2009 INTERVIEW OF BARBARA BY CONSTANCE HUMPHRIES:
1. When did you first realize you were an artist?
When I realized that being an artist might mean I could create my own world. I also recognized that I enjoyed being alone, and that being an artist might justify my spending a lot of time by myself. This was probably around age 5. I was a very young introvert. Not shy, just very curious about things that could not be seen.
2. Tell us about your work
Mixed media paintings of all sizes incorporating iconic forms, signs, symbols, glyphs, botanicals, patterns and everyday objects in a grid or landscape-like space. Some of the themes explored include balance, surface vs what is hidden and the random interaction of seemingly dissonant images. Order within disorder. Of course the work has changed over the years, but the common elements include simplified imagery and some sort of organizing structure such as a grid.
3. How did you find your voice/subject/process?
My work is serendipitous and process oriented, so I have always found my way by putting one foot in front of the other and just working. After I had been painting for about five years, I asked an older woman artist to look at my work. she said two things that stuck with me:
A. “It really takes about ten years of hard work to begin to find your voice and be a good painter.” (She was right, but at the time I didn’t really want to hear that….)
B. “Those colors have no business working together but they do!” (This was her way of encouraging me while keeping me humble……)
4. Which artists have influenced you, and how?
The first artists I remember being moved by were Van Gogh and Gauguin. The German Expressionists were also an early influence – their worlds were recognizable but not realistic, straightforward in many way, yet mysterious and sublime. I loved Giotto because his work was so incredibly beautiful though it lacked traditional perspective, and his compositions broke all the “rules”. Others who have influenced me: Morandi for his elegant and powerful restraint, Guston for his raw emotion often wrapped in humor, and Rauschenberg for his innovative fearlessness. Many of the Outsider Artists like Howard Finster and Henry Darger also fascinate and inspire me.
5. What do you do for fun (besides creating art)?
I love to travel, most recently to India and Turkey. I solve and construct crossword puzzles. lots of reading. Bikram Yoga. and lots of music……my iPod keeps me sane some days.
6. What inspires you to create art and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
I never really know what inspires me until after it becomes evident in a painting. That said, everything that makes me who I am ends up in my work. People often ask me, “what is your inspiration?” and I’ve never really had a good answer. I think that may be because what inspires me comes from inside my head rather than from what I see outside in the real world. It’s not so much inspiration as this is the only way I seem to be able to relate to the world.
When things get tough in the studio I either hunker down and just keep going or I use the down time to do boring yet necessary things like gesso canvasses. I also try hard not to let the ups and downs get me either too “up” or too “down”. I might sell ten paintings one month and/or get a good review…..get all excited and think that things will get easier………and six months later I’m nobody again. It’s all a matter of balance.
7. How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
I like using both sides of my brain and I have always been fine with the details of managing the business side. On the other hand, there is always something to do that distracts me from creative time. It takes years of trial and error to begin to figure out how the “Art World” works, and even when you think you know you realize there are no rules. I continually have to learn to accept the unpredictablility of success, failure and everything in between. Things can change very quickly. All an artist can do is keep moving forward with courage and commitment.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I was a bit of a late bloomer and I’m a tortoise in the art race, but I hope ten years from now I will have achieved some credible recognition and will have been given lots of opportunities to reach more and more people with my work. It’s not about “fame” for me, it’s about being true to my voice and singing loud and clear. But of course it also has to be about supporting myself through my art. And since I understand the idea that “you get what you expect”, I will add this: I see myself as very rich and famous ten years from now.!
9. What’s the best and worst parts of being an artist?
Best: defining your own world.
Worst: trying to make a living.
10. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Experiment a lot, follow your instincts.
Let go of thinking you know what you’re doing.
Start over again (if you’re just out of school).
Set regular studio hours and show up.
Work hard and listen to your inner voice.
Don’t compare yourself to other artists.
Talk to artists you admire.
Don’t whine; it’s not an easy career path.