A winner of our bookmark competition, artist Beth Louella tells us about her practice and what inspired her to contribute to our competition, ‘This Difference’, an open call to artists inviting them to describe their own sense of being different.

A jolt of celebration can instantly be felt when looking at Beth Louella’s work. Strength emanates from the bold brush strokes, power in the use of colour, with liberal offerings of pattern; there to honour Beth’s own Native American, Celtic and African heritage. Her paintings radiate this history and give her protagonists pride and power as they hold your gaze in the centre of the canvas.

The act of using art as a way to portray such a personal story is something that evolved naturally for Beth, “I have always felt different from others. It’s something I struggled with when I was younger and have embraced as I got older. Being mixed heritage and having dark features meant I generally looked different from others around me.”

When Beth moved to a predominantly white middle class area in the UK as a young child, she was confronted with feelings of “not fitting in”. The growth spurt of her teenage years accompanied by her voluminous hair sadly led Beth to grow resentful about feeling different. Fortunately, her artist’s mind and inner vigour meant her imagination never dissipated. As she grew older, experienced life, and developed her artistic practice, so her journey of self-discovery grew too, as eventually she learnt to love the unique qualities she once stifled.

Beth’s submission seeks to celebrate what makes her unique, amplifying her sense of feeling different, shining a light on it, and basking in the warmth of that spotlight. The painting, titled ‘Rooted’, seeks to explore and celebrate her identity. The submission focuses on Beth’s Native American heritage, with her dreadlocks, an important part of her ancestry, climbing the painting in a root-like manner, grounding Beth to her history and embracing her, reflecting Beth’s total acceptance of herself.

The power in this piece derives from her commanding stance, standing tall and sitting proudly centre of the composition. The gold nimbus radiantly circling her head, along with a crown of peacock feathers, which ‘emphasises being important and special; contrasting with how I often felt as a child.’

Beth Louella Bookmark

Arguably the most moving part of the painting, etched into the protagonist’s necklace are the definitive words ‘she laughs without fear of the future’, a sounding call to anyone who feels different, to derive their own personal inner strength. The fact that Beth’s work holds such power within its four corners is a testament to her goal: that despite her battles, “emphasising love, goodness and beauty” is always her creative response.