“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”
Ecclesiastes 3, verse 1.
That verse is often quoted when referring to life changes — birth and death, marriage, maybe job or career shifts.
For local resident and artist Heather Bedsaul, it could also be a description of how her art has faded in and out of prominence in her life. As a youngster she became enamored with the world of drawing and painting and creatively expressing herself. As she grew older she pursued the world of art both academically and professionally. And later, she set it aside as raising and educating her children become the most prominent focus of her time. Now, as her daughters have grown older, she’s once again turned her attention back to artistic pursuits.
As a child in elementary school Bedsaul was first awakened to the idea that art was something that spoke to her, that stirred her soul, and that was an interest she pursued throughout her academic career — she graduated from North Surry High School then went on to UNC-Greesnboro where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in studio art. Then she pursued a career in graphic and studio art.
Along the way, she married Roger Bedsaul, and the couple had two daughters, Sydney and Abby, and soon art took a back seat in her life to raising her children.
As her girls aged and grew more self-sufficient — Sydney headed off to her freshman year of college Friday at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina and Abby is just two years behind her — Bedsaul found herself drawn back to that early love of her life. A couple of years ago she started doing commissioned portraits, and more recently she began dabbling in oils and other forms of painting.
But it all started for her years ago while sitting in a third-grade classroom.
“I had drawn a picture…I just remember the sun that I drew, that’s the first memory I have of being able to get what was in my head onto the paper,” she said, smiling at the recollection. “I think that is the struggle for all artists, to get out what is inside them.”
As a third-grader she was captivated by what she had accomplished, but it didn’t become an all-consuming interest. She said she didn’t really think a lot about art as a career choice until later, as high school approached.
“I took whatever class at North Surry I could that was anywhere close to art,” she said, adding that included four years of art and two years of drafting. Afterward, she went on to school and her drive to become an artist gave her a foundation she said many people that age often lack.
“I knew when I went to college what I wanted to do,” she said. “A lot of students struggle, they flounder, changing their major two or three times.”
Not so for Bedsaul, who earned her degree and followed into the art field.
She and her husband started a family not too many years later, and one day Roger Bedsaul came home with an idea: homeschooling their children.
“He ran across two different ladies that day who home schooled their children, within an hour of one another,” she said. “He came home and told me about it,” encouraging her to think about homeschooling their girls.
“I dismissed it at first,” she said, but couldn’t fully get the thought out of her head, so she decided to do a little reading on the subject.
“It was a good thing that Sydney was 2 or 3 years old at the time. It took me that long to research,” she said of their decision to start homeschooling when her oldest daughter was ready for formal schooling. “I read everything I could get my hands on. I knew if we did it, we were going to be committed, we weren’t just going to try it for a year, then send her to school if it didn’t work.”
As the time to make a final call on homeschooling neared, she said the decision got a little more complicated.
“That’s when Millennium (Charter Academy) was starting, and they had a lottery,” for the limited seats in the school. They entered Sydney in the drawing, thinking with odds stacked against her she wouldn’t get a slot in the school and their decision would be made for them.
“She won a seat,” Bedsaul says with a humor at how that unfolded. At the time there was little funny about it as the couple struggled over what to do. “We were back and forth. One day we were going to send her, another day we were going to home school.”
Ultimately, that they decided to home school Sydney and Abby — a decision they believe was absolutely the right one — and for more than a decade art took a distant back seat. Bedsaul spent her time homeschooling the girls, which meant lesson planning, active work with them, field trips, and getting them involved in various activities around town — Sydney, who will be playing basketball for BJU, played for the Runnin’ Patriots home school basketball program, part of a state title-winning team at both the middle school and high school level. Teaching and keeping them involved in those activities was more than a full-time job.
Until a couple of years ago, when they reached a point where the girls were able to do more on their own, freeing up some time for their mother.
“As I began to see that season of my life coming to a close, I thought about doing portraits, doing commissioned portraits.”
Soon she had her hands full, doing portraits for friends, associates, often doing the painting as a surprise for the one being featured in the work.
“That’s one of the things I love,” she said. “The surprise element. Lots of times these are commissioned as gifts. Some of my work is commissioned by people far away, so I don’t get to do this with every painting. But when it’s someone here, I love being there when they (the commissioner) present the painting (as a gift).”
One thing she enjoys about being an artist, she said, is that there’s always room to explore, to grow creatively. A year ago she took an oil painting class — “I just fell in love with it, I had never painted with oils” — and loved it. Since she has completed a number of works in oil, and has begun experimenting with other forms of painting, using a palate knife instead of a brush to apply the paint.
“It’s so much more textured,” she says of her new technique. “It has a different feel, a different look.”
She continues to experiment and pursue new artistic ventures, and she’s still doing portraits, but recently Bedsaul took on another challenge that has pushed art, if not to the back burner, at least to the side a bit.
When Sylvia Chilton, a long-time administrative assistant at the Surry Baptist Association, retired, Bedsaul saw that as an opportunity to take on a new job that was important to her.
“That spoke to me, I think working there is a calling for me…like homeschooling.”
That she would pursue a vocation now that is involved with ministering to others, even if it means less time for her art, should be no surprise to those who know Bedsaul. Even her art, she said, is an expression of her belief in God.
“I think it’s a way to express thanks, a way to praise God for what he’s given to me. The last batch of paintings, the last 16 or so, have bee almost a worship to him. It’s been a blessing from God for me to rediscover painting.”
John Peters can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling 336-719-1931.