Amy Beshgetoorian has been on a painting spree for the last few weeks. She knows she might have to take a break from her art when she starts chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer.
“I feel like I’m raising the bar for myself, because I don’t know how well I’m going to be able to paint,” said Beshgetoorian, 47, a self-taught watercolor artist.
Some of her newest paintings – a collection of portraits called “Faces” – will be featured in the Tipping Paint Gallery in downtown Raleigh during August’s First Friday event.
Beshgetoorian, who lives in Clayton with her husband and two teenage children, underwent a mastectomy this spring after doctors found a tumor in her breast. She also had some lymph nodes removed. Doctors have ordered six chemo and radiation treatments to make sure the cancer is gone.
Beshgetoorian said anxiety about her diagnosis and treatment has been a driving force behind her recent productivity.
“It’s just pushed me harder to paint because that’s where I get the most joy and the most sense of accomplishment,” she said.
In the past few years, Beshgetoorian has looked to streetscapes and objects as muses for her paintings, but this month’s show has given her a chance to paint portraits, something she has enjoyed since childhood.
“So far I’ve got four that turned out great, and I’ve got one that I’ve attempted five times but it still hasn’t turned out right,” she said.
The toughest part is capturing an expression on her subject’s face, she said.
Although Beshgetoorian’s artistic talent was clear early on, she didn’t pursue a career in art. She opted to study science at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg.
During her junior year, Beshgetoorian almost switched to art after taking a watercolor class, but she decided to finish her degree.
“I said, ‘Well it’s something I’ll do when I retire,’ ” she said. “But I couldn’t wait that long.”
She and her husband settled near the Research Triangle Park in the mid-1990s to work in laboratories.
Five years ago, her art hobby became her job as she started to paint full time.
Beshgetoorian joined Tipping Paint about two years ago, and the diverse group of artists has fostered a supportive environment. The gallery is one of 12 that operates in 311 Gallery, a sprawling warehouse on West Martin Street.
“It just makes a great combination having us all there,” she said. “We’re all different but we get along.”
Early on, Beshgetoorian used latex and other paints for her work, but today she only paints with watercolors.
“There’s just this constant element of surprise and this organic look of how things flow together,” she said. “To me, it’s both loose and relaxing, but it’s got a lot of energy to it.”
With watercolors, there’s always a new technique, paper or paint to try, and it continues to challenge Beshgetoorian.
“I could live to be 100,” she said, “and I’d still be learning more.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi
Want to go?
First Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m., is a monthly art event in downtown Raleigh. Galleries stay open late, and many restaurants offer special deals. To learn more, go online to FirstFridayRaleigh.com.
More First Friday
Fifteen Bar, 317 W. Morgan St.: Photography by Lindsay Williams, a documentary photographer who focuses on the Triangle LGBTQ community
Gallery C, 540 N. Blount St.: “The Art of Dixie” fourth annual themed show that features landscapes, portraits, ceramics and more
United Arts Council, 410 Glenwood Ave., Suite 170: Abstract, contemporary and three-dimensional work by various artists
Retro Modern Furnishings, 300 W. Hargett St., Suite 24: Geometric air plant displays by Durham-based artist Aisha Sanders
The Morning Times, 10 E. Hargett St.: Local artists, artisans and musicians
Block Gallery, 311 W. Martin St.: “Seeing Beyond the Structures” urban landscapes by Adam Bellefeuil, Rachel Campbell and Caitlin Cary
Local Color Gallery, 22 Glenwood Ave.: “Eclectic Summer” exhibit of watercolor, acrylic, oil, clay, glass and mixed media by 12 local female artists
Flight Raleigh, 17 E. Martin St.: “Flag,” an interactive urban diorama by Raleigh artist Lincoln Hancock