Friday, August 15, 2014

Hermit Crab Horse on display at the Waterman & Katz building, Port Townsend

My mixed media drawing on paper Hermit Crab Horse will be on display at the Waterman & Katz building in downtown Port Townsend until the end of October. It's the largest framed piece (48" X 36") from my series Poseidon's Horses. I've made this work available for sale as part of a Benefit for the re-location of the arts center to its new location in the heart of Port Townsend

Artist Statement

Hermit Crab Horse is part of a series of drawings, Poseidon's Horses, that I began to create during the summer of 2004. The central theme of this body of work is the natural world and mythology.

Nature has fascinated me since I was a child and when I was a teenager I enjoyed spending a lot of time hiking in the mountains or snorkeling in the sea. I was an amateur naturalist who used to collect plants,shells and rocks. In particular, water is an element that truly brings me inclose contact with nature alike any other. It evokes my most exciting and serene childhood memories of summer holidays spent along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea or the banks of mountain creeks.

In order to create the Poseidon's Horses series I spent entire days on the beaches of Whidbey Island beachcombing and observing the passage of time with its changes of light and wildlife moods. I took notes and sketched what attracted my attention around me: a shell, a marine animal washed  out on the beach or the relationship between the sea and sky. This contact with  nature fulfilled my longing for peace and harmony.

In this way I gradually established a 'meditative' relationship with my surroundings with reverie and wonder, as if I were a 19th century Romantic landscape artist. Then I prepared the paper by laying a light watercolor wash, rubbing it with sand or seaweed and sprinkling it with the salty water of the ocean. The sheet of paper became my personal empty ocean that I gradually filled with marks, shapes and lines using oil and soft pastels, charcoal, clear oil bar and pencil. A semiabstract seascape emerged.Here I created a fragmented world in which disparate elements were linked by my graphic language. In them I expressed my personal interaction with nature with the intention to suggest an ‘open-ended’ narrative.

My interest in the horse is deeply rooted in my difficult childhood. The death of my youngest brother at the age of seven marked the beginning of a compulsive horse drawing obsession that lasted for ten years. The image of the horse became a soothing and healing element that helped me, in part, to deal with this painful loss.
Although I do sketch horses from life, looking closely to their anatomy, my representation of them in these drawings is not strictly 'anatomical' but suggestive and at times elusive. In this body of work I associated the forms of the horse with both negative and positive aspects of the psychological struggle I have been engaged with for so many years. I translated these forms into shapes, which express a search for beauty in simplicity and clarity. I juxtaposed colors that strive to create both tension and serenity. Ultimately these shapes and their relationships with the other pictorial elements of each drawing turn the horse into a symbol o psychological freedom, personal renewal and growth.

My Italian cultural background has its foundations on Ancient Greek and Roman culture. Poseidon was the Greek god of the sea. The ancient Romans called him Nettuno.  He was also the god of horses. Horses were associated with water and the moon because the shape of their hooves' prints resembles the moon crescent.
 In these drawings I convey my interest in mythological narrative where the boundaries of the physical and human worlds are not restricted by the conventions of scale,proportions and perspective.  

© E. Betty Bastai/Northwind Arts Center


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Art Port Townsend Poster

Art Port Townsend

16th Annual Juried Art Show
 Expressions Northwest

August 1-31, 2014

Artist Reception:

Friday, August 1

 7-9 pm

I hope to see you there! 

© Art Port Townsend


Thursday, July 10, 2014

16th Annual Juried Art Exhibition Expressions Northwest

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to show the beauty that hides below the cold and green water of the Pacific Northwest with an underwater photograph that I shot while diving in Whidbey Island at the 16th Annual Juried Art Exhibition Expressions Northwest! :)


The work of local artist Betty Bastai  has been selected to be included in ART PORT TOWNSEND/EXPRESSIONS NORTHWEST, the Northwind Arts Center and Port Townsend Arts Commission’s 16th Annual Juried Art Exhibition.  It will be held August 1 – August 31, 2014 in the beautiful seaport town of Port Townsend, Washington.

Juror, Greg Robinson, is the executive director and curator of Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, which opened June 2013.  Previously he was executive director Art of the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, director of William Traver Gallery in Tacoma, and executive director of Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle.

Greg has participated in numerous jury processes for exhibitions and awards, and has served on the Betty Bowen Award Committee of Seattle Art Museum for 13 years.  He is originally from Seattle and holds a master's degree in Public Administration from New York University.

Greg has selected 77 pieces from 313 works of art submitted from the Northwest.
Betty Bastai’s work was one of the chosen and she will exhibit an underwater digital photograph titled White-Lined Dirona (Dirona albolineata).

For further information please visit:


photo © Elisabetta (Betty) Bastai


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fins, Feathers and Fur juried Art Show

Great news! My work has been selected for the juried
 art show Fins, Feathers and Fur at the Northwind Arts Center, Port Townsend.

Opening Reception and Art Walk
 Saturday June 7 5:30 to 8:00 pm. 

I hope to see you there! 

© Northwind Arts Center


Saturday, May 31, 2014


Gorgeous sunshine on the coast today. 
Unfortunately I will be able to enjoy it briefly during breaks from photo editing. 


© E. Betty Bastai & Holly Chadwick

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Art History Part One: Elementary School

Several years ago archaeologists discovered the oldest rock painting in a Spanish cave. The creator of this artwork may be a Neanderthal instead of Homo sapiens. Regardless whether the Neanderthals were the first to create rock art or not, one thing is clear: the human process that we call art-making dates back to a fascinating time when animal instincts and behaviors seemed to coexist with more complex developing mental functions that now we take for granted.

When you are a child you don't think about aesthetics or the purpose of your art-making; you just pick up a pencil and start to move your hand on a sheet of paper careless and free, perhaps, like one of our prehistoric ancestors inside a cave. 

I don't remember exactly when I made my first graphic marks on a sheet of paper. However, I remember “decorating" with my youngest brother one wall of the living room of my family's apartment with markings that they were reminiscent of a prehistoric abstract red rock painting while hiding under a table covered with a sheet so our parents couldn't see us. How old were we? Preschool age, maybe?   

At that time my youngest brother had probably been diagnosed with leukemia, but I was not aware of his incurable illness. At weekends our parents would take us to the mountains to visit some friends who had horses in their back yard. An old photograph, that I deeply cherish, shows my youngest brother, one of my sisters and I posing in front of a gray mare called Luna.  In 1970 my brother died, he was 7 years old. My parents kept taking me to their friends' house in the mountains and I would spend hours playing with that gray mare.

I don't remember when I drew my first horse. All the traces of that drawing are gone. Since my brother's death I kept drawing horses obsessively every day even when I was attending class during my last years of elementary school.

At some point I decided to keep a scrapbook where I would paste images of horses cut out from old magazines and books and add my own drawings. I also read about the evolution of the horse and added a page about it in the scrapbook.


© Elisabetta (Betty) Bastai


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

West Coast Road Trip April 2014

I have been creating digital images with a smart phone for nearly a year. Several months ago I started to create collages using a free application called PhotoGrid. I manipulate the single images first using other free applications and then assemble the collage. 
It is an immediate way to explore ideas about content and layout and establish a visual order whith a changing pace .  

*** *** ***

 Leaving Whidbey Island, Washington State.


Camping among white oak trees in Oregon and sleeping at Motel 6 in Stockton, California.


Spending a couple of days in Monterey, California,  to go diving at the breakwater. Witnessing for the first time the giant dendronotid's hunting behavior. 


The weather was a bit restless: sometimes a gorgeous sunshine would appear and other times huge dark clouds would move in and weep for a while.


Driving south on the scenic and stomach twisting SR 1.


 Sunny and warm Santa Barbara! 
After blogging on Scubaboard  Force Fin forum for several years and exchanging online  messages with the designer and owner of Force Fin, on April 6 I was able to meet Bob Evans and his wife Susanne Chess in "flesh and bone".
Recently Bob and Susanne have started a new company called  HaeroHance that produces gaspods for motor vehicles. 
Susanne is also a fashion designer and owns a fabric store in downtown Santa Barbara called Fine Fabrics. It was a lot of fun!  


Breakfast before meeting singers and songwriters Rebecca Wave and Steve Powell.


On my way back to Monterey I spent some times with elephant seals at  Piedras Blancas rookery, San Simeon, California. 


Spending another couple of days in Monterey to dive at the breakwater where I had a lot of fun photographing a red octopus who was attracted to my buddy's bolt snap attached to his camera. 


Diving, hiking and  harbor seal, sea otter and  bird watching at the beautiful Point Lobos State Reserve near Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

What an amazing day! The giant kelp is growing again. For the first time I saw harbor seals nursing their pups,  mom sea otter holding her pup with her arms while floating belly up and nesting cormorants. I also witnessed a viscous fight among nesting Canada geese.


Driving day on I 5  through California Central Valley made me think about intensive agriculture: How many farms are organic in this valley? How much herbicides and pesticides are spread on this soil? Who picks up the strawberries that we buy at the grocery store?


Sea Lion Caves, Oregon: Sketching Stellar seat lions in semi-darkness while holding binoculars and taking photos. My nostrils were filled with the pungent smell of marine mammals' body odor and their collective barking sounded like the cry of a disturbed sea monster. The 19th century Romantic artists would have loved this place! 
This is the first collage where I combine drawings and a photograph.

These sea lions looked like 19th century models. Their bodies were sometimes twisted in rather uncomfortable and funny poses.


Last chance to sunbathe in surprisingly warm Oregon before driving back to Whidbey Island.

© Elisabetta (Betty) Bastai