My art is inspired by the wonderful changing scenery all around me in my Hudson River Valley, N.Y., town. I generally paint watercolors and work from photographs. Mostly, I am drawn to nature, the vibrant and changing colors at different times of day, beautiful vistas and challenging subject matter, from dense forests to extraordinary rock formations, crashing waves, ominous weather in the clouds and sky and drifts of bright snow. I take watercolor classes currently to hone my skills and try my hand at more realistic scenes. Other times, I go in the opposite direction and paint more abstractly.
Painting is a renewed pursuit, a talent that was dormant for decades. Growing up, I was always drawing, painting, printmaking, sketching floor plans, assembling three-dimensional cardboard buildings for an architecture class or doing some form of art. When I was very young, I loved to arrange furnishings in homes and draft the plans. During summers, I often pursued my fascination for buildings in architecture-student programs at Carnegie-Tech University, which became Carnegie Mellon, and my love of painting large acrylic canvases and printmaking at Cornell University’s art school. In college, I painted large acrylic canvases, drew, and made collages, but switched and went on to major in art history at Barnard College and take studio classes on the side at Columbia University. My favorites artists ranged from Giotto, whom I learned about in an Italian Renaissance class, to Rembrandt and Vermeer from a class that focused on those masters. Subsequently, I became infatuated with modern painters like David Hockney, Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler and sculptor David Smith. I loved Japanese architect and autodidact Tadao Ando’s starkly simple buildings with a body of water nearby; I was able to visit several in person in different cities. Along the way, I added a new passion for quilts after seeing a show of 650 works at the Whitney Museum in New York. This led to the subject of my graduate school thesis, “Regional Differences in Early American Quilts,” and eventually to my first book.
My undergraduate school thesis had related to my love of architecture. I wrote about small parks and playgrounds that were emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s; it was titled “Vest Pocket-Parks and Playgrounds.” I remember being wowed by Paley Park, designed by the landscape architectural firm, Zion Breen Richardson Associates and opened in May 1967.
However, I put art on the backburner to pursue my work as a professional journalist writing books, articles and website content and giving speeches. I tapped into my artistic talent when selecting rich paint colors for my home, for the foods I prepared and arranged artistically on the plate, in the needlepoints I often designed for pillows, hangings and belts, and in the rooms and decorations in the two dollhouses I constructed and furnished for my daughters.
Ten years ago, after participating in a hike-and-watercolor paint retreat, my interest in painting resurfaced. That’s when I began taking classes in New York City and then in my new town. Last fall, I went on my first retreat painting for four straight days in a row. I loved it and the teacher pushed us to paint larger and bolder rather than just the familiar delicate tiny landscapes I had been creating. Another retreat followed with another teacher who focused on color.
As I continue to grow and learn, I’m going in multiple directions and continuing to paint a mixture of large and small works. My latest venture has been a return to large-scale acrylics. I see the value of taking an anything-goes approach based on what I see around me, and that’s part of the passion for me at this time in life. I get to keep learning, trying and seeing where the joy of using paint, paper and canvas will take me.
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Contact Barbara Ballinger
Phone: (314) 692-9881