Reclaiming Orange by Betsy Gill

Betsy Gill is a painter and maker of found object art pieces.  She has a knack for producing interesting and cohesive shows of her own work in alternative spaces.  Her current show, Reclaiming Orange, is on view by appointment at her studio in downtown Boulder, Colorado.  Betsy chatted with me about Reclaiming Orange and the self-produced art show last week. What follows is a little of what she had to say.

Fantastic by Betsy Gill

“Fantastic,” found objects mounted and framed on view at “Reclaiming Orange,” a self-produced art show by Betsy Gill


What is Reclaiming Orange?  How did your idea for this show come about and evolve?

I was contemplating the idea of a show based on the color orange and thinking it would be fun to create what I saw as a 3-dimensional collage of orange in my studio. I realized, in light of current events, there were some negative associations with orange, but didn’t want that to deter me. Thus, the title Reclaiming Orange was born and I decided to donate a portion of sales to Boulder Valley Women’s Health Center and Planned Parenthood.

Reclaiming Orange by Betsy Gill

Arrangement, orange themed books on table with upholstered chairs


My starting point was a couple of large orange canvas paintings and found art I had already done. I then created a new collection of found art pieces with the theme in mind and started collecting anything I had that was orange — cards, books, furniture, accessories, etc.  A friend described it as “your life in orange.”

Infused with Love by Betsy Gill

“Infused with Love” by Betsy Gill, acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″


What does the color orange represent to you?

The color orange represents vibrancy, vitality, creativity and passion to me, all of which I feel are especially important now. The show was a way to celebrate all those things in community with others. I also created an interactive art project on one wall in the studio where people could write what orange means to them.

Betsy Gill

Betsy Gill, center, and friends wearing “Reclaiming Orange” t-shirts


You had a terrific crowd at your opening.  What are some of the things you did to market the show?

I’ve built a mailing list over many years of people who’ve been to my shows in the past and/or expressed an interest in my work who I sent postcards to. I also have an email list I sent the show announcement to. I am new to using social media, so for the first time created an event on Facebook.

Betsy Gill

Betsy Gill and friend, “Reclaiming Orange”


What is the best thing and the worst thing about producing a show of your own work? 

The best thing about producing a show of my own work is being able to shape it and bring it to fruition in the way I envision. The hard part is being responsible for every aspect of it — creating the work itself, hanging the show, planning and implementing the marketing, hosting the reception — all of which take time and money.

Found objects at Reclaiming Orange

An underloft arrangement of found object pieces and frames at Betsy Gill’s studio in Boulder, Colorado


I'm a Fan by Betsy Gill

“I’m a Fan,” found object, mounted and framed


 What advice do you have for artists seeking to self-produce a show in an alternative space?

A lot of work goes into something that may be limited to a short span of time and a limited audience. I hope to extend the reach of the show through social media.

Betsy Gill's Studio

Orange clock in windowsill on a snowy afternoon, Betsy Gill’s studio, Boulder, Colorado

Paper by 53

Yay!  We have an iPad in the house and I am all over it, learning how to use Paper by 53, an app I’ve been dying to dig into since I learned about it at Tapestry in March.  Paper is a simple, intuitive drawing tool for the iPad used mainly by illustrators.  It has a ton of potential as a sketching tool for painters.  I would love to see more fine artists get into it.


My first iPad drawing #madewithpaper


I’ve been using it for sketchnotes and to do casual sketching at home.  Here are a couple casual sketches I made of scenes from the The Knick, a TV series I like a lot.


“This Surgery Proves How High We Can Soar,” iPad drawing #madewithpaper



“This Is It, This Is All We Are,” iPad drawing #madewithpaper


Ready to try?  The app is simple enough for you to just download on your iPad or iPhone and start noodling around.  When you get stuck, check out this series of posts at mademistakes.  It is chock full of tips and will help un-stick you.  For more information geared toward data visualization and sketch notes, check out Catherine Madden’s website.  You may also find this free Skillshare video, How to Use Think Kit, helpful/interesting.

Working in Series

A series is a set of individual artworks connected by a theme. A series can be short and immediate (all the monotypes made in a single day). Or it can unfold over a period of years. Either way, working in series is a way to go deep.


A handful of pieces from One-Hundred Flowers.  When I work in series I’m working with ambition and thinking about scale.


The simplest way for an artist new to working in series to get going on one is to choose a single format – a single canvas size, or size and color of paper – and stick with it and see what happens.  The more limits you set, the more interesting the results you get will be.


Learning the Rules

There are as many ways to set limits and work in series as there are artists. I start with an image in my mind’s eye and go through a process I call learning the rules where I teach myself how to make it through trial and error. Like a memory of a dream, the mind’s-eye-image morphs as I add details in an attempt to pin it down. That is OK. I am working to join the imagined with the real at this point.  Some give and take is fine.


Work in progress: red branchy leaves with slight overlap, wax emulsion on paper, ©Laura Tyler


Work in progress: red branchy leaves, lots of overlap, wax emulsion on paper, ©Laura Tyler 

In the two test images above I’m asking questions about overlap. Which degree of overlap moves the image closer to the one in my mind’s eye?  Is overlap relevant to what I’m trying to do?  Once I have an answer I can make a rule/set a limit about overlap. (I know this sounds deliberate but in practice the process feels intuitive.)  Moving forward, I can keep limits or break them. But I absolutely enjoy being able to articulate them.  Limits enable consistency.  And on another level, they help me understand what my work is about.


What LImits Mean

The thing that excites me about limits, and part of what I hinted at in Art Practice vs. Play, is how the process, or practice, of setting limits is meaningful. Each limit you choose provides a glimpse into your interests, and into what you value as an artist. As the limits you choose for your work accumulate, what they signal becomes more compellingly specific. If you’re working intuitively (as I do with mind’s-eye-images) then setting limits is a way to bring the unconscious to light. And finally, by setting limits for your work, you are making your values visible.  Your viewers may not be able to articulate what they are, but if you’ve thought about it, you will be able to.  This will deepen what you understand about your work.  And it will help you talk about it.

Encaustic transfer effects

Here are some test pieces I made to show the effects you can get using a variety of photo transfer and embedding techniques with encaustic.

1. Office Paper

The roughed-up/tattered-edge look in the image below is characteristic of photos transferred onto an encaustic surface from office paper. They can have a vintage charm.

This laser printed image of a rusty pipe was transferred onto a prepared encaustic surface using water and a few simple tools. The tattered-edge appearance is characteristic of images transferred from office paper. It has a vintage charm.

This image of a rusty pipe was transferred from laser printed office paper onto a prepared encaustic surface using water and a few simple tools. © Laura Tyler

2. Baker’s Parchment

You can get a range of effects from crisp to ghostly by transferring images from baker’s parchment.

Image transferred from baker's parchment to encaustic.

Image transferred from baker’s parchment to encaustic. The creamy substrate is printmaking paper adhered to a birch plywood panel. © Laura Tyler

3. Rice Paper

A quick and simple way to incorporate small chunks of photography into your encaustic work is to print your images on rice paper and embed them. Since bubbles can be an issue (they get trapped under larger pieces of paper) this is a technique best suited to those who enjoy working with discrete pieces of imagery as opposed to whole sheets.

Image printed on rice paper and embedded in encaustic. The bright white substrate is encaustic gesso applied to a birch plywood panel.

Image printed on rice paper and embedded in encaustic. The bright white substrate is encaustic gesso applied to a birch plywood panel. © Laura Tyler

4. Printmaking Paper

Photos printed directly on an absorbent fine art paper like Stonehenge and mounted on a rigid panel can integrate beautifully with encaustic. The drawback to this technique is that it positions the photograph on the bottom layer of the artwork whereas transfers can happen on any layer.

Image laser printed onto Stonehenge, adhered to a plywood panel and coated with encaustic. © Laura Tyler

Image laser printed onto Stonehenge, adhered to a plywood panel and coated with encaustic. © Laura Tyler


Encaustic Transfer