This week’s cover by British-born Peter Beston gets our attention immediately, although we may not realize why. The Adirondack chairs are familiar enough, but they seem like a still life. We want to know where the setting is and about the people who inhabit the space. Moreover, the inanimate objects appear to possess a life of their own.
Beston’s other works have similar traits. For example, his buildings, olive trees and still lifes also evoke a narrative or plot, almost like a movie would. Which makes sense, because Beston is a film editor and had his own post-production company in the East End of London.
It’s fascinating that your training was in film editing and that has influenced the narrative quality of your art. How else did film influence your work?
I worked in commercials with the Scott Brothers, and I learned a lot from them. I was bedazzled by their use of light and composition. This was the Golden Age of commercials in England in the 1970s to the 1990s. Everything I learned from commercials, like their economy.
I know you have won some top awards in editing commercials. Can you give us an example?
Yes, I won a best editing award for a brand of orange juice at Cannes (advertising competition), and in London in 1988 for Saab motor car.
How was your cover image influenced by editing?
My sister bought some chairs and put them on her porch. I was drawn to their structure and color. I considered painting them for a year. It became about arrangement of color and form. I did two works. One was called “Easter Chairs.” The other is called “Restless,” and it’s the one on the cover.
Why the title “Restless?”
The observer looks at the image and never settles on any object. They go from object to object.
That experience says a lot about your intention.
I want the image to be subversive. I want the observer to see the world as I see it. To take something familiar and see something new.
I imagine your favorite filmmakers also subvert what they are doing. They want to surprise the viewers.
Ang Lee challenges convention. He is not only a master filmmaker but a master artist. Steven Soderbergh still manages to surprise you. Pedro Almodovar is a favorite, too. The Coen Brothers challenge us when they move from genre to genre.
What was your artistic training like in England before you went into film?
I studied art in high school in South Croyden and then went to art school in Hempstead in London and at West Dean Art School in Sussex. My grandfather had a farm in Hastings, and I would go there. My surroundings influenced me when I did landscapes and seascapes.
I turned my eyes to the natural world. In the natural world, I can hone my senses.
How about the future?
I want to strive to become more interpretive with color combinations and composition. This will lead to my doing more abstraction.
You decided to leave film and paint full time. Why?
I wanted to put my paintings out there to see what people think about them—if they saw what I saw.
Contact Peter Beston on his website: