Portland artist Bettina McEntyre makes use of a cocktail of imagination and pattern to create eye-catching creatures in her drawing and painting. Never quite human but always expressive, and never fully recognizable as a non-blob species of animal, her characters are all at once uncomfortable and hilarious, a vision of a world that exists only inside her own head. McEntyre's is the Source's cover artist of the month. More of her work will be on display at Bishop's Barber Shop downtown starting on Friday, Sept. 5 and at knotpile.com.
Source Weekly: Tell me about your medium and style?
Bettina McEntyre: My illustrations and paintings have a hand-drawn organic look to them. They are usually created in a spirit of light-heartedness and silliness, so the content tends to be a creature or shape I can give some sort of relatable childlike personality. My imagination is probably my best asset and it can get really ridiculous at times. I like to let it run wild. I always start with a pencil, and prefer a more undefined raw tone. Then I will either use fancy markers or paint to add some flat colors and detail.
SW: When did you first know you wanted to be artist?
BE: It's funny, looking back, I didn't know I was going to be an artist at all. I drew all the time because I just enjoyed it. My generation was different in that we didn't grow up with photoshop and Internet social media. My mother is a Taiwanese immigrant, and has had more rigid views about success in America, though she has always encouraged me artistically. But she would always use traditional artists such as Thomas Kinkade as an example for me to follow, which was the opposite of what I was into. I didn't want to make greeting cards or landscape paintings, and it wasn't until things like Ren and Stimpy came out that I understood that it didn't have to be so black and white.
SW: Tell me about your artistic background?
BE: My drawing started as far back as I can remember. When I was little I would get into trouble for drawing all over my arms with a fine Sharpie or pen every day. I didn't know what I was doing. It just felt so good. In high school I went to a vocational art school half of the school day my senior year. That was a really crucial experience because they treated us with so much more respect than regular high school. This really allowed me to flourish and grow. I was still clueless at this point so I figured I would go to college for a real career, like engineering. My best friend was going for it—studying photography at her college—and it inspired me to finally switch majors after three years. I just couldn't deny the creative side of me anymore.
SW: How do you use repetition in your art?
BE: I am in love with patterns. I like to repeat my characters but give them slight differences so that things are not so exact. Then the viewer can have a little fun spotting the little hidden individualities. I've always celebrated the differences between people, and I like to play with that idea through my work.
SW: How are you morphing animals and humans and imagination to make the creatures that you paint? Do these creatures have names or personalities?
BE: When I was little I never liked dolls or human representations. I preferred stuffed animals and I think it is still the same for me now. I like to give my creatures personas and stories, and let them teach each other lessons. I like to create relatable, non-threatening, silly characters. They make mistakes, just like us. They have problems and feelings, just like us.
SW: Tell me about the most interesting reaction you've heard to your work?
BE: I've had people tell me to never quit my day job and that I would never be an artist because I was so terrible at it. I've had people stalk me after buying artwork. I suppose I've had nearly every type of reaction under the sun, but it never gets old.