Inspired by Portland’s landscape, artist Betsy Walton uses layers of vibrant pigments to create her own psychedelic interpretations of the area’s hills, flora, and fauna. Her paintings feature geodesic rocks, neon plant life, and tribal female characters that seem to thrive in these enchanted forests like mythical goddesses.
Walton’s painted worlds are like something from another realm, where recognizable motifs from the Pacific Northwest have been given a surreal twist. Many paintings give viewers a kind of x-ray vision that penetrates the forest soil to reveal twisted plant roots and scurrying insects. Wild sprawling plant life is painted in vibrant neon hues and mountains are adorned in colorful patterns. Many of the female characters are illustrated with soft outlines or filled with soft translucent washes, making them appear as if they’re woodland spirits, melding with the surrounding nature.
Walton renders each piece by working in multiple layers. While the backgrounds are often left soft and sketch-like, the artist’s foregrounds are full of thick, vibrant brushstrokes and textural details. “I paint over old versions of images so that there is a kind of memory to the painting,” explains Walton. “I like being able to create an image that slowly unfolds. My hope is that a person looking at the finished work is able to have a long relationship with the image—lots of nuance to discover over time.”
Walton never plans her paintings in advance—instead, she lets her natural creativity take over and the images come to life as she paints. “In each painting I am working through a kind of mindfulness process wherein I try to stay faithful to my ideas as they arise, even if I can’t explain it or it seems like a hard turn from where I started,” she explains. “It’s a delicate dance between unconditional acceptance of new ideas and subsequent editing phases where I try to refine the image and gain more clarity in the expression of the image’s story.”