Get to know Bethany Carlson-Coffin

Welcome back to our continued series, ONLINE → IN HOME.  This week, we feature Chattanooga based Artist, Bethany Carlson.  We asked Bethany some questions to learn more about her and how the current state of the world has affected her life.  Bethany is an Artist, Art Instructor, and creator of some of the finest and most detailed graphite and charcoal drawings, I've yet to see in person and we're glad to share some more about her, with you...

Red Arrow:  Please speak towards your chosen medium of working with graphite and charcoal. What drew you to use those materials?

BETHANYI was originally a painter through and through but that shifted as I started responding to other inspirations. I found myself drawn to textures and atmospheres that were better achieved through drawing.

Red Arrow: When we met you were living in Peoria, IL and you and your husband are now in Chattanooga. Why and when did you move there and how has the new City been for you in general and also, considering the state of the world today?

BETHANY I have been fortunate to gain a full-time faculty position at Cleveland State Community College. Kyle and I have come to love the beauty and liveliness of Chattanooga. It has of course been a difficult transition for us, especially in light of all the additional challenges this world is facing.

Red Arrow:  I’ve always described your process as ‘removal’ or ‘taking away’ those fine details you create. Can you speak more to this process?

BETHANY That is one of the ways I describe the work as well. I tend to focus on negative spaces and reductive processes. I do take on overwhelmingly painstaking projects in order to understand and appreciate the little intricacies of vestiges. I choose subjects that point to death and presence through absence. Sometimes that which is disappearing, weighs the heaviest.

Red Arrow:  How do you choose the subject matter for your work?

BETHANY At first, it just really needs to make an impression on me. I will hold on to something for a while and see if it continues to emerge as an idea with depth. I often read and investigate several ideas at once and when two ideas merge, that’s when I know I have something.

I keep a lot of interesting objects in my studio and I often supply them to my students for drawing assignments, but I often don't use them. I don't want to fall into a trap of always drawing fur, nests, shells, bones, etc. Kyle (my husband) is a funeral director and artist who is constantly bringing new insight and inspirations into my life. I gather as many resources around me as I can but ultimately, I cannot pursue an idea unless it just comes together and clicks in the right way. 

Red Arrow:  What is the first thing you want to do or place you want to go when things level out a bit more?

BETHANY: I really miss concerts. I love music and have missed several shows this summer. Other than that, I am really trying to make the most of this time at home.

Red Arrow:  What do you listen to in the studio?

BETHANY I often listen to lectures, talks, and podcasts. When those become too content heavy, I like to put on light-hearted tv shows that I can ignore and occasionally snicker at.

Red Arrow:  What does a typical day for you look like these days?

BETHANY I wake up and make breakfast, have coffee and reading time, then I work on curriculum and online summer courses. I like to go for walks and spend the afternoon investigating studio art ideas, running errands, and cooking. In the evenings, I catch up on whatever I didn't finished earlier in the day. I have a studio on campus, but I have made a make-shift studio at home that is finally becoming a productive space.

Red Arrow:  2020 has been quite a year so far. What do you do or reflect on to find peace and positivity during this time, that you could share with us?

BETHANY I admit, I have had some low moments. I have always been one to pray and meditate, however. I read the Bible as well as other scholarly books/articles about philosophy and faith. Working on my relationships and focusing on ways that I can be more loving, peaceful, and patient with those who are around me has helped me to maintain some perspective and greater empathy towards my neighbors.