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BRUSHSTROKE ART & DESIGN
9079 Saint Andrews Way
Mount Dora, Florida, 32757
betsy@brushstroke.com
407.761.7007

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Betsy Arvelo Buzbee PortraitI grew up in the outskirts of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I am thankful for that experience since it gave me most of the tools I needed to live by. The country was quiet and wild. We played in the trees, eating tropical fruits, playing with the native bugs and animals, and just exploring nature. This proved to be a wonderful canvas for my life.

I have painted since the day I found tempera paints in my mother's closet at the age of 4. My mother set them up for me and I could not get enough of the smell and the colors. It was magical.  At around 10, my mother bought me a set of Paint by Numbers. These were oil paints! The sweet smell of those oil paints was another memorable experience. In 1965, while living in Miami, Fl, I found an art store very near my school. If I got good grades, I was allowed to go out for lunch on Fridays. I was in the honor role the whole time I attended that school and spent lunches at this magical store dreaming about being an artist. In 1966, my family moved back to the Dominican Republic where I attended an American college prep high school set up for the US Embassy kids, graduating in 1970.

After attending three years of art school at APEC, in the Dominican Republic, my husband, Tom Buzbee, and I attended Tyler School of Art of Temple University in Philadelphia, a life-changing experience for both. My daughter, Avaryl, was born in 1979 and we moved to the Dominican Republic. I exhibited in the Bienal of Santo Domingo in 1977 and 1979 and also had joint exhibits with husband Tom Buzbee at the Casa de Teatro Gallery in Santo Domingo, and in Easton, Maryland in 1979. In 1981 I moved to Altos de Chavón, Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic, where I helped to manage the art galleries and was director of the Artist-In-Residence Program (AIR)—an exchange cultural program to provide the perfect environment to share ideas between Dominican and International Artists. Later I too became part of the AIR program, and maintained a studio there until I held a very successful solo Exhibit “Details” at Casa de Teatro gallery in Santo Domingo. The exhibit received great reviews from all the local art critics and artists. I was also founding director of the Grahic Design Department. I moved to Mount Dora, FL where I worked as art consultant for the Mount Dora Art Festival.  In 1985 I co-founded the Mount Dora Center for the Arts in Mount Dora, FL and was its founding director. I left the center to work as Exhibit Designer for the John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, in Sarasota, FL. In 1988 I opened an art studio in Mount Dora until 2000. In 2000 I moved to Huntsville, AL, to work for the NASA Public Affairs Office until 1992. In 1994 I was exposed to the Internet and it opened a whole new world for me. I moved to Florida where I worked as a Web Designer for a few companies until being hired by World Publishing Company, a magazine publisher, where I worked first as director of the Web Design department, then as Art Director for Caribbean Travel & Life magazine, and finally, as Senior Art Director for the Marketing Department. I freelanced from 2006 until 2008, when I went to work for Orlando Home & Leisure Magazine, first as Art Director, then as Creative Director. In 2009 I was part of a watercolor exhibit at the Mount Dora Center for the Arts. Click here for a complete resume.

I have freelanced under Brushstroke since 1996 while pursuing all else above and full time since 2009.

TECHNIQUE

I am a trained artist. Although I have worked with oils, acrylics, watercolors, ceramics, wood sculpture, and much more, I define myself as a watercolorist. Watercolor allows me to be much more spontaneous than oils and acrylics and I also love the fact that it is so basic: you work on hand-made papers, with water based paints that are all organic and brushes made of real animal hairs. It keeps it all very close to nature for me. Natural paints and beautiful colors. Easy to travel with  and very little preparation. I can walk away from a painting and come back months later and everything is still the same. I can sit and start painting again.

I start every piece by drawing in the shapes with pencil. This is to block in shapes. Then I do wet on wet to get the paints running into each other to create beautiful textures. After you have those textures in place, you start working areas deciding which areas to keep and accentuate, and where to cover them up. The painting starts emerging. Other than the wet on wet, I never mix colors. If I need to paint a purple, I lay down a blue layer, wait until it dries and then add a red one to achieve the purple. These coats or layers are done very minimally. I use very little color and add one at a time until I get the color I want. Some of the painting areas are made of hundreds of these layers. This is what keeps the colors so brilliant. Otherwise, they get dirty and muted. It is also a very lengthy process. I was very inspired by Maxfield Parrish. He worked this way with oils. Never mixing colors, doing glazes to achieve mixtures. His paintings are as beautiful and vibrant as the day he finished them.

I paint on stretched Arches or Fabriano papers. They are both cotton rag papers with Fabriano still being produced in the same mill since the 1300s. Beautiful papers. Once they are stretched, they don't buckle or shift. I use cold pressed for watercolors and hot pressed for graphite  drawing. 


Magnolias

Magnolia 4
2009
Watercolors on Paper 24" x 30"
From the "Masters of Watercolor" Exhibit at the Mount Dora Center for the Arts 2009
Artist's collection

This is probably the most ambitious painting I have ever done. It took me a while to complete it since it is very intricate. I learned a lot from the process.

Betsy Arvelo Magnolia 4 Watercolor painting

 

Magnolia 1
2009
Watercolors on Paper
From the "Masters of Watercolor" Exhibit at the Mount Dora Center for the Arts 2009
Artist's collection

This was the first one of the series and the first one after not painting for about 18 years. There were many frustrating days, at first, and then, magic... I really like a lot of the found areas in this painting.

Betsy Arvelo Magnolia 1 Watercolor painting

 

Magnolia 2
2009
Watercolors on Paper
From the "Masters of Watercolor" Exhibit at the Mount Dora Center for the Arts 2009
Artist's collection

This painting was more of a study. I didn't really intend to keep it. But, it was the beginning of a direction so I continued working on it.

Betsy Arvelo Magnolia 2 Watercolor painting

 

Magnolia 6
2009
Watercolors on Paper
From the "Masters of Watercolor" Exhibit at the Mount Dora Center for the Arts 2009
Artist's collection

This was the last Magnolia before things changed and I had to stop painting, again. This is my favorite of the Magnolia series. It is looser and more direct.

Betsy Arvelo Magnolia 6 Watercolor painting

 

Older Works

The common thread through my older works is found art. I collected objects that I found in my walks or traveling. These objects would then find themselves hanging in my studio walls. I would look around and study the spaces until I found the next painting. I did a few oil paintings through the years, but, although I love the smell, oils are really not my thing. I can be so much freer and more spontaneous with watercolors. Most of it is out of my control. All I can do is work some areas while never touching others because the "accidents" that happen are perfect.

The drawings are all graphite on Fabriano Hot-Pressed Paper. I worked with several light sources in order to create shadows that interwove with each other. To me the objects were OK, but the shadows were the interesting part. It makes or breaks the objects.

 

DRAWINGS

Las Campanas Tocan
1988
Graphite on Fabriano Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper 24" x 30"
Solo Exhibit Artist Studio 1990
Artist's collection

I had not done art in a while and wanted to get back into it. Didn't really want to do rusty watercolors. But, had these Indian bells that I loved so I hung them from this grid that I found next to a dumpster.  Used three light sources so that the shadows would play with each other. It was great fun.

Las Campanas Tocan, graphite drawing on paper

 

 

Collar del Troglodita
1988
Graphite on Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper
Solo Exhibit Artist Studio 1990
Artist's collection

I found these concrete nails and I thought they were really cool. I pictured some neanderthal waring them around his neck.

El Collar del Troglodita, graphite drawing on paper

 

Naturaleza Muerta
1989
Graphite on Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper
Solo Exhibit Artist Studio 1990
Artist's collection

Still Life in Spanish is Naturaleza Muerta (Dead Nature) and I thought it would be fun to use that as the name for this piece since it was all dead nature anyhow. I have always collected wasp nests. They are nature's paper sculptures. Each one is unique and the patterns they create are so intricate and beautiful.

Naturaleza Muerta, graphite on Fabriano paper

 

 

Ringling Shell
1990
Graphite on Hot Pressed Fabriano Paper
Solo Exhibit Artist Studio 1990
Artist's collection

I found this little shell in the small beach behind the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. I worked there for 3 years and went down to this beach every day to eat my lunch. For some reason, the beach was full of these kinds of shells.

Ringling Shell, Graphite Drawing on Fabriano paper

 

 

Molondrónes Secos
1989
Graphite on Fabriano Paper
Solo Exhibit Artist Studio 1990
Artist's collection

I had never seen dried okras before. I didn't realize that they turn to something like drift wood. I found these in a thrift shop in Mount Dora, back in the 80's and took them to my studio. It was great to draw the textures of the dried wood with pencil.

Molondrones, Graphite drawing on Fabriano paper

 

WATERCOLORS

African Violets
1994
Watercolors on Paper
Solo Exhibit Artist Studio 1990
Artist Collection

This is a precious little painting. One that I have worked on a few times through the years until I got it where I wanted it to go. It is only about 12" wide.  I love the leaves. 

African Violet, watercolor and gouache on paper

 

Las Barajas... Jamaica
1983
Watercolors on Paper 24 x 30"
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983
Artist Collection

This was a break-through painting. It was the first of the paintings experimenting with drips and torn paper, and splatters and just letting watercolors do what they do best: run. I thought I was in love with this guy, but it wasn't in the cards. He turned out to be a creep so it was all for the better.

Las Barajas, watercolor on paper

Detail

Las Barajas detail, watercolor on Arches paper

El Cuadro de Aurelio
1983
Watercolors on Paper 24" x 30"
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983
Collection of Aurelio Grisanty

El Cuadro de Aurelio, watercolor on Arches paper

Carnaval
1983
Watercolors on Paper 24" x 30"
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983

I stretched watercolor paper to start a painting. I had gone to the carnival a couple of days before. The three strips of serpentine fell from a table and landed on the paper. So, that is how the idea started. The rest were all found objects from my morning walks. Road kill:)

Carnaval, watercolor on Arches paper

 

Colección del Cocolo
1983
Watercolors on Paper
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983
Artist's collection

I went to San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic, and there was a cocolo (English speaking blacks from, or descendants of,  the other Caribbean islands or US) that had a little shop full of junk. I bought about $5. worth and made this set up. I had that little box for years. I could never figure out what it was made for.

La Colecion del Cocolo, watercolor on Arches paper

 

Clock
1983
Watercolor on Paper

All the objects in this one were chosen for their shapes and colors, and the shadow shape they casted. The clock was great fun to paint.

Clock, watercolor on Arcches paper

 

El Sol Brilla
1983
Watercolor on Paper
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983
Collection of Harlow and Michell Middleton

Someone gave me a couple of these Haitian suns. You put them at the entrance of your home to ward off bad spirits. This one stayed outside for a while and rusted to a bright red. The other pieces were chosen for their colors and shapes. I love the rubber bands and their shadows. 

El Sol Brilla, watercolor on paper

 

Pa Que? La Sangre é de verdá
1983
Watercolor on Paper
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983
Collection of Harlow and Michell Middleton

My only political piece. These are spent American shell casings from the 1965 Dominican Civil War. I don't remember how I got them. I think a GI gave them to my cousin Sandra. I painted them and then thought of doing the red blood dripping. I started framing the piece and cut myself... perfect! So, I dripped the blood on the painting. The dark spots are real blood. Creepy:)

Pa Que? la Sangre E-de-Verda, watercolor on paper

 

Mick's Pulley
1980
Watercolors on paper 24" x 30"
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983

My neighbor, Mick,  gave me most of these elements. The little tin box was from the Maitland Flea Market. This painting was dedicated to him.

Mick's Pulley, watercolor on paper

El Higuero
1979
Watercolors on paper 24" x 30"
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983

My first watercolor. I donated it to a Foundation in the DR years ago. Would love to know where it ended up.  Tommy was taking a watercolor class at Tyler and came home every night to play with what he had learned. So, he showed me what he was doing and I did this painting. It is really nice study of lost and found. I realized that this came very easily to me. I have been a watercolorist since then. 

El Higuero, watercolor on paper

 

Daña Eta
1983
Watercolor on Paper
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983

This is dedicated to our maid Julia, who, went through countless irons through the years. We used to gauge objects as Julia-proof or not. But, she was the best cook ever, so an iron here and there was worth it.  Julia put up with all of us, specially my brothers, through our teens. Just for that she should have a front row seat in heaven.

Daña Eta, watercolor on Arches paper

 

V de Vivian
1983
Watercolor on Paper
From the "Details" Solo Exhibit at Casa de Teatro 1983

License plate, found object.

V de Vivian, watercolor on Arches paper

 

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