About the Art

About the Art.

“Ms. Barnard’s paintings present a loose, fresh, expressionistic style. Her predominantly plein air landscape paintings use a wet-in-wet, alla prima technique, in the long tradition of “pure” transparent watercolor.  She uses strong color and brushwork, and a somewhat simplified design. Her work is becoming intentionally more abstract; her goal: “less is more.”

“Spontaneity is evident in her paintings which are simultaneously bold and reflective. She approaches the natural world with a meditative attitude, reacting at an emotional level to color and shape. Her sketchbooks are filled with drawings and notes and evidence of “practicing her scales,” as it were. She would, “rather dare to push a bold landscape and have it fail than present a technically perfect but timid painting.” ” — from Press Release, Solo Exhibit, Silver Lake College, 2010.  

Artist Statement.

My work in the past twenty-five years has become less representational. more expressionistic and abstract. I’m also  exploring more collage, text and image, and other mixed-media works on paper with which I was pre-occupied in the 1990’s.

In preparation for the 2013 and 2015 painting tour of the south of France, I’ve studied the masters Van Gogh and Cezanne.  I’m studying and painting the landscape of Provence through their “lens” –especially Cezanne’s geometry and Vincent’s brushwork.

I’m inspired by the landscape along the Wisconsin River in my home town–like Cezanne’s 60 paintings of Mont Ste Victoire or Monet’s Haystacks, I paint the same trees and pathways and rocks and  riverbends over and over, striving for a relationship with my subject that’s emotional and connective, even spiritual.

I’ll continue my love affair with the landscape especially via Plein Air painting. Besides Cezanne, Turner, Matisse, and lately Howard Hodgkin, I love the German Expressionists as I seek more abstraction, simplicity, and clarity– for greater emotional power.

About My Watercolor Technique.

I’m mostly an intuitive painter, but I do plan. Some landscapes are imaginary based on lots of looking and feeling, especially in the woods.  Or sometimes I’ll do several sketches to work out composition and values, and often paint many variations of the same subject.

Influenced by Turner, Sargent, Cezanne, Andrew Wyeth, and Expressionists like Emil Nolde, I try to express the landscape boldly and with fewer strokes to tell the story.

Watercolor painting for me is like “performance art” –I do it fast and keep it fresh.  But in order to paint “in the moment” I’ve needed to put in many hours in preparation, like a golfer at the driving range. I have hundreds of studies and sketches, and many sketchbooks filled with the Good, the Bad and a fair amount of Ugly.  But, as they say, “IT’S ALL GOOD.”  All part of the process.

Working initially “wet in wet” on paper, I often let the painting take on a life of its own — regardless of my starting sketch or idea.  I’m open to the accidental and the mysterious.

When I move the paint around on the wet paper I’m in another world and often lose track of time. It’s called “the zone” by some; for me it’s a magical realm I’m fortunate to visit during the process of art-making. (Sometimes I’m reluctant to go back to what’s called Reality.)

I use subtractive as often as additive methods. I scrape with my fingernails … I throw and drip and mix the pigment on the paper … I lift up pigment with brush, towel, or fingers … I put too-dark paintings in the bathtub and start again on the “old ghost” images left behind.

True to the transparent watercolor tradition, I don’t use any white paint so I have to plan it backwards. The light you see is the white of the paper.

To me, art-making is truly a gift and an ongoing, unfolding, up-and-down journey, where my spirit comes through in some magical way, if I’m lucky that day. If not, I just follow Churchill’s advice to the bomb-scarred people of London during the Blitz: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

P.S. I would enjoy hearing from you…go to the Contacts page. — Jane Barnard