Releasing the "Spirit Power" Within
On top of three feet of snow, it was raining outside the day we caught up with Lynn Bean. Kept warm by a woodburning stove in a one-room garage that has been converted into her studio and living quarters, Lynn is able to shrug about her spartan circumstances. Such is life in the winter in the mountain community of Sumpter, Oregon. Such can be a stop on your journey when you dedicate yourself wholly to your Art.
Lynn was born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, aka "The Cereal Capital of the World" because it is home to the corporate headquarters of Kellogs and Post. Her father worked at Post, heading up the printing facility for their packaging, and his occupation became her introduction to the business side of art: he would fly to New York and return with the original artwork that was to be applied to the company's packaging.
"In a way it gave me a goal to strive for. I wasn't a particularly good student. I struggled to get B's. I even had tutors in my early years. But Art came easily to me. It was all I ever wanted to do."
She was so good at it that when she was in junior high school she received a scholarship to a summer arts program at the University of Kansas, where she took classes in water-color, oil painting, and calligraphy. And when it came time for college, she attended the Illustration Department of the Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids.
Upon graduating she went right to work for a local advertising agency where she did retail fashion illustration. "Nowadays it's all done on computer, but back then, companies would send photographs and samples of their new clothing lines to our agency, and I would 'dress' figures with my drawings."
For several years she continued doing fashion illustration, and although she enjoyed the work she found herself yearning for a different environment - lifewise as well as workwise. The excuse she needed to pick up and move away came in the form of a husband who shared her dream of heading West, to California, to San Francisco, with a flower in her hair.
In California she went immediately to work for a big department store, doing just what she'd done back in Michigan. When doing the same thing somewhere else became a drag, she and her husband hit the road, heading north in a Winnebago motorhome. And for the next two-and-a-half decades, Lynn led the nomadic life of a gypsy artist.
For awhile she made jewelry, using the lost wax casting process, and she was so accomplished at it that she was offered a position teaching lapidary, the art of polishing rocks for the use in jewelry, at the University of Michigan. For a period of time she lived on a remote ranch where she was equally inspired by their domestic livestock and the detailed beauty of wild birds and animals, which led to a line of detailed ink and watercolor paintings so gorgeously rendered they were published as art prints and note cards. Her paintings and drawings began to be featured in national exhibits and galleries and magazines. Enjoying the simplicity of the RV lifestyle, she began making the rounds of art shows throughout the West, dividing her residence between Oregon in the summer and Arizona in the winter - where Lynn was drawn to work on North American Indian and desert subjects.
It was at an art show in New Mexico that she stopped at the Pueblo Indian Cultural Center and was struck by the Zuni fetishes. To Native Americans, animal fetishes are believed to possess a "spirit power" that resides within, and that bring their owner good luck in life and love. This started Lynn on a series of watercolor paintings of various animal fetishes with their spirit images locked inside rock patterns. This work included the design of a horse fetish that she presented to The Trail of Painted Ponies, which was created as an original work of art, and has just been released as the collectible figurine, "Fetish Pony".
The artistic life hasn't always been an easy journey for Lynn. But through it all she has managed to keep an optimism about things. And gifted with a talent that is uniquely her own, like the spirits housed within fetishes, one gets the feeling that her fortunes are just waiting to be released, and lie in wait around the next turn in the road.
Painted Pony figurines by Lynn Bean:
Biggest Artistic Influence: In addition to my father, I'd say my Native American friend John Bear. He's a deeply spiritual man - part-Apache, part-Choctaw - who started life out as a rebel, but has since become a role model for his culture. He has helped me open my eyes to the special presence of spirits in natural objects. When we go for a walk, for instance, and he sees animals in the rocks, I see them too.
Favorite Song: I watched Bonny Raitt in concert recently, and her songs keep ringing in my ears.
Favorite Color: I'm a green and purple person.
Favorite Words of Advice: It's my golden rule: as you give to others, you too shall receive.