Art History Alumna is "Rejuvenated" By Painting-a-Day Project

Katie Bentley ’11 was tired of trying to be perfect.

When it came to her artwork, Bentley, an Art History alumna, would often stop working on projects if she didn’t feel they were going in the right direction.

In an effort to combat that “perfectionist urge,” she started Bird in the Grass, Bear in the Cave, a “painting a day” experiment as a New Year’s resolution for 2014.

“Doing a painting each day was a way to make sure that something got finished every day,” she said. “Working on a small scale, quickly, with the intention of creating something different every day for a full year was rejuvenating.”

To ensure some accountability, Bentley published images of each watercolor painting daily on a public blog, Bird in the Grass, Bear in the Cave. So far, she has one for every day in January.

Each painting in the series draws from “a personal language I’ve been cultivating over the last few years, which pulls from my own vivid dreams and nightmares, as well as my personal study of totem animals, or spirit animals, and spiritual healing,” Bentley said.

She plans to circulate a book of all of her paintings at the end of the year.

When she’s not working with watercolors, Bentley enjoys card making and letter writing. Last year, she put together a collaborative project called The Snail Mail Manifesto, which explores the importance of letter writing in the Digital Age.

“I sent out invitations online and in the mail asking people to respond to questions like, ‘What was the best piece of mail you ever received and why?’ and asked people to mail me direct responses or visual interpretations of these questions,” she said. “Jacqueline Maloney ’11 sent me a box full of envelopes because her favorite part about getting a letter was opening the mailbox and seeing the envelope for the first time.”

Bentley collected all of the responses and in June of 2013 created a booklet and mailed it out to the participants. The project and images of the cards she makes is documented on another blog, The Snail Mail Manifesto.

“Card making and letter writing is important to me as a philosophical and political act,” she said. “Life is too fast, and although I use digital/social media to facilitate conversations and collaboration, I think that letter writing needs to be saved as an endangered species. My goal for this spring is to open a shop online to sell a selection of my cards.” 

Not one to rest on her laurels, Bentley is already hard at work on yet another collaborative project – a poetry swap. Like the snail mail project, she plans to start it as a digital project and then mail a hard copy when it’s finished.

“I like using social media to organize people that I meet and to find other people who are interested in working on collaborative projects,” she said.

For Bentley, Moore College of Art & Design was a place “where I was able to do a lot of experiments to figure out what worked for me and what did not,” she said.

“…It was imperative to have access to a web of different artists, art historians and fellow students to draw from. It is that connection, that network, which is still crucial for me in creating projects like The Snail Mail Manifesto.”






Published on January 27th, 2014