Studio Visit appears in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, a visit with artist Betty Lusk Hughes.
Q: Is this the first time one of your paintings ("Amaryllis Queen") is on the cover of The Artist's Magazine?
A: No, I'm inside — the cover story is about the Artists Over 60 Art Competition. I'm so happy — there's a man who's 90 in there.
Q: Has your work been featured before in The Artist's Magazine?
A: No. I've been in The Savoy Star, and Buzz did a feature once.
Q: When did you start making art?
A: I started drawing when I was a little kid. I always had that interest. We didn't have real art instruction in high school in (Lake County), so when I came down here (to the University of Illinois), I found I had to do a little catching up because so many of the art students were from Chicago, where they had excellent instruction.
Q: So you majored in art?
A: Art education.
Q: Did you teach after that?
A: Yes, I taught for about three years, and then when the children came along, I switched from oil to watercolor because it's cleaner with children around.
Q: Do you focus on still lifes?
A: I do everything: landscapes, still lifes, animals. The horses over there are from a scene in Virginia. And I do people, too. I'm kind of behind on that. I'm trying to do casual portraits of all four grandchildren, and I'm just halfway through. I also have an interest in old Victorian houses. I always think of my paintings of farms and those kinds of things like that red barn in Elgin as historic preservation. One of the artists in The Artist's Magazine refers to people painting "cute little red barns," and I take exception to that.
Q: Do you always paint in a representational style?
A: Yes, realism is the way I go. I try to paint looser, and with oil paints I can because I use a painting knife. That won't let me get so many details.
Q: Where have you exhibited your work?
A: At the Lake County Discovery Museum, the museum in Paris (Illinois), Levis Faculty Center, Springer Cultural Center and the Museum of the Grand Prairie.
Q: Do you have any plans to exhibit your work any time soon?
A: No, there's nothing on the horizon. But I do plan to do a workshop, and I also have my work on a website. The website (bettyluskhughes.com/) is really for selling prints and if anybody finds them attractive, they're out there. I just got it in February, when The Artist's Magazine published the Over 60 competition results (in its March issue).
Q: You grew up in Lake County. Has that influenced your art?
A: Oh, yes. I appreciate the rural life and the rural scenes that are so quickly leaving us. It's something I know and I love. That's basically what I paint, and there's usually a story that goes with the paintings.
Q: Do you reference photographs when you paint?
A: Yes, I do. The photo references are usually two or three photographs put together. The biggest challenge is leaving something out.