By Bob Bahr
Many SKBers have enjoyed watching Greg Beecham paint at the Dubois workshops, mainly at the Quick Draw event. Some have taken workshops with the artist.
One person has received special attention from Beecham for six years. And that person strongly felt that others should get a similar opportunity. Her name is Jennie Miller, and she’s Beecham’s sister.
“Jennie has been painting for 5 or 6 years and I’ve been mentoring her,” says Beecham. “She decided I should do a video. I told her I was not averse to it, but I wasn’t going to work hard to make it happen.”
Miller made it easy, with the help of her studio mate, Charlene Roake. The result is “Confessions of a Wildlife Artist: In the Studio with Greg Beecham,” a five-disc DVD set spanning 8 hours and 43 minutes. Beecham says it took 10 hours to film, and when the film editor reviewed the footage, she had a hard time finding anything that needed to get cut. “We intended to make it shorter but we felt there was enough pertinent information to let it go,” says Beecham. “It was interesting to me that she found herself getting interested in it.”
The result is something more than a demo–it is a summation of Beecham’s teaching points. It’s a virtual workshop. “There’s not a lot new that I hadn’t done in demos before, but this one incorporated everything I had said to Jennie through all the time I’ve worked with her. It includes all that I say in workshops.”
Does he worry that the video will cannibalize his workshop business? “No, it will not hurt my workshops,” Beecham says. “I can respond to workshop attendees immediately and help them with their own work. They have time to paint, and I spend individual time with them. People want you to pay attention to them. It’s what a workshop gives that videos can’t.”
In any case, Beecham says that the DVD set was not conceived as a big moneymaker. Neither are his workshops. Both efforts constitute a giving back, a service provided. “I do workshops more as a service than to make money off of them,” says the artist. “I enjoy meeting people and the teaching, but I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t give another one. But here I am in my 39th year in the business–that’s quite a while–and I think back on my dad who was an artist and talking to Bob Kuhn and being tutored by others, and it strikes me that the generosity of people in wildlife art has been amazing. It’s not insular; it’s not full of people who don’t want to share. If I have asked for help or a critique, that has always been given. That’s something really good in a crazy mixed up world that I can be a part of as well.”
Beecham says one of the ways his DVDs are different is that he invited several people to ask him questions as he painted. This is his method in workshops when he paints demos. “I asked Jennie if they would prepare questions to ask me during the process to help me speak to their needs. Even in my workshops I teach better when I know where people want to go and what they want to learn. A brushstroke may provoke a question.”
The video was recorded last year and Miller is just getting rolling with the marketing of the project, but Beecham reports that it has been well received. “The reaction has been extremely positive,” he says. “Viewers and reviewers have said they are gratified by what they are learning,” he says rather plainly. If it sounds like Beecham is mildly enthusiastic, it’s because he is. But even as the artist spoke nonchalantly about the mammoth DVD set, a sort of Ultimate Beecham Demo, he gave hints that more might be forthcoming.
“They are all talking about my next video being about white on white,” Beecham says. “I’ve been doing a white-on-white series. So maybe I would paint Arctic foxes, or swans. Value goes from 1-10 and we have 8 or 9 to work with normally. But you have only three to work with in a white-on-white painting, save beaks and legs. I find that really fascinating and challenging as well.”
Sounds like it is almost a done deal. Ω