Featured Artist Betty Jean Billups

Betty Jean Billup’s plein air paintings capture the essence of a scene with loose and sweeping brushstrokes. Visit her website to see more of her work.


painting of a waterfall by Betty Jean Billups

“Morning Shadows Sierras” oil, 10″ x 16″


From my earliest memories, I’ve always wanted to give back to the world just for my having “been here.” I thought about nursing where I could help people heal. Then I saw someone getting a shot, and just about passed out! When I made art however, people seemed to find pleasure in what I created. This is the path I took in an effort to give back. People need to heal physically, but also emotionally. Art can reach deep inside to touch a person’s soul.


painting of two eighteen century women with a flock of geese by Betty Jean Billups

“Afternoon Gathering” oil, 48″ x 36″


After junior college, I got my BA in illustration at the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design. I found that I was not fully satisfied doing illustration, so I went back into the “Finer Arts.”


painting of a ballet dancer at rest by Betty Jean Billups

“Moment’s Rest” oil, 16″ x 20″


Early on in my journey, I rendered the heck out of a piece and made it look almost photographic. I found this process so boring that I promised myself to never work that way again!


painting of morning fog at Shark Harbor by Betty Jean Billups

“Morning Fog Shark Harbor” oil, 20″ x 16″


I painted landscapes for several years before I was ready to approach galleries. When I had a number of paintings, I traveled to galleries in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado—ones that I felt would support my art. But every gallery said the exact same thing, “We don’t handle work that loose.”


still life painting of a teacup and a rose by Betty Jean Billups

“Porcelain & Rose” oil, 12″ x 12″


Then in the early eighties, a major European museum show of Impressionism put together from museums and private collections throughout Europe, toured in the United States. It began in California and ended up on the Eastern Seaboard. After that show, practically every artist in the country wanted to paint loosely. It was at that point that galleries began to accept what I had been already painting for years.


painting of moored rowboats by Betty Jean Billups

“Restless Tide” oil, 16″ x 12″


In 1987, a woman from Catalina Island asked me to do a national ad to promote a new group she created, the Plein Air Painters of America (PAPA). The words plein air had not been used in the United States since the 1920s. In those days, we did not have computers. I created twenty-two full page ads from 1987 through 1995 as “paste-ups” which were run in four national art magazines. I never charged a penny for my time, I just wanted to help get PAPA established.


landscape painting of a lake by Betty Jean Billups

“I Am the Sunlight” oil, 36″ x 18″


Today, almost thirty years later, there is hardly an art group in the United States, that does not have artists plein air painting.


painted portrait of a man with a beard by Betty Jean Billups

“Rob Mountain Man” oil, 11″ x 14″


The creation of my art has always been tied to the business end of my art. In 2005, I was contacted by a publisher to write a book on plein air painting. It was to feature ten totally unique paintings, with five to seven steps for each that offered discussion of the “why, what and how” the paintings were created.


still life painting of tea, oranges and flowers by Betty Jean Billups

“Tea & Oranges” oil, 12″ x 16″


It took me about four months to accomplish this. It is called 10 Projects En Plein Air. After it was published, I contacted the publisher to ask when I would be getting my royalty checks. They informed me that I wasn’t going to as I did not have a signed contract with them! Shortly after that, they quit publishing it. In order to get copies, I’ve had to find them and then purchase them.


painting of a pony cart and driver by Betty Jean Billups

“The Pony Trappe” oil, 40″ x 30″




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  1. These are all lovely. My favorite is I Am the Sunlight.

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