In the third floor studio overlooking the garden Beth Rommel paints.
Over the years her various studios have been in garden settings. Her most current studio is in Decatur, Georgia, a perfect place to watch the changes of season in the Maple trees, Camellias, and Azaleas.
Prior to moving to Georgia the glass wall of her studio in Oviedo, Florida was a window on the world of tropical plants, orchids, lizards, snakes, and wild turkeys.
In San Antonio she could see Live Oak trees and her children playing on the tire swing she had painted just for them.
Born and raised in New Orleans Rommel was introduced to art by parents who loved museums and gallery trips. Her K-12 school encouraged the arts, where she learned to throw clay pots with potter Phyllis May and where she was taught patience and attention to detail by Helen Trivigno, gifted Romanian enamel artist. “Mrs. Trivigno instructed me to work on one large pencil drawing for several weeks. All pencil strokes had to go in the same direction. What discipline that was. I was 15 years old and had no idea how valuable patience would prove to be.”
While living in New Orleans the Crews family would pack the car each Friday night and leave the formality of the old city for the farm life. An hour and a half drive would take them to Folsom, Louisiana to an old house with cats and dogs, cows and chickens, ducks and horses, quilts and barns. The family gathered eggs, rode horses, herded cattle, and rode in a jeep learning about rural agricultural life. Having lived in so many different cities this is the home Rommel holds dear; there was tranquility, love, friends, and family.
The old television set at “the farm” had poor reception so Rommel and her sister would pass time by creating art exhibits for their parents to view on Saturday evenings. Drawings were created throughout the day, leis were sewn with Tung tree blossoms, and the bedroom walls were transformed into a gallery.
Rommel graduated with a B.F.A. in Studio Art with an emphasis in Communication Design from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville after two years at the University of Texas in Austin. This prepared her for a career in advertising and public relations while she moved with her family throughout Texas and to Florida.
All of this time she continued painting and taking commissions. An old friend in San Antonio decided to end her own foray into painting and gifted her brightly colored acrylics to Rommel. This dramatically changed the palette she had been using. New hues of pink, green, and blue moved into the paint box nudging out the brown and more somber tones.
With small children at home she developed an interest in children’s literature and illustration. As a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) she wrote and illustrated her own stories for young readers. Melvin Fine Mouse: First Day of School, a rhyming story, is for the youngest reader.
Rommel’s sense of joy and playfulness has been evident in her painting at all times.
While living in Florida she painted flying people in patterned clothing watching the world below. Often evident in the scenery was a bit of a farm: a barn, cows grazing, or plowed fields. Time spent in the western United States, where her parents were raised, taught Rommel about American Indian culture and folk tales. There are references to this throughout her work: storyteller figures, purple mountains, western flowers. The detailed patterns in these earlier works comes from her love of Oriental rugs, wallpapers, and fashion design.
Rommel’s painting career has incorporated the use of oils and acrylics and in 2015 a sojourn into watercolors.
“Each material is special and offers different qualities. I had never taken the time to learn how to use watercolors so I set out to paint with them every day for 100 days. The exercise was so enjoyable I continued to day 156.” Most paintings were sold as they were completed.
Inspired by the routine Rommel completed a 30-day series of guardians.
After the passing of her mother in early 2016 Rommel was in a serious car accident where her car was forced off the highway by a large truck. The car flipped back over front leaving her and her husband trapped in their now battered Subaru on a Memorial Day in Satsuma, Louisiana. With a broken sternum and ribs, and time to think, Rommel thought through her options. She chose a series based on photos of family from the 1930-40s.
While creating this series Rommel began experimenting with new techniques that combined the chalk-like flat appearance of latex paint with the boldness of acrylics. Layering the two brought a nice depth of color. Adding pastels and charcoal defined shapes without heaviness. This last layer was wonderful for experimentation in line placement.
Presently Rommel is enjoying painting the beauty of flowers in an interior scene while often including elements from the out of doors.
“My studio is my haven. It is a place where I can safely view the world in all of its disarray. I love being outside at night, but feel a bit of unease with what I cannot see. Who or what is rustling the leaves. Who or what is watching me? “
These new paintings are joyful, smiling views of a home on the inside, yet lonely and quiet on the outside.
“I have been alone a lot. The serenity of time alone is precious, but the happiness and bubbles of love that come with family and friends are the best. I would like to share this joy through my work. I know I am fortunate to have known the people and places that have created the story of my life.”
If a client sees his commissioned piece for the first time and cries, I know I have succeeded. When my depiction of something can bring strong emotion from the viewer I feel such gratitude. The mystery of what transpires between my hand and my head has worked.
As I begin a new piece I sketch a simple drawing. Stick figures and a few lines are all. Much of what will unfold on a canvas is unknown to me at that time.
Under painting is the foundation of all of my pieces. I like to work with complimentary colors to see the strength of each hue. How they react to each other, how they portray a mood, and how they affect the viewer are key to my choices. Using many containers of latex paint, several brushes, and a bucket of water I begin building the painting. Some music helps too.
Once the raw painting is on canvas I begin to add detail with acrylics to get a punch of strong accent color. The finishing touches are then drawn with charcoal and pastels. A line can be drawn to direct the viewer’s eye. This is where I evaluate what is the dominant section of the painting. If it is not what I want I will add some charcoal lines to redirect the viewer to see what I want them to see first.
Flowers have brought such joy to me. Each has a unique visual appeal. I combine their attributes to create a new flower. For example in one of my paintings one might see a lily that is more the color of a rose, with a stamen like a daisy with leaves like bamboo. They are from my imagination with a hint from nature.
The human figures are the same. They may be correct in the way their muscles appear and function, but their feet are too big, their heads are too small or their legs are too long to be real. Looking closer at these people it is possible to see who they are by the way they hold their head or hands, the stride they take, the dog they walk.
The rural settings in my art are a remembrance of my parent’s farm in rural Louisiana. We lived in New Orleans during the week and traded for agricultural life on the weekends. The activities, friends, family, and animals were plentiful. They were the roots from which my values grew. My favorite place, which I can no longer visit in the real world but can retreat to on canvas.
I have been fortunate to have wonderful art instructors and professors who encouraged my choices of subject matter and taught the fun of painting. Some of them were Lynn Whipple with her joyful creation of artwork and Carl Sublett with his eye and European trained hand for landscape and color. The instruction I had at an earlier age taught me to really look and see and to notice detail everywhere.
A client recently wrote a review of my work,” Beth Rommel is my new jam. If you’re not on her psychedelic-folk art-cat lover train, I’m sorry, you’re an elementary lepton…Get your kicks art fans and get onboard.” H.D. Chattanooga
How could I not include that summation in my artist statement?
Studied at University of Texas, Austin: Studio Art
Graduated from University of Tennessee, Knoxville with B.F.A. in Studio Art
Attended further classes and workshops with Carl Embrey at San Antonio Art Institute, Portrait classwork: Dallas, Crealde School: Winter Park, FL, Callanwolde: Atlanta, GA
2017 Publication Brookhaven Buzz April 2017
Decatur Dispatch April 2017
2015 Pea Ridge Kitchen One woman exhibition ongoing
2013 Oregon Shakespeare Festival Director portraits “My English Breath..”
2012 Emory University Quadrangle Magazine Features World Shakespeare Project portraits of co-directors
2012 Spring Mingle SCBWI First place illustration competition
2011 Swan Coach House Gallery, Atlanta, GA Little Things Mean A Lot
2011 Pour for Prevention, Sacramento, CA Exhibit raising awareness of child abuse
2011 Billboard Art Project, Savannah, GA Paintings exhibited in 24 hour event
2010 Gallery at Avalon Island Juried Show
2010 Artistree Co-op One woman show, artist of the month
2010 Casselberry Art House Seminole County Featured artist of the month
2009 Gallery at Avalon Island Award of Merit Artists Registry.com juried show
2009 Trinity Preparatory School Juried Art Bazaar, also in 2010
Winter Park, FL
2009 Art House Co-op, Atlanta, GA Sketchbook Project, traveling exhibit
2009 Gallery on First, Sanford, FL Studio and gallery artist
2009 Gallery on First, Sanford, FL Hot Summer Nights group show
2008 First Thursday Orlando, FL Orlando Museum of Art boutique Rojo and Women in Art shows 1997 Muse Interiors Colleyville, TX Featured artist:Decorator Showhouse 1996 HEB,TX Arts Organization Winner 3 dimensional art award
Mr. and Mrs. S. Schackelford: N.Y., New York
Mr. and Mrs. D. Everett: Winter Park, FL
Mr. and Mrs. D. Higgins: Calgary, Alberta
Ms. A. McSweeney: Davis, CA
Mr. and Mrs. H. DeHart: Chattanooga, TN.
Mr. and Mrs. J. Johnson: St. Simon’s Island, GA
Mr. and Mrs D. Johnson: Whitefish , MT
Mr. and Mrs. W.N. Rives: Columbus, OH
Mrs. C. Lowe: San Antonio, TX
Private Collectors Atlanta, GA, Decatur, GA, Maitland, FL, Washington, D.C., Houston,TX