A CREATIVE CHATS CONVERSATION WITH Wildlife Artist Betty Busby
Welcome to the amazing world of a wildlife artist! Nestled in Christchurch's Papanui, you'll find Betty Busby, the extraordinary wildlife artist behind Auntie Betty Illustration. With a passion for capturing the beauty and importance of New Zealand's unique and often endangered wildlife, Betty's artistic journey is a delightful blend of creativity and conservation. We recently caught up with Betty Busby for a "Creative Chat" about her life, art, and the inspirations that fuel her creativity. Let's dive into her world!
Getting Started as an Artist
"How did you get started with your artwork?" we asked Betty. She reminisced about her teenage years when she illustrated her first book, a heartwarming tale of South African garden creatures written by her mother. That initial spark ignited her passion for art and a dream to become a book illustrator.
"I illustrated my first book as a teenager. Mum wrote a story for us about South African garden creatures. My sister wrote it out by hand, and I illustrated it for my younger cousins. It was a labour of love, but the illustration bug had bitten, and I thought it would be amazing to be a book illustrator."
The Artistic Journey
Betty's artistic journey has been a captivating tale of unexpected detours and remarkable resilience. Her career began amidst the fashion industry's hustle and bustle, where she explored diverse roles, from sewing machinist to handling insurance claims and even tutoring children facing learning challenges. However, the whisper of her artistic calling could not be silenced. Inspired by her niece's boundless curiosity, she embarked on a creative adventure, crafting a heartfelt story about a patchwork elephant and meticulously bringing it to life through her illustrations. This pivotal moment marked her triumphant return to the world of art, and she hasn't looked back since.
Betty's evolution as an artist is a testament to her unwavering dedication and an insatiable hunger for artistic growth. She fully immersed herself in the realms of drawing and painting, continuously refining her craft. Valuable constructive criticism, often bestowed by her discerning parents—both accomplished artists in their own right—fueled her development. Her mother's mastery in pyrography and her father's skill as an astrophotographer with a background in copper artwork added to her creative arsenal. Betty's quest for artistic excellence led her to explore a vast library of art books, absorb enlightening YouTube tutorials, and engage in enriching courses that expanded her artistic repertoire. Throughout this extraordinary journey, she stood firm in her commitment to creating, understanding that, as an artist, the true essence of beauty resides in the beholder's eye. She shared, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and artists are never able to please everyone."
Wildlife artist Betty Busby of Auntie Betty Illustration working in her studio.
Influences and Inspirations
Artists draw inspiration from various sources, and for Betty, it's a blend of nostalgia and contemporary marvels. She fell in love with the works of Eric Kincaid and Beatrix Potter during her childhood. As an adult, she discovered James Gurney's stunning art. These illustrators, with their realistic yet anthropomorphic style, continue to inspire Betty's artistic endeavours. She also finds inspiration on Instagram, where she encounters incredible art from around the globe.
The Spark of Nature
As a wildlife artist, nature is Betty's eternal muse. She marvels at the endless colours, textures, and shapes in the natural world. The vast diversity of animal and plant species fuels her creativity endlessly. She shared, "I would need to live five lifetimes to paint and embroider all I want to."
Watercolour colour wheel by Wildlife Artist Betty Busby.
The Creative Process
Betty's creative process is a fascinating blend of sketching, refinement, and layered painting. She starts with rough sketches that are often unintelligible to others, refining them multiple times until they match her vision. When painting, she employs light, loose layers initially, gradually building up the saturation and fine details. Betty also utilises wire-framing for animating anthropomorphic animals and insects, a technique she learned through one of Nina Rycroft's courses.
The Mediums of Choice
Betty's art shines through three distinct mediums: watercolour, coloured pencil, and embroidery. Each medium is selected carefully, depending on the subject or theme. Watercolours' transparency and glazing qualities, coloured pencils' precision, and embroidery's tactile texture all contribute to her unique artistic expression.
The Artistic Essentials
Betty reveals her most valuable artistic tool—a watercolour palette featuring a wide array of primary and secondary colours. With these colours, she can mix any hue, including black, without the need for opaque white.
Rewards of Being an Artist
Working from home, Betty relishes the endless opportunities to create and problem-solve. She finds solace and inspiration in watching the birds in her garden, making her long working hours feel anything but oppressive.
Drawing from Life
Photographs serve as valuable references for Betty's art. She occasionally takes her own photos but predominantly relies on the generosity of talented photographers and scientists who grant her permission to paint from their pictures, especially when capturing elusive endangered species.
The Uniqueness of Betty
Betty's unique life journey includes growing up in South Africa, surrounded by extraordinary wildlife. Her love for New Zealand's distinctive and vulnerable wildlife drives her artistic purpose. The internet has been her window to the world, allowing her to research rare animals and connect with photographers worldwide.
Words of Wisdom - Advice for Aspiring Artists
For those aspiring to make art a full-time career, Betty advises building a business before quitting your day job. She acknowledges the challenges she faced when starting with limited financial resources but emphasises the importance of resilience in the creative journey. She shares, "Build a business before quitting your day job. I did not have that option as I was made redundant and built a business from nothing without any financial resources, which has been extremely hard. We need to remember that only a handful of artists become really wealthy and many others who are just as talented don’t."
Betty encourages aspiring artists to follow their passions and embrace constructive criticism. Learning to differentiate between subjective opinions and objective feedback is crucial for artistic growth. She also advises being open to experimentation with different media, approaches, and subjects.
A Purpose-Driven Artist
"Why is it so important to you to paint endangered species?" we asked Betty. Her response is both heartwarming and illuminating. She believes that raising awareness about less-known endangered species is crucial in reminding us that our actions affect not only humans but also the fragile balance of nature. Betty's art is a call to protect and preserve the remarkable creatures that share our planet.
She shared, "I hope my wildlife art says, 'Please become aware of our threatened status. Please do your best to ensure I have a future.'"
Explore Wildlife Artist Betty's Doodlewear Collaboration Collection!
Betty's dedication to wildlife conservation and her artistic talents converge in her captivating Doodlewear Collaboration Collection. Betty Busby's art is a testament to the beauty of nature and the power of creativity in raising awareness for the world's endangered species. Join her in this inspiring journey and make a difference through art and conservation.