Storyboard: Betsy Everitt

Glimpsing Through the Keyhole

As a child, I was constantly making things. I loved to sew, cook and draw. Growing up, creation was a constant presence in our house.

My dad was a designer who attended ArtCenter back when it was still located on 3rd Street. He was one of the earliest champions of my artistic inclinations and it’s entirely possible that if my father never had an “ArtCenter Story” to speak of, I may have never had one myself.

When I was young, I was especially drawn to visual narrative, such as picture books and embroideries. I soon discovered that illustration spoke to me on some fundamental level. I like to think that my illustrations offer a keyhole for the viewer to peer through; there is a beautiful made-up world at play, but you may only get a very deliberate glimpse.

While studying at UCLA, I took a night class at ArtCenter. The class, Visual Form, was taught by a wonderful instructor named Joel Bass. This course allowed students to dive headfirst into the language of color and learn what makes it such a powerful tool in one’s creative repertoire. Mr. Bass’s course also introduced me to the joys of painting with gouache, which would eventually become my preferred – some might even say signature – artistic expression.

As a full-time ArtCenter student I remained intensely focused, enjoying the process and exhilaration of image making. There weren’t many moments in a typical ArtCenter day when I wasn’t drawing or painting. It was a happy, transformative time. To this day I still don’t use a computer – paint and paper is the way to my heart.

Gouache continues to allow me access to vibrant possibilities for visual storytelling that would simply not be as enjoyable in any other medium.

There have been occasions when I wondered if my work was “serious” enough. I worried that my images might be considered too decorative, too whimsical. In the end, I’ve learned and stand by the idea that there is unique power that springs from style. Over the years, I’ve been asked to illustrate many serious topics – mental health, sex, divorce and mortality – and absolutely nothing about my process has changed. In other words, there is a place for pretty.

Early in my career, I was commissioned to work on a public AIDS campaign by the City of New York. It was a time in America when people were actively talking about sexual health and my task was a daunting one. I vividly remember the first time I walked down onto the subway platform and saw the poster I had created staring back at me. In hindsight, it was a turning point: I had a visceral sense of the effect my work could potentially have on people.

I have always believed that there is tremendous value in consistency. My clients know exactly what they’re getting when they hire me for a job. Someone’s not likely to ask me to do a moody piece with sinister underpinnings. Working for a host of clients over the years – the list ranges from Random House to Microsoft to Baby Gap – requires me to be aware of the creative constraints: story, format, palette, timing. Working with limits can be strangely liberating. I am grateful I get to do it every day.

Creating an authentic world of make-believe doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of scribbling, doodling and thoughtful distilling. It can be truly satisfying to discover sophistication in simplicity. I am delighted by the amazing illustration talent I see around me, and I continue to be inspired by details of everyday life: people, nature, interiors and fashion. All it takes is one glimpse through the keyhole to see a new creative path unfolding before you.

Betsy Everitt
BFA 86 Illustration

Creating an authentic world of make-believe doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of scribbling, doodling and thoughtful distilling.

Betsy Everitt
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