Betty and her art keep going



Betty Mears has lost track how many paintings she’s done. “Thousands,” she estimates.

She has painted all her life, which will reach 84 years in May. Nowadays her arthritis and energy only allow her about two hours a day at the easel, but she’s as passionate about art as ever.

From the 35 or so painters whose workshops she’s attended and the art she’s seen as a world traveler, Mears has incorporated many styles in her own work. She works in watercolor and almost every other media imaginable. Semi-abstract is her favorite art form, but she does more realism paintings “because they sell better,” she said.

Her work has won critical acclaim. One reviewer called it “compelling because it is experimental, not repetitive.”

Other recognition includes the Federal Way Arts Commission’s Jurors’ Choice Award, and her paintings are regulars at juried shows and exhibits. One of her most recent exhibits stretched into April at Federal Way City Hall. She’s also shown throughout the Seattle-Tacoma area and in several countries, including Korea, Japan and Germany. The latter were arranged through contacts she has made while touring at least 38 nations and visiting art museums.

Mears took every art class she could in school while growing up in Tacoma, followed by private lessons. She isn’t sure if she’s improved with age, but “I know a lot more now,” she conceded. “I was hottest 40 years ago. I would paint all day.”

Her husband, Nel, was also an artist and one of her biggest boosters until he died five years ago. Mears fills her days now partly by teaching what she knows. She taught children and adults at the Center at Norpoint before scaling back to adults one day a week at her home in Northeast Tacoma. It overlooks Puget Sound and its walls are covered with paintings by Mears and her students. Her studio is downstairs.

Mears also has taught classes on cruises ships during 13 trips to Alaska. “I’ve enjoyed being active,” she said.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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