Color is dearest to artist

“Yoga Lotus”


     A delightful, fragrant aroma, the feel of silkiness on each vivid petal; our senses can be deceived so easily when art is done just right.  The correct mixture of light and color, precise negative painting which boldly reflects its object and just the slightest hint of shadow can create a living, breathtaking flower out of an otherwise ordinary drawing.

     Mastering the art of the senses doesn’t really have an official name.  Maybe it should, so it could easily define this ability when speaking of a remarkable artist.  But for now, let some of the paintings exhibited on these pages, speak for themselves by Joan Crawford Barnes, watercolor artist who is inspired by color.

     In the painting “Only in Paris”, this historical glimpse of the Conciergerie, located on the Left Bank of Paris across from the Seine River and the Louvre, displays the true story of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, being held captive in 1793 within the cold, barren structure, awaiting their beheadings.  Recalling this tragic time, one can almost see the illusion of moving shadows within, a slight swaying of the structure, against slow moving clouds.

     Joan’s ability to capture the essence of color and light might have come from having to grasp whatever she could during an era of meager possessions and little hope.  Or perhaps she is just one of the few who see her surroundings differently, like looking through a crystal prism.

     The daughter of a steelworker, raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joan never wished to be a celebrity or a sought after artist.  She did love to lie in bed at night, taking in the smells of oil paints drifting down from her brother’s bedroom, directly above hers.  He had an art teacher who took quite an interest in him, paying his way through art school.

     As for Joan, she worked hard, graduated school, went on to Business College and began working as a secretary.  Soon after, she married her high school sweetheart and her family of four children became her life.  As the children grew and began leaving home, only then did Barnes allow herself to think about what she had dreamed of since childhood, to be able to draw and paint beautiful paintings.

     In 1983, Joan and her husband took a trip to Paris, France to visit their daughter, Linda, and her husband, David who were living and working there.  Linda was taking an art history class at the Louvre and Joan was invited to participate.  She was motivated as never before and on that day, an artist was born.

     Immediately upon arriving home, Joan set to work, creating four oil paintings under the direction of Lima, Ohio artist, Nancy Raver in less than a year.  She continued painting in oil until a day in 1994, she happened upon other area artists who used watercolor paints.  The movement of the water and pigment she saw in these artist’s watercolors fascinated Joan, and therefore began a study with this medium.  The vibrancy of the watercolor palette moved Joan in a way that oil never could.  She had found her medium along with a style to call her own.

     “Village Road in Tuscany” portrays ancient brick buildings, heavily dirt trodden roads against the bright blue sky.  Shadows reflect the time of day waiting for residents to appear from a hard day’s work.  Reflection, color and space, together form a robust feeling from an old world.

     The buildings are actually a farm house on the right and a barn on the left.  They grow olives and grapes.  The person who cares for this farm actually lives in the farm house, and the barn is 400 years old. 

     The Art of Iconography is also a large part of this special and rare woman’s life.  After some encouragement from her Church priest and others, Joan began studying this art with a Master Russian Iconographer, Vladislav Andreyev of the Prosopon School and his apprentices.

     Iconography is the art of presenting symbolic representations that are traditionally associated with a person or subject, in this instance, the Church. In “Arch Angel Gabriel”, the story of icons is seen and heard.  There are two parts of an Icon, however the writing (painting) of an icon is a twenty-two step process.

     The first part is the visible image/icon.  The second is the invisible, coming into contact with the image of God in the wood, pigments and man.  Egg Tempera is the medium used with all natural pigments and egg yoke to make the paint.  Each step has a very significant symbolism and theology.

     Barnes has painted eleven icons in the past five years of various Saints of the Church and the early Church fathers. She continues her studies through The Prosopon School of Iconography in Michigan today. “I would like to go to Italy and especially Tuscany to spend some time painting and viewing this beautiful part of the world.  I have a strong desire to do much more,” said Barnes.

     “I was just recently inducted into the Birmingham Watercolour Society of United Kingdom.  Four of my paintings were juried by the Birmingham Watercolour Society jury committee and I was accepted into the Society in October, 2005,” Joan humbly said.

     Also, she is a member of the Lima Area Watercolor Society, Visual Arts Network, Transparent Watercolor Society of America, Wassenberg Art  Center, and ArtSpace Lima. In addition, artist Barnes teaches Art to students in her home studio.

     One of Joan Barnes’ favorite techniques is called negative painting as reflected in “Yoga Lotus.” Negative painting is painting the shapes around an object to ultimately bring out the main subject. Still and helpless, flowing endlessly in a galaxy of blankness, the portrayal of serenity emerges from the stark white Lotus. Blend this together with her passion for beautiful color and vibrant light, and you can understand the demand for her work in galleries stretching from Ohio to Michigan.

     Most people have never known anyone who grew up during the depression that felt life owed them something for all of their hardship.  Instead, whatever goal they set out to achieve in life has come with a certain amount of humility. These special people seem to recognize the materialism of it all, knowing that with the blink of an eye, everything could be gone. Joan Crawford Barnes is one of those, extraordinary in her own right, a child of the depression, who may have been silent while growing up, and later raising her family while following God’s road of life, but the patience has paid off.  The artist has arrived.

By Kate Garton

Cover feature, 2006 Spring-Summer, Art-to-Art Palette Journal/not all works shown

Published by on February 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Cover Section, Paint Box Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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