Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For Spacious Skies and Rainy Weather

I got this book by Eric Sloane for Christmas. It's a wonderful, informative read! I came across some interesting comments about weather and creativity, and found it delightful that today it just so happens to be raining (again!) in Southern California. Listen to what Mr. Sloane has to say:

"Rainy days are regarded as depressing, not conducive to work, yet I find that my best writing and painting occurs during the lowering pressure of stormy days. When the day is dreary and the falling barometer fortells a storm, I hurry home to my studio to make use of the "good weather" for working.

The American naturalist John Burroughs said, 'Rain is an necessary to the human mind as to vegatation. My very thoughts become thirsty, and I crave moisture'. Before a storm, animals and insects become nervous; flies bite, fish rise, dogs become alert, birds dress their feathers, horses get quick-tempered and are liable to bolt. Lowering air pressure releases gases and odors that stimulate animal sensitivity. It is natural to presume that humans, too, react to pre-storm weather; at least they feel some sort of restlessness conducive to creativity (I wonder if this contributes to my impulsive decision to drive to Idyllwild yesterday..?)  You will hear an artist or writer say that he can do his best work 'near a fireplace, snug inside while the weather is roaring outside'. His ideas are stimulated by the slight reduction of oxygen in his arteries, possibly to the extent of one glass of wine. I find that on so-called good days I enjoy resting or vacationing with less thought of work, while written thoughts and paintings pour forth copiously in hurricane weather.

Perhaps that old thrill of walking in the rain (remember it?) will come back someday and there will be more weather-minded people to enjoy whatever the sky happens to have in store for us. To those who remark, 'Isn't it a rotten day?' I reply 'Yes, but isn't it a wonderful rotten day!' I think I shall buy rubber boots again and enjoy the pleasure of sloshing" (Sloane 41-42).

What do you think? Are you more creative when it rains?

Retreat to Idyllwild

I get this crazy urge to go to the mountains each time another year comes to a close. I think it helps give me space to see everything that happened over the year, to reflect on the blessings and the things I need to improve. Knowing that another rainstorm was coming, I decided NOW was the time to go, otherwise there'd be no way of getting up the hill with all the fresh snow.

So, I spent yesterday by myself in the little artsy village of Idyllwild, CA. It was a perfectly clear and sunny day! I did some post-Christmas shopping, enjoyed a latte while staring up at the Tahquitz monolith pondering all sorts of things. I checked out the Idyllwild Arts Academy (a huge forest campus for high school kids) then went for a hike at Idyllwild park. It always seems to happen that I miss the trail and go an extra few miles out of my way...the total hike ended up being an hour longer than intended and I was practically running down trail to get back to my car before sundown! It was a fun adventure the whole day long, and I feel quite refreshed from the clean air, rugged tree bark and rocks, soft pine needles underfoot and glittering snowdrops. Here are some pics:

 I stopped at a turnout on the drive up and snapped this picture. Amazing visibility!

 Tahquitz peak!

 Festive flags in the village

 There was snow on the trail!

The summit trail took me alll the way to the top before dropping back down into the forest (the unintended extra hour was visually rewarding)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

As of late...

This first week of winter break has been awesome! I'm working with an 11 year old student, preparing her portfolio for the OSCHA audition in Feb/March. We've been putting in some intense hours designing, painting, and discussing composition (3 or 4 hours a day, and this kid is only 11!) I'm totally impressed and love working with someone so focused and passionate about art. In the evenings I've been teaching cycle (Spinning) at the gym and picking up a few extra classes from other instructors who had to leave town for the holidays. Fun full days! Feels great to work out after being cooped up all day, esp. with this all this crazy rain.

During my own studio time I've been working on a magazine cover commission for Concrete Network, some characters in scene for a Creative Director, and oil paintings for my Grad show (current piece in progress is "The Devourlings" coming soon).

I {might} be creating a T-shirt design for Viva La Art!'s clothing line for the Grammy's MusiCare foundation! I have some ideas in mind and can't wait to see what turns out. The details on this should be solidified soon, I'll let you know what comes of it.

So, the first week of Christmas break has been pretty darn good. I've been able to catch up on my reading with I cherish so much. My book list for the break is Van Gogh's Untold Journey by William Havlicek, Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuck, and Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finaly.

Only a few more days until Christmas! Have a blessed and merry day with family. I'll be celebrating Emmanuel, "God with us"!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Prayer Mountain

My latest project is an album cover for a Christian ministry in Uganda, Africa. It's a compilation of various singer/songwriters from the States, featuring my friend Jennifer Schroeder. She has traveled to Africa 4 different times, using her musical talent as a way to minister to the people of Uganda. The title of the album is Prayer Mountain. 

Below is the final art in progress. I used gouache on bristol board for this one.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

For Sanity's Sake

 It's Wednesday, it's winter, and I am finally free to hide out in my studio and create! This first day of freedom from school will be spent reflecting on the work that I did. I'm always amazed at how everything gets done! It's a mystery!

After some reflection, the second half of this day is about planning. There's a lot to do in 5 weeks! I'll be creating a magazine cover for Concrete Network, a CD album cover for a church ministry in Africa, giving private art lessons to 3 different students, and painting for my grad show.

So, now that I can cross blogging off of my list, I'm going to sweep up the studio so I have somewhere to think.

I will be posting progress pics of all my projects, so please make another visit to Katy Betz Studio!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thesis is DUE on MONDAY!

I am in awe that in one week I'll be done writing my Graduate thesis! The experience wasn't nearly as bad as people said. But, considering that my research process took about 6 months, all the hard work is now one big blur. I just remember there were about 8 solid weekends of typing and editing. So, can you guess what my topic is by looking at this stack of books?

The topic is on postmodern irony vs. sincerity in religious-themed artwork, as seen through an analysis of two exhibitions curated in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks: 100 Artists See God & 100 Artists See Satan. I argue that a cultural shift is taking place in favor of sincerity thanks to Stuckism, Remodernism, and Post-Postmodernism (movements that balance irony with sincerity through methods of originality, nostalgia, and personal conviction.) It's about 35 pages.

Oh joy! Can't wait to hand this sucker in!! By the way - our professor is having us meet at a Hookah bar on the day it's due!? Go figure!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I've been working on charcoal drawings for a group holiday show, and for subject matter I'm using ideas for my Graduate Show, "Guardians of the Heart". Inspired by C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and other great fantasy epics, it is my own epic conceptual narrative. So far I have 7 completed, 3 more to go for the show. These were created over the weekend and on Mon-Tues.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Prayer Warrior

My friend Lauren and I are having an Art Day!! (which is where we hang out and crank out art) Here's another charcoal drawing that I made, and another is in progress as I type! Stay tuned to see more..

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guardian of the Heart: Shine

I'm working on a set of 10 charcoal drawings for the holiday show at Division 9 Gallery....which means I have to make at least 2 a day in order to meet their deadline! Luckily the first one turned out pretty fast, hopefully the others will too. I'm using this show as an opportunity to create value comps for my Guardian of the Heart series which will be for my Grad show in April. So, this drawing here will likely become a painting later on.

Scene Design

I developed a few characters for the book Lost Ones: Ghosts of Paris (which, by the way is NOW available on !) and now for fun I am designing scenes. This is a charcoal drawing of the character Dante.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SCBWI Illustrator's Day!

November 13th was Illustrator's Day! I was a volunteer this year - so fun! We had a great line-up of speakers and an awesome turnout.

- I missed author/illustrator Brian Floca's keynote speech because I was outside helping with the portfolio reviews!

- Agent/author Jennifer Rofe gave a presentation on how to promote your book. She and illustrator Mary Peterson just published their own book with Charlesbridge. One of her tips that really convicted me was "Learn to Write!!!" She said writing AND illustrating are gifts from God if you can do both, because they provide you with best of everything. Every time I think about writing, I feel overwhelmed - there's so much to learn! It's going to take a lot of practice, which means if I'm going to try I better start NOW.

- Rich Deas, designer and director at MacMillan Publishing, gave an inspirational lecture about his career and also shared insider tips of how he goes about finding and hiring artists. His advice: Get out there! You never know when you'll get a call. Send out samples, and make sure your compositions work as a thumbnail. Designs need to get the point across quickly. Also, networking and knowing people are your best in. He really praised everyone for being at the conference because usually he only responds to emails if he has met the person in real life.

- Editor Abigail Simon gaves 6 easy (difficult) steps to becoming a Kid's Book expert. 1) Do your homework (read 100 children's books). 2) Read Uri Shulevitz' book Writing with Pictures and Molly Bang's book Picture This. 3) Know the picture book format 4) Join a Kid's Lit Community (SCBWI) 5)Attend a Book trade show like ALA or Book Expo America to get a sense of the market. 6) Think like an editor. Answer these questions....why should I acquire this book? Who is the target audience? What are the competitive titles? What are the key selling points? What is my platform? What resources do I have to promote my book?

- Illustrator Dan Santat shared his career story with us - amazing! Some advice from Dan: 1) Never say you don't have enough time to work towards your goals. 2) Learn to say NO. 3) Befriend everyone you can on Facebook, network like crazy. 4) Never settle. Make the best, bring your best game if you want to run with the best.

 Illustrator's Day was long (I'm proud to say I was the first and last car in the parking lot!) but it was WAY worth the energy. Children's book people are incredibly friendly and every time I attend a conference put on by SCBWI, I feel more connected, inspired, and knowledgeable than I did before. I am already looking forward to the next one! 

Joe Sorren Show and Lecture

Ok, I've been slightly overwhelmed by all the art events that have been taking place. I'll begin by telling you about the one that got the ball rolling - the opening reception of "Interruption", a solo show of Joe Sorren's work at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana.

I first heard about Sorren from my friend Jacob. We were studying at Laguna College of Art & Design, and one day in the tiny library Jacob showed me a little red book full of Sorren paintings. I immediately connected with the work, especially the color palette, bizarre figures, and imaginative scenes.

Now here we are a few years later, and Sorren is here in town having a solo show. I HAD to go and meet him, of course. Lately I've been working in acrylics, but when I walked into the gallery I freaked out by how beautiful his oil paintings looked. The layering technique of oils produces such depth and luminous color! I knew then and there that working in acrylics was a waste of time (at least when it comes to gallery work). I bought Sorren's book and had him sign it! Here's a documentation of the me meeting Joe (pictures courtesy of Jennifer Cheng).

If you are not able to see the Interruption Show in person, you can take a virtual tour at

OK. If meeting Joe Sorren wasn't awesome enough, he then came to Cal State Fullerton to give a lecture! I got to sit and chat with him about his process. Here's what I found out:

- He stopped doing illustration in 1999 and now just paints for galleries.
- He has a solo show about every 3 years.
- Two of his influences are JMW Turner and Seurat because they were risk-takers.
- His painting process is intuitive and subconcious. He doesn't sketch or plan. He gets a canvas out and begins pushing paint around, guided by an internal dialogue.
- He doesn't use reference because he prefers to see what his memory and imagination can invent.
- He prepares his canvases with 3 layers of gesso (sanding between coats) then puts a layer of Gamblin Galkyd to give a mirror-like smooth surface. He also uses Galkyd to "save" layers during the painting process.
- ADVICE: 1. Make the best piece you can at that moment in time. 2. Surprise yourself, keep the wonder and you will always stay fresh and inspired and in love with what you do as an artist. 3. Believe in what you are doing, and others will believe too.

What I loved most about Sorren's lecture was that he openly stated he is trying to be as true and sincere as possible. He said he enjoys keeping his work "Rated G" although his paintings deal with tough themes. He confessed that he is "dopey in his heart"and doesn't need to be "hard core" or all about the money. Instead it's his desire to make art that transcends and lasts.

I find myself relating to Sorren's philosophies and artistic practices. I recently went to a lecture by Gary Baseman (blog post on this coming soon) and was not inspired at all, rather disturbed. It's because my world view doesn't align with someone like Baseman, but I do find my aspirations taking similar shape as Sorren. Perhaps this is why I feel a strong connection to his work.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Indications of the holidays are all around, and a few come in the form of art shows. Each year, I look forward to Division 9 Gallery's "50 @ the 9" show, Sarah Bain Gallery's "Holiday Group Show", and the Riverside Art Museum's "Off the Wall" show, all of which are meant to provide collectors with an opportunity to buy art to give as presents. They make perfect little gifts!

 This year I have 4 pieces of art in the RAM's "Off the Wall" exhibition and sale. Here are two of the four: Charcoal on watercolor paper with a ornate trimmed border, floated on a 4x5 wood block.



Monday, November 1, 2010


Hey everyone, I am excited to show you some new charcoal drawings I made this weekend! These are done with charcoal on watercolor paper, then mounted onto wood panel. I took these from my sketchbook and brought them to a finish, and I think they will come in handy as value studies for future color paintings. FYI the black border is not part of the piece, but I left it on there so the decorative border would be visible.  ;)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Musicorns to the Rescue

Finally, this painting is looking finished. I've been working on and off, having to put it aside to type my thesis. Maybe a few more adjustments, but for right now it's time to move on to the next one!

Heart studies

I'm creating a few 6x6 and 4x4 paintings for the upcoming show at Memphis Cafe in Santa Ana, and using it as an opportunity to create heart studies for the Musicorn series. So far I finished one, and have sketched out the other. More details on the show to come!

Viva La Art! auction for CoachArt

On November 20th, Viva La Art! is hosting an art auction to raise funds for CoachArt, a foundation that provides free art and athletic lessons for chronically ill kids. I have donated a painting because I believe CoachArt is a real blessing for these kids, and they help to create space for imagination in other's lives! Please come out to support us on November 20th! Check out the websites for Viva La Art! and CoachArt to learn more:


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Trailer

Check out the book trailer for the YA novel that I illustrated - Lost Ones: Ghosts of Paris. It's available this November! Such a good story, written by Christie Franke, you'll want to pick up a copy.

What's happenin'

I'm creating new artwork for an upcoming group show at Memphis Cafe in Santa Ana! Jennifer Frias from Six Pack Projects is curating the show, and all the work will be 6x6 or 4x4 (bar napkin size =). Art will be sold for $40 each, so stay tuned to find out the date for the opening reception.

I'll be creating 4 pieces for the show, inspired by my new Unicorn series. I'm excited, and will post pics asap.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rainbows and Leprechauns!

I finished the Leprechaun illustration for Spider Magazine today! I'm still thinking of adding a few coins flying out...going to play around with that in Photoshop before I paint anything. This is done in acrylic on illustration board, 8x10 (100%). The poem will replace my Copyright, and will published in March '11.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

944 Magazine

A few months ago, I was contacted to be included in 944 Magazine's special October Art Issue, and now it's finally available in print. Check out their website to see the distribution list of where you can pick up a copy. You can catch a glimpse of page 78 below or flip through the magazine online ->

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spider Magazine Sketches

These sketches are for Spider magazine's March '11 issue. My favorite thing about being an illustrator is getting a new assignment like this and doing research. I went to the college library and there were tons of books on Irish folklore and Leprechauns. So very interesting, I sometimes wish I could spend all my time reading.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

To the Rescue!

I've been working every spare moment to paint my grad show pictures. So far I am moving at a steady pace, using class time to sketch and then painting in the studio late at night. Finally, I had my work critiqued this past Friday - it went pretty good! Lots of ideas and enthusiasm, suggestions and encouragement to keep pushing for more. I am excited!

Below are some work in progress pictures for the first truly "epic" piece of the series, seen here at about 30% complete. This piece is a close-up of the Guardians on their flying Narwhals. As a conceptual narrative fantasy series, it comes right after another painting that is also in progress (pics coming soon).

Meanwhile, I'm still thinking up a title for this one... any ideas?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Green and Purple Musicorns

These two paintings complete the series of 6 musicorns! I'm thinking of painting portraits of the demons next to set up both sides, the good team and the bad team so to speak. I've also decided I'm going to redo the Yellow Unicorn because I want all of them to look like children, and the Yellow Unicorn looks like a fat opera singer =P But that will happen at a later time. Right now, I need to keep making paintings! The do-overs can wait =)

Monday, September 6, 2010


The bad guys are here!
These little demons are the antagonists for my "Guardians of the Heart" story. Everything is evolving slowly into what it will ultimately become. Right now, I am calling these creatures the Satyrstitches.

I ordered an anatomical heart model to help me create a new stylized version of a heart for this story. I enjoy having things like this sit around the studio! The company that made this model has a huge catalog, and there's one model of a man's head where the upper half of his cranium is removed exposing his brains - disgusting and I totally want to buy it!!!

Last but not least, I went to PIP Printing to photocopy all my preliminary work and pinned the drawings up on the wall.
It really helps to see everything all at once. My goal for this week is to finalize 2 line drawings and do value studies on the computer so I can start painting. I'll post the progress as it happens.

Thanks for following!!

Jean-Leon Gerome

 I made it out to the Getty Museum's exhibition on Jean-Leon Gerome! EXQUISITE!!! I was especially interested in Gerome's work after traveling to Morocco last summer. His paintings looked like my vacation photos! I had imagined Gerome's paintings to be huge, but to my surprise and delight they were quite medium-sized. Apparently they weren't made for some epic palace commission, but rather ethnographic documentation. Gerome must have had a collection of single-hair brushes, because some of the details are sooo tiny, it just leaves me in awe. Looking at some of the figures, I felt like I could reach in and pluck them right out of the scene, they were so real. They breathed. Every value was perfect to give the illusion of reality. I was thoroughly impressed, completely bewitched by the beauty of his paintings. The show is up until September 12th, it is a must see!!!