Review Me: Barbara Bose: Art Matters
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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Barbara Bose: Art Matters

Barbara, we’re so thankful for taking the time to answer our questions so that our readers can become more familiar with your artistic life and artwork. Tell us about your artistic background story and if there was a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as a visual artist?

I feel that I picked up where I left off in another lifetime, because drawing was a skill I always had. As a child, I spent quite a bit of time sketching in my bedroom, sheltered in place from an often abusive family atmosphere, so art and music allowed me a much-needed mental, physical and emotional protection. I won some awards in high school and had a solid reputation as an A+ art student which helped me see myself with that identity. My parents were not supportive of an artist’s life path for me because they saw artists as impoverished. They had no grounding in art’s importance, nor in supportive parenting for that matter. Although they paid for 3 semesters of art school at the prestigious Boston Museum School, they withdrew me from it after they saw an unflattering etching of them I made. In a left-handed way, their obstruction inspired me to plow ahead to prove a point.

You are amazing. You got off to a good start. Life events sometimes become a platform to culminate and prove our flight. Was there ever a moment of doubt to question your art career entirely?

When I was eight months pregnant with my second child, I had to get a job to support my family. The only job I landed was in the Classified Ad department of a small suburban newspaper. One day while pasting up a St. Patty’s Day Used Car Sale-abrasion ad, I looked down at my talented hands-making that crappy thing and felt I had hit rock bottom. After lunch, I happened to be in the elevator with the Publisher and mustered the nerve to ask him if I could illustrate any stories for the paper. A short time later, I was given the assignment to illustrate an editorial. Soon afterward, the publisher asked me to start an editorial art department, which was the actual beginning of my career in publication design.

Good job! Now let’s go to your studio. What is your daily routine when working in your studio?

I get many ideas while riding my bicycle, so I start my day with a 6-mile ride around my neighborhood. When I get an idea, I stop and send the idea in an email to myself. Except for my bike ride, I don’t really have a set routine for inspiration because I do a lot of things in a day.
I live in Florida, so the weather is usually great. My painting studio is air-conditioned garage. The first thing I do when I am going to paint is turn on some music. I like to work alone, so I also sing and dance when I am stepping back to think or see my work from across the room.
Besides painting, I do quite a lot of work on the computer which is in a converted bedroom in my house. I often save images I see online as references for paintings. I take photos almost every day because there is almost always something amazing to witness, and my compulsion is to share and spread the beauty.

In fact, Your mind is busy considering everything when you are cycling or doing any other work outside the studio. Then, whenever you are impressed, you record it to create on canvas or any other surface. So, take us through your process of making your artworks. How do you move from an idea to an artwork? Where does an artwork begin for you?

Naturally, the artwork begins with an idea. I start with a small sketch because if it doesn’t work well small and is reduced to its simplest elements, it won’t work at any size. I gather my reference materials and tape them to boards within my view where I will be painting and also hang my phone with the image to check the color. Ideally, I make sure I have the ‘mise en scene’ - all of the pieces I’m going to need, like the correct variety of brush sizes, brush cleaners, lighting, music, and room temperature before beginning.
I determine the overall tone of the panting and wash the canvas with that color. Then when that’s dry I usually draw on the canvas with charcoal or pastel or soft pencil or outline the form with a brush or block in with white for the underpainting. I often have at least 2 paintings going on at the same time because I am often waiting for something to dry. I have a large industrial fan which I position in front of the artwork for drying when I am done for the day. My paintings take a while - almost never do they happen in one day, with the exception of my miniature paintings which are outlined with a mechanical pencil and then painted in acrylic.

Is there a central concept connecting all your works together or each series or artwork is unique?

Maybe when we look back on my artwork, a central theme will emerge, but it seems to me my current artwork is based on various, evolving inspirations as my life evolves. I have noticed that most of the landscapes I paint include some form of a human element, such as a house or a figure in the distance. Interestingly, the illustrations for the memoir I wrote (Tree of Lives by Elizabeth Garden) were all pre-existing pieces I had created in the past - most for publications, and some just for myself. But they seemed to fit perfectly in the story I was telling.

Some artists prefer to provide detailed artwork descriptions to elaborate and guide the audience in receiving their message via their art. Would you like to give a particular interpretation of your work to your viewers or you prefer to leave the whole interpretation to your audience? I think it’s more stimulating for the audience to leave interpretations up to them. I think it’s OK to leave a few breadcrumbs such as a good title, but to me, it seems the whole point is to get people to think and relate and even stretch their thoughts a bit.

Some viewers also like this challenge and they welcome that the artist let them find out the message. How do you seek and use inspiration for your works?

Ideally, I paint something for the act of painting, for the pleasure of it instead of for a final product. It is my way of loving beauty by exploring all of the nuances of a thing. For me, ideas are constantly developing — in dreams, in odd happenstances that have significance, in places or images I have captured on my phone that have a magical feeling to them, or because there is a need for something at the moment, like a commission or a gift for someone or to memorialize something or someone. When I work I often entertain an inner dialogue with whom I imagine are the spirits of departed teachers, friends, even masters if I have an especially hard question. Or my grandfather for practical matters. He was a carpenter and a kind and patient man who I liked to watch work. I feel art begins in the spirit world and if successful, reconnects the observer back to it once again. I see art as a doorway that transports us without the burden of language or the restrictions of time. Hopefully, my artwork will last longer than I will, when my silent voice will resonate onward. Creating visual beauty (and by beauty, I mean an image that elevates, even if it’s ugly), is the easiest language, and we all speak it fluently.

What about your subjects? How do you select your artworks subjects? Where they come from?

The best scenario is when I have a patient and thoughtfully lit model to paint. The next best thing is to take a good photo of a subject to work from. Sometimes I paint from photos I captured from Facebook, but I don’t offer those for competitions because I worry about infringing someone’s copyright. When working from photos, I print the image and tape it to a board next to my canvas. I also look at the image on my phone for better color and clarity. The phone is great because I can blow up parts of an image. My phone has a ring on the back so I can hang it at eye level.

How interesting! The union of the photos, your phone, and your creativity inspires you to create your eminent artworks. Are there an artwork or series that you would like to be remembered for? And if yes, what is it?

Lately, I have been concentrating on formal animal portraits. I want the viewer to relate to their natural, unadorned, original beauty and hopefully see that they are our teachers. Many of an animal’s aspects can be mirrors of our own nature. For example, “Diane,” the painting of a Harpie Eagle, has the same resting attitude as a woman I know named Diane - preening, defensive, taken aback, fiercely ready for insult.
It blows my mind that all creatures, like us, have all evolved to survive in their specific roles (though I’m not 100% sure what the role of humans is). Each living creature is designed to breathe, sense, eat, procreate, grow, adapt, wither, die, etc. I don’t have the instinct to make up abstractions because what exists is quite interesting enough. I also have a created a large number of unique miniature portraits for friends who will hopefully remember me on an individual level. The ingenious variety of life forms, and the insanely clever packaging, (an egg, a vegetable, a cloud, a feather) never fail to impress me. As part of our everyday landscape, we naturally take these for granted.

Barbara, what are your art influences? Who are your favorite contemporary or historical artists and why?

For contemporary art, I like the work of Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud… others I can’t think of but always people with representational skill. My art library contains diverse early influencers such as Aubrey Beardsley, Albrecht Durer, Maxfield Parish, Leonardo DaVinci, as well as Dutch, Chinese and Indian art. When I was young I copied the works of DaVinci and Van Eyke. At the Boston Museum School, I took a technical painting class to learn the old masters’ techniques and I still use the underpainting and glazing techniques for portraiture.

It may happen to an artist to wish to meet art masters and talk to them closely. If you could meet one of your ideal artists from the past, who would it be and what will you ask about?

I would like to meet DaVinci because not only did he possess magnificent artistic ability, he had the curiosity and inventive mind of a scientist who was inspired by nature’s examples. I would ask him what his early influences and inspirations were. I would like to met Durer to learn how he made those fabulous intricate woodcuts, I would have loved to assist Parish, and I would like to hang out with Beardsley.

Our readers are very curious to know about your future works. Any upcoming works or future projects that you would like to share with our readers?

I am working on a portrait of a Mongolian boy with an interesting headdress. But again, it was from someone else’s work so I won’t be showing it, I am painting it because I love this boy’s face and the lighting.

This is the original sense of being a true artist. That was a very productive talk Barbara. Once again, I appreciate your active participation in this interview. I hope to hear more about you sharing and spreading beauty in the world. Good luck with your great art career.

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