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Bev Doolittle was born and grew up in large family in Southern California. She displayed an artistic talent at a young age, often drawing her own pictures, instead of coloring Disney characters in the coloring books. By the age of eleven she was working on a theme that would eventually be incorporated in the paintings she would become known for - western.
By the age of fifteen, Bev entered her first art contest, sponsored by the San Gabriel Historical Society. Her high school art teacher noted the talent that Doolittle possessed, and suggested that she apply for a scholarship to the Art Center College of Design, in Los Angeles. Bev won the scholarship, and began attending classes there, while still in high school.
After graduation, she enrolled full time at the school, majoring in advertising illustration. She met her husband, Jay Doolittle in college, and two years later they married. They etched a living attending the outdoor art shows, but Bev's painting were becoming more detailed, and requiring more time to complete. With a rooster of shows lined up, they stumbled upon the idea of creating paintings that they termed "You and Me" paintings. Jay would paint the backgrounds in a semi-abstract approach that had become his trademark. Bev would then add a very detailed animal, mountain man or Indian.
While they were able to sell the paintings successfully, they were barely making ends meet. Jay took a job at an advertising agency, as Bev worked on pulling together a portfolio, in hopes of landing a position as an illustrator. Bev would often join her husband when he was pulling an all-nighter at the agency, helping him with projects, so he could return home at a decent hour. The agency eventually found out that Bev had been working on some of the ads, and offered her a position.
The work of an ad illustrator proved unfulfilling to Bev. She thrived on being able to conceptualize an idea, and see it through to completion. Her job did not allow for this, and she felt that the work was not her own. At the beginning of 1973, Jay and Bev left the agency. They decided to take to the road as traveling artists, and set out in an old pick-up truck with camper, head off to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. Perched atop the camper, she painted the Grand Canyon, and other sights, in a style very different from the way she paints today. Bev would paint two to three pieces a day, often selling them on the spot to people they met during their travels. She would never try to duplicate the paintings she sold, but instead she would take the idea behind the painting, and play with it, developing it in her own special way.
While walking through Sequoia National Park in 1975, Bev studied the large trees in awe, noting the hallowed caves they often form near the base. She considered how a white man would have felt in those surroundings, enveloped by the silence of the forest. Doolittle took these concepts and feelings, and painted Broken Silence. When asked about the painting, Bev said, "A sequoia forest is deep and quiet. Here the silence has been disturbed, the deer alerted, by the flight-racket of the Steller's jay."
Years later, Bev Doolittle would be asked by the Greenwich Workshop to develop a christmas print for them. Her thoughts immediately returned to the sequoia forest, and she painted Christmas Day, Give or Take a Week. Nestled within the trunk of the tree, a mountain has found shelter from the environment. A warm fire blazes as he prepares his meal beside a small christmas tree that he has adorned with small objects that he has with him. Among the giant trees, the mountain man is oblivious to the exact date, unsure of the day or even the week.
After returning from their year long trip as traveling artists, Bev and Jay had to find new marketing options for their work. They signed up for their first outdoor art fair as professional artists, and found success in areas such as Lake Tahoe, Big Bear Lake, Mammoth Mountain and Palm Desert. The entered a large three day festival in Austin, Texas, and were ready to leave when they didn't sell a single painting during the preview. The following day though, they sold almost every painting they brought with them, including an item that she had priced at $2,000!
Bev turned back to their big trip, for inspiration in her paintings, often adding imagined items to sketches and photographs she had taken during the trip. Bev would study the items to make sure that it would be possible for it to exist in the environment she was creating. An example of this is Bugged Bear, which she would paint later, in 1980. Bev researched the floors andbugs that she added into the painting, to determine if they would all exist within the same landscape. Doolittle repeated this style, of a whimsical animal caught in an unusual predicament, in another painting the same year, titled Whoo!. Again, Bev was careful in selecting the tree, the owl and the beaver, learning what type of each species would exist in the same environment, then putting them together to canvas.
By this time, Doolittle was eagerly sought after for commissioned works. Often faced with having to paint according to the client's specifications, she felt as if her heart was not always in her work, and her inability to express her own vision caused her unrest. She decided to stop doing commission work, and paint in her own style. Her paintings were taking weeks to complete, dealing with research, drawing and painting. With all the time to devoted to a singular painting, they commanded more than $2,000. Yet the outdoor art fair circuit would not be willing to pay more than that for a watercolor painting. Bev and Jay contacted The Carson Gallery in Denver, and by the end of the seventies, they were selling all the paintings that Bev could produce, at higher prices than what she could have have received at an art show.
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