Bev Doolittle caught the artistic bug as a child, before starting school, by drawing horses, and started attracting attention not long after. At twelve years of age she won an art contest at the San Gabriel Historical Society; two years later came her first exhibition. While still in high school, she accepted a scholarship to the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design, from which she graduated in 1968.

In 1979 the fame that would be thrust upon her first began to manifest, when Pintos was published in a 1000-print edition. After producing several more prints over the next few years, in 1984 she published The Forest Has Eyes in an edition of 3,544 prints, which catapulted her into the national artistic spotlight. Still one of her most popular paintings, this is the work that entered the term camouflage art into our lexicon, and typecast her as a camouflage artist. Camouflage art connotes paintings in which elements in the picture are later integrated by the viewer into another picture accompanying the main one[1].

Many people call me a 'camouflage artist,' but that doesn't really fit. If I have to categorize at all, I prefer to think of myself as a 'concept painter.' I am an artist who uses camouflage to get my story across, to slow the viewing process so you can discover it for yourself. Everything I do is intended to enhance the idea of each piece. For me, camouflage is a means to an end, not an end in itself. My meaning and message are never hidden.

All of Bev's paintings are set in nature, many featuring horses or Indians. The Forest Has Eyes is at first glance a picture of a man on horseback traveling through a forest; then one sees the many faces, formed by the rocks and trees, watching him.

Probably the most famous of her works is Music In The Wind. This is the painting that brought her to my attention. Having 43,500 copies printed, this scene, almost four times as wide as it is tall, portrays an Indian woman in the far left emerging from the forest into a meadow, carrying a basket containing her forage, her dress windblown, as a flock of birds takes flight from the middle of the picture. The background image, seen in 3/4 of the width, formed from foliage, rocks, and a fallen tree, shows an Indian man playing a flute.

On first seeing Music In The Wind, I saw only the foreground image, and was struck by the scene's beauty. It was about a week later that I suddenly became aware of the musician's hand, and started studying the picture more closely. A few days later, I found myself driving 35 miles to an art gallery to pick up a copy, for which I was happy to pay a price of $300 as my initiation into the art world. Then, wanting to ensure that I have this gem for decades to come, I spent another $400 on custom framing. So far, it is the only Doolittle adorning my home (the only other artwork I have is also a camouflage work, and also an Indian theme; though very pleasant (and lacquered onto an arrowhead-shaped wood backing), it is a pale imitation of Bev's work.)

I hope someday to acquire a copy of Hide And Seek. This unique work consists of twenty-four separate paintings, fourteen by ten inches; each one, like Pintos, uses only brown and white to show semi-camouflaged horses on a rocky and snow-covered ground. Each one is a pleasure in itself, and a person could hang them all about eir home, and eir guests would be quite impressed. But, if arranged in a 4x6 grid, and preferably viewed from fifteen to twenty feet away, one would see a message writ large in brown block letters.

Mrs. Doolittle is no longer adding to her catalog of more than thirty paintings, which have all long since sold out their limited editions and now support a sizable secondary market, though several books have been published and are still available. But they have brought joy to thousands of her fans, and from the original sales, over one million dollars has been donated to various charities.


[1] Not to be confused with random-dot stereograms, the seemingly abstract pictures that you see in shopping malls in which some people can see the "real" picture by defocusing their eyes.

Thanks to tes for reminding me that the painting on my wall was good fodder for a writeup.

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