Frequently Asked Questions

Bar Harbor view looking down from Cadillac Mountain, original watercolor painting by Beth Whitney |

"Bar Harbor View"

Do you ever paint en plein air (outside)?

Painting outside is a great way to capture color and create sketches, but I honestly don’t find it to be that helpful for me. I paint from my own photos, focusing on places that I know well. As I take pictures, I try to memorize the colors and impressions of light. I also draw out my paintings in great detail, every rock, every flower. This is almost impossible with painting outside, when you’re trying to beat the changing light. So no, I don’t enjoy plain air painting, but I really admire artists who can do it well.

I notice you have several acrylic paintings in the archive. Are you planning to paint more?

I would love to! There are so many wonderful things you can do with acrylics, painting thin or thick, working from dark to light, etc. I just find that they are incredibly difficult to master. I ‘think’ in terms of watercolor, light to dark, observing the lights and how to preserve them as I plan out the painting. I also like to draw out every detail and paint in the lines, which you can’t do with thick acrylics. That first layer of paint in the sky or water pretty much obliterates the drawing.  One day, I'll give acrylics another go.

How long does it take you to complete a painting?

It varies widely. This year, I started painting in tandem, two pieces going at the same time. This makes it difficult to break out the actual time spent on a single painting. I timed the Somesville Bridge painting, which was part of a Mount Desert Island series. The first version took 5 hours to draw, and I was on hour 14 of painting when I realized the masking fluid in the bridge area wasn’t going to come off the paper. I cried a little, then started over. 5 more hours to draw it again and then 17 hours to paint. So technically, that one painting took 41 hours to complete. Add to that the time I spend thinking about it, analyzing the reference photo to map my strategy with reflections, light effects, and details, visualizing the final result, and then the time I spend observing the in-progress painting at the end of each day. It’s not unusual for me to keep a painting on a board for 2-3 weeks, looking for areas that need adjusting.

Do you print your reference photos?

I used to, but there’s too much loss of detail. I now use a Samsung Galaxy View tablet (18”) to display my photos. This lets me zoom in for detail, zoom out for an overview. It’s changed everything! The only problem is that the power button is on the top, so it’s harder to paint upside down.

How do you keep your drawings in proportion?

I have grid files set up in Photoshop Elements, sized to my 3 main paper sizes. I layer the grids over the reference photo and save it. The grid has maybe 3 horizontal and 5 vertical lines, which I redraw on my paper (only darker areas - never in the sky or water).

I’ve heard you say that you paint upside down. How do you do that?

I remain upright, but I flip the board around to best get at a section of the paper without touching the surface too much. It’s also really handy for forcing you to paint what you actually see (color, texture) rather than what you think you are seeing.

Can I make prints or cards of a painting I buy from you?

Definitely not. The paintings and all content on the website are copyright protected and the images belong to me. If you have a question about this, please contact me. I have recently started having giclee prints made of select paintings. If there's a painting you think should be printed, let me know.

What are giclee prints?

Giclee prints are made from very high resolution digital files and then printed with special printers using millions of droplets of water, printed on archival papers. The first print should look like the 100th print.

Giclees are guaranteed not to fade for 50-100 years if cared for properly (kept out of the sun). Watercolors particularly present well as giclees because of their vibrant colors. I absolutely could not tell the prints from the originals of my own work except that I know the size of the original paintings. It’s very exciting technology and allows people to have gorgeous art for a fraction of the cost.

What is a the difference between limited edition prints and an open edition print?

The only difference is the number of prints made. Both limited and open editions look the same, are signed by the artist, but the quantity available and price is different. All of my prints are open editions right now because I want to keep them affordable. Everyone should be able to have great art in their homes, and prints are an easy way to do that.

What is the difference between image size and mat/frame size?

The image size is the part of the painting you can see (inside the mat), while the mat size is the outer dimensions of the mat that fit inside the frame. This is the dimension you need when purchasing a frame. The final size on the wall is about 2-4” larger, depending on the frame profile you choose. So a 10x14” painting will actually take up 19x23” of wall space (10x14” image + 3” mat on each side + 1.5” wide frame profile). You can tape computer paper together to give you a visual on the wall.

What kind of mat will my painting/print come with?

I use white Crescent Conservation mats.  Paintings have a double mat, prints have a single mat.  These mats absorb any impurities in the frame and will not turn yellow over time.  All include matted paintings include a backing board and a strong sleeve to protect from the elements.

Do I need special glass?

I recommend using UV glass to protect your painting from the sun.  It's not necessary for prints, but wouldn't hurt.  You can get this at a frame shop or online.  I'm glad to point you in the right direction.

What kind of frame should I use?

Frames can change the appearance of a painting dramatically.  I like a natural wood frame, but I think metal frames (silver or pewter) look pretty fabulous.  It really depends on your personal preference, the painting, and your home decor.

Will my painting/print fade?

The colors will stay bright and crisp if you keep it out of the sun and overly bright light, it won't fade.

How closely do the images on the computer match the actual painting?

Fairly closely, but sometimes my camera just does not want to render the colors properly. Gardens are especially tricky. Monitor resolutions all vary considerably, so you might see something different on your phone, tablet, and computer. Most of my paintings feature naturally bright, sunny skies and feature some kind of water. I try to be as true to the original scene as possible with natural colors, so keep this in mind when viewing.

Is the ©Beth Whitney watermark on the actual paintings and prints?

No, it’s just there so that when people share my images on social media, others can identify me as the artist. It’s also a friendly warning to any sneaky types who want to steal my work and sell it as their own. Original paintings are signed in the painting and prints are signed below the print on the right.

How do you choose which paintings to include in the archive? I have one of your paintings in my collection, but I can't find it in the Painting Archive.

If the painting is not in the archive, chances are that I don't have a good digital image of it. Watercolors are really hard to photograph even with a great digital camera. I've been painting for a long time, so I don't have high resolution images of much of my earlier work. I think the paintings currently in the archive represent the body of my work fairly well.

When do you update the website?

Immediately after a painting sells, when I have added new content, or if the current layout needs to be shaken up a bit. Here's a hint, the images on the home page slideshow usually change when the site has been updated. The site you're currently viewing is completely new!

Are all of your paintings on the website?

The website doesn't include any of my smaller paintings or early work that I don’t have a good digital photo for. The archive has roughly 25-30% of the paintings I have sold and the available section has all of the current work.

Why do some of your paintings have a link to purchase through your shop on Etsy?

Etsy has a massive presence in the global marketplace, and offering my work there greatly increases my visibility. You can purchase any of the paintings that you see on Etsy from me directly. If you're thinking about purchasing a painting, let me know so I can reserve it for you.

Have you thought about having a checkout feature on this website?

I’ll eventually add a shopping cart so people can purchase prints directly from the website without emailing me first, but probably not for the paintings. Because some of the paintings are also on Etsy, there’s a risk of two people trying to buy the same piece at the same time and someone being disappointed. I’ve had that happen in the past and I felt terrible about it. Paintings are an investment and sometimes people need time to think about it before making a purchase.

See more info about purchasing, shipping, and returns on the Purchasing page.