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She Screamed at First, But What Came Later Paid Off Big
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Steve Behal has written a screenplay based on the story of how he met and reunited with Jeannie Catchpole. "The script has been circulating through the hands of some big names in Hollywood," he said.
   
Thursday, March 10, 2016
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

As husband and wife, Steve Behal and Jeannie Catchpole not only play together. They paint together.

Their collaboration in flinging paint has only grown and morphed as they’ve inspired and challenged each other along the way.

The Hailey artists will show off some of the work they’ve done together and independently during the Friday, March 11, Gallery Walk at Lipton Fine Arts, 411 N. Leadville St. next to the Coffee Grinder. Both artists will be present for the walk, which takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. Their exhibition, “Hot: Evocative: Provocative,” will be up through April 30.

 
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“Most realism doesn’t move me as much as abstraction,” says Steve Behal. “I can stimulate and touch people in a very different way with abstract works than with realism.”
 

The couple were born and raised in Toronto, Canada, less than 40 miles apart. They even attended the same art college at the same time without running into one another.

They finally met in 1984 at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club where Behal was photographing Canada’s Cup Match Race sailboat racing for a magazine.

Behal was an actor and freelance photographer who had taken pictures of Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Al Gore, even the Queen Mom, for various publications.

Catchpole was a graphic artist who had a “decent” career painting realistic watercolors for limited edition prints that sold in 200 galleries across Canada. She also did commissions for Parks Canada and other government collections.

 
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Jeannie Catchpole stands by a large-scale work she did in the back yard of her home in Old Hailey.
 

“When I was 5 it just came to me that I was an artist. I never said I wanted to be an artist. I just knew I was one, and to be able to make a living at it is a dream come true,” said Catchpole, who sold her first painting while a teen.

When the bottom fell out of the print market in the 1990s, Catchpole moved to Sun Valley where her husband Peter took a job with Power Engineers, engineering the Nik Wallenda tightrope walk across Niagara Falls.

In 2008, after divorcing, Catchpole gave Behal a call while visiting family. The two fell in love, got married and spontaneously began painting on the same canvas.

By this time each was dealing in the abstract.

 
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StuperStars
 

“I was still doing realistic watercolors when I moved here—I painted the largest piece I ever did of Shoshone-Bannock dancers in Atkinsons’ Park,” said Catchpole. “But, quite frankly, I got bored with realism. I’d always loved abstracts. And, while I didn’t know how to do them before, I thought it was time to try. I wanted to get paint on me and the excitement has never left because I never know where it’s going to go.”

The two began collaborating when Behal approached his wife with some ideas when she was trying to figure out what to do with a painting. They spent hours discussing whether it was sacrilegious to paint on another’s canvas. Finally, Behal woke up his wife after midnight.

“If you really mean I can paint on canvas, you’ve got to be okay with it because I’ve got an inspiration,” he told her.

Catchpole was so shocked with what he did in the next few minutes that she screamed. Then, as she began seeing where he was going with it, she joined in, scribbling a little yellow paint on the picture.

 
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Santa Monica
 

Now the two can’t stop painting on the same canvas.

“We share the same aesthetics,” said Behal. “Sometimes we discuss what we’re doing; sometimes we don’t. We just move forward.”

“The painting tells you when it’s done,” added Catchpole.

Combined, the two bring nearly 50 years of experience to each painting. They surround themselves with art in each room of their home. There’s always a painting in progress on the easel, which Behal can stare at it for as long as it takes to get the inspiration to finish it. And they knocked out a wall in a bedroom-turned-studio that allows them to move outside when the weather’s good.

There they load up brushes and fling big, bold splotches of bright acrylic paint across canvases they hang from trees or the sides of their house. They flick paint from ordinary kitchen tools, like spatulas, as well, reserving tools like meat skewers for smaller lines.

Even the lawn chairs get splashed.

Often, one might see a parrot head or a cat with glasses in their painting. But they never tell the other for fear the other will fixate on it.

“A guy came in the other night and mentioned how the black box in our ‘Santa Monica’ painting represented a computer screen. We didn’t say no because that was his reality,” said Behal. “Abstraction allows us to delve into our own reality and expand our experience. Some people come in and they spend an hour here because they’re allowing the paintings to impact them. I don’t really like to talk about my work because it’s not about how it affects me but how it affects them.”

In addition to painting on canvas, Behal has painted guitars just for the fun of it.

“They’re all new guitars and they’re meant to be played—they sound terrific,” he said. “The big thing for us is that we want to be exploring, experimenting all the time.”

 

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