Beth Shively has been an artist for most of her life. A Rocky Mount native, she moved to Kansas as a child and grew up there. When she was in junior high school in Wichita, Beth felt her art class was “talking to me.” She went on to major in art at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. She returned to Virginia to pursue a master’s in fine arts at James Madison University, and has “been painting ever since.”
Beth is married to fellow artist Bill Rutherfoord and the two have side-by-side studios on the lower level of their home in Roanoke’s Deyerle neighborhood. He paints during the day, and she paints in the evenings and on weekends. She says that while she paints, “Bill is upstairs making dinner.”
Her spacious, uncluttered studio is filled with paintings, both finished and in progress. She likes to layer ideas and thoughts on to her works as she finishes them. One painting took her nine months to complete, she says.
The first impression upon entering the studio is one of the color and lots of it. Her paintings are more than just bright colors; they carry humor and emotion and require the viewer to look carefully at each element for hidden—and not so hidden—meaning. The viewer also may notice the recurring theme of cats.
“Cats are my go-to animal,” she says. “They can represent emotions and are more of a mystery.”
She and Bill share their home with a couple of cats, and the cats in her paintings represent actual pets that have been in her life.
Her paintings frequently contain pop culture images, as well as recent nostalgia. In fact, the same leopard-patterned pillbox hat appears in more than one. It is a prominent feature on a 1960s mom she’s currently painting, along with the accompanying dad. Neither is finished, she says, but even at this stage, they draw in the eye and welcome interpretation.
She paints in oils on birch plywood, a practice she started as an undergraduate at Bethany.
“Wood doesn’t wiggle and move,” she explains.
Before she starts a painting, she picks out the molding that will frame it, and a local woodworker makes it for her. Unlike a traditional frame, the molding doesn’t contain the painting, but, rather allows it to expand. She paints them and makes them part of the work. She says she tried a few paintings without the frames, but didn’t like effect and went back to her own method.
One large work in the studio features two framed pieces joined together, with the subject cat’s legs and tail extending beyond them.
Beth sells her work through her website, BethShively.com, and through word of mouth. It seems to be a successful way to market her work since that’s how one of her paintings ended up in Italy.