Arts & Culture

She Quit the Corporate World and Now Runs a Flourishing Art Business

Bethany Carroz captures nature, vintage-inspired florals, and family homes through watercolor

A portrait of a woman working on a watercolor painting

Photo: Bethany Carroz

Bethany Carroz in her studio.

Artist Bethany Carroz, the founder of nationally recognized WestOak Watercolor in Bella Vista, Arkansas, admits she had a good teacher. “Growing up, I saw my dad create beautiful rustic bouquets for my mom from what he found along old country roadsides on his daily mail route,” says Carroz, whose father was a mailman in Minnesota. “I always looked forward to our father-daughter weekend trips to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and it instilled in me an appreciation of classical art from around the world.”

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Now, her paintings, note cards, and giclée prints of lush meadows and historic inns—awash in shades of dusty rose, ochre, and sage, with hints of metallic—are carried at HomeGoods, Etsy, and the Marrs Mercantile in Centerton, Arkansas. She has been featured on HGTV’s Fixer to Fabulous and just completed the illustrations for a new design book, House+Love=Home: Creating Warm Intentional Spaces for a Beautiful Life by Jenny Marrs. 

photo: Bethany Carroz

But her circuitous journey to launching a full-blown art business wasn’t exactly planned. Though she earned the “Most Unique” award in a coloring contest in middle school and took honors art classes in high school, she veered from fine arts to business and worked as a buyer for Bass Pro Shops and in product development for Walmart in Bentonville for six years. She dabbled with colored pencil and acrylic over the decades, but felt like she was missing a creative outlet. 

Carroz left the corporate world after having her two children. Her first child, Weston, was born with a rare chromosomal abnormality that affects fine motor skills and speech, and her focus shifted to navigating therapy appointments and spending more time with him, along with her younger daughter, Oakley. 

During the pandemic, she stumbled on a YouTube watercolor painting tutorial by New York–based artist Helen Dealtry and was instantly hooked. “I always just thought of those Crayola watercolor sets that you get as a kid,” says Carroz, who practiced daily from her home studio while her kids were asleep. “I never knew the potential of the medium until I watched her paint.”

photo: Bethany Carroz

Her hobby quickly skyrocketed when she posted her work on Instagram. “It was very unexpected, and the side benefit of what was fulfilling and brought me joy is that it has brought other people joy, too,” Carroz says. “Imposter syndrome is very real, and you never feel like you have enough experience to warrant the opportunities that are coming at you. It still blows my mind that people want to see more.” 

After painting a home portrait for a close friend for Christmas, her friend introduced her to designer and television personality Jenny Marrs, which sparked a slew of collaborations, including painting a watercolor portrait of the Marrs’s Welcome Inn in Rogers, Arkansas. Carroz and her work have now appeared on five episodes of Fixer to Fabulous; she painted a watercolor of a restored, multigenerational family farmhouse framed by magnolia trees in Tontitown, Arkansas, as well as a large-scale mural for the Marrs’ own home gym. 

photo: Bethany Carroz

From her storybook-like small town in Northwest Arkansas, Carroz takes inspiration from Georgia O’Keeffe and Norman Rockwell at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, or lingers on a bench by the fountain at the Bentonville Square. When in a creative rut, she ventures an hour south to the White River with her husband for trout fishing, or heads directly out her door to the Back 40, a forty-mile hiking and biking trail system lined with lakes, creeks, and waterfalls. 

Carroz also teaches painting workshops at some of her favorite local hangouts, including Bentonville Taco & Tamale Co., and painstakingly creates coveted custom home commission pieces spanning chicken coops, log cabins, and Colonial-style residences. “They capture the history, where the family’s been, and a special feeling that a photo could never convey,” Carroz says. “So even if the homeowners move, it becomes a timepiece. I love the quote by designer Erin Flett: ‘Collect the things you love that are authentic to you, and your house becomes your story.’ I wholeheartedly agree.”

photo: Bethany Carroz