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Retired art teacher creates abstract paintings of Tucson nature
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Retired art teacher creates abstract paintings of Tucson nature

Barbara Beamer retired from teaching in 2003 but continues to paint

Barbara Beamer is a retired art teacher who hopes her students — and everyone in general — continue to be inspired.

“Keep exposing yourself to art and ideas,” she’d tell her students.

Beamer first started painting at the age of 3 — a newspaper even published a photo of her painting on an easel at her Detroit nursery school. She went on to take classes at the Detroit Art Institute as a high schooler.

She eventually got her degree in painting at the University of Michigan and studied watercolor painting in Italy and Greece over the course of two summers.

Barbara Beamer titled this acrylic painting “Waiting,” referencing Arizona’s drought and lack of monsoon.

In the late 1970s, Beamer moved to Tucson where she taught art at Pueblo High School for 25 years — and a year at an all-boys school in London sandwiched in between.

“The kids at Pueblo love art — they just want to get right into it,” she says.

Beamer says her favorite part of teaching was helping students gain a new perspective.

“They’re so bombarded with mass media and you want to try to show them that there’s more,” she says. “I would try and get them to see different ways of working.”

She’d later hear her students say they wish they had taken more art classes.

“They’re only allowed to take so many electives, so obviously they have to choose,” Beamer says. “I would refer them to Parks and Rec, Pima Community College — you can explore private lessons, you can do all kinds of things.”

This watercolor painting is meant to portray a garden at Hacienda Del Sol.

“I would just hope that people would ask for advice from artists they’re impressed with,” she says.

Although Beamer retired from teaching in 2003, she continues to paint.

“What I do is sometimes work directly from nature, like working outside in plein air — drawing and then painting,” she says. “I also work with photos — because I can’t stop on the side of Mount Lemmon without getting smashed by cars, so I’ll jump out of the car and take a picture.”

“I’ve always been interested in color and texture,” she says. “You see that, of course, in nature.”

This painting references picnic areas on Mount Lemmon, “produced to ease my husband’s restlessness this summer during the fires,” says Barbara Beamer.

Beamer previously worked in watercolor — though she’s not totally done with that medium and is currently a member of the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild. Most recently, she’s been getting into acrylic paints. “I stumbled upon these acrylics in my closet,” she says. “I said, ‘I gotta use these before they dry out,’ so it was like a media inspiration.”

Beamer describes her paintings as abstract and nonobjective.

“It’s based on reality, but I like to alter reality and play with the shapes, the surface, the colors,” she says.

Contact reporter Gloria Knott at or 573-4235. On Twitter: @gloriaeknott

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