the time to touch each piece and to become part of the process.

Another artist that inspires me is Souther Salazar. What really gets me excited about his work is that it is what I call friendly art. It is the type of art that speaks to you and says "Hey, come on over. Sit down and have a cup of tea and take a look around". It is all in the details. There really is a lot going on in his pieces. That is something that I always want to do, but I find myself stopping when it is safe. He just keeps going, and I admire that. It is one thing that I am trying to work on lately, to push past that safe zone and give something more for people to look at. Because there is a lot going on in my head, even a bit chaotic at times. And I want to dump all of that out onto paper, even if it is a bit messy.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago and met some wonderfully creative people there. My training was somewhat structured and traditional. Outside of the classroom I spent a lot of time sketching on the trains and in parks. There is plenty to learn in the classroom, but there is even more to learn inside of you.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
To keep fresh in the industry, I try to keep things fresh & interesting in my personal life. I also love to go to the galleries to learn about new artists and see what kinds of messages they are sending through their work. I like to see what others have taken the time to create. To feel their passions, and to know that everyone has a story.

What are some of your current projects?
This month, I am starting a year-long project with several other artists. It is a project called "Journeys", and I will be creating a new piece of art every month for 12 months. All of the art is going to end up in a book that is to be published early in 2007. I'm really excited about this project, and expect to learn a lot about myself and the other artists along the way.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I'm always most proud of whatever I am working on at the moment, so this changes weekly. I always get a satisfaction when I complete something, and completion is something to be proud of. To know that you can overcome obstacles and get something done that is honest & pure.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
There are so many techniques that I'd love to try! Where to begin? Last year I dabbled in beeswax and would really like to try encaustic painting. Silk screening is another process that I have played with, but would like to take it a step further and become more comfortable with the process. I love playing with new tools and materials.

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
The best advice I can give to those new to the industry is "Be open". Remain open to criticism, open to praise, open to change. Take up an internship or study under someone you admire. Network with other artists. Become involved in your community. Learn to be confident, yet remain humble. Learn how to soak up things and use that to build upon who you are. Take a sketchbook with you on your daily adventures. Sketch in it often. Don't think too hard about what you draw, just let it come free & natural. And of course, stay true to yourself.

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
A successful illustration is one that communicates a message or idea and creates feeling. I want people to feel. I want people to feel sad, happy, warm, indifferent... it does not matter what the feeling is. As long as they take something away from it and it creates emotion.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I keep myself motivated by reminding myself that others are counting on me to perform. I hate letting others down, so this is usually enough motivation. To avoid burnout, I learn balance. One of the hardest things to do is learning when to say "no". Sometimes you have to turn down a project when you have too much on your plate. You can't feel bad for that.

And finally, what is the best thing on prime time TV right now?
The weather channel, because I'm always looking to play outside and need to know how to dress. That and the thought of warm fronts can get me excited.

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Leeza Hernandez Illustrator said...

A great interview Beth, bravo! I'm getting to know you more and more. Your energy is incredible. Can't wait to start "Journeys" - it's in the mail, by the way - and thanks for coming on board with the project.
Much happiness, success and art love to you and the all the other artists in the world.... Leeza

David A. Bergner said...

Beth, what an awesome interview ... so Zen! Your art is full of joy and makes us feel it too! ~ Dave Bergner, RoboCrayon Studio

prettybutton said...

Beth, I recently stumbled upon your art while making a collage. Your art is so peaceful but full at the same time. Bravo! I want to make art like you!

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